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Here at the nunnery there are two types of electricity: government light, from the Indian government, and generator light, from the nunnery generator. I live in the ‘new building’, which does not get government light. The reason for this seems to be some sort of bureaucratic issue which has prevented us from joining the local power grid. If you’ve spent anytime in India you may have an idea of the length of time it takes to solve these bureaucratic snarls. Our building has been standing for two years… and still not a flash of government light.
On a good day we get electricity from the generator for five whole hours. It comes from 5am to 7am and from 7pm to 10pm. That’s when we really need it– before sunrise and after sunset. Sometimes we don’t get any electricity in the evening– that was the case every evening last week. This week has been better, but each evening around seven we start to wonder if light will come or not. There is some hopefulness, but also a patient realism, “It may not come.” We all have candles and flashlights at hand, should we be left in darkness. When we do get light, it is a pleasant surprise each time. We rejoice in our good fortune.
The system seems to be- if there is class the next day we usually have light that evening. If it is a Saturday evening we definitely don’t get electricity because “It is a holiday, you don’t need it.” If there is puja the next day, only Buddha knows if light will come or not.
Electricity is necessary to pump water into the tank on the roof which supplies the bathrooms and showers on the three floors of our building. Mysteriously, although electricity doesn’t come to the rooms during the day, water will nonetheless come at various times of day. At those times, unless we are in class, there is a mad rush of nuns carrying laundry, dishes and shower things in the direction of the washrooms. In about an hour the water gets used up, occasionally stranding some unlucky soap covered showerer. We’ve kept a few buckets full of water in our bathroom, which has thus far seen us through the periods without water. Not everyone is so prepared– and the toilets can get rough indeed. I’ve also taken to keeping a bucket and a basin in my room to wash my dishes. When I’m done I just throw the water off the balcony– which is the normal thing to do here. I’ve just got to make sure there is no one walking around on the ground below. I’ve splashed a few people by accident, and I’ve also been on the receiving end of a few dishwater showers.
So water and light come and go– without a regular schedule–spontaneously. We could say it depends on our merit at any given time. I used to feel that this was a hard part about living in India, but now it is just the situation and not something to worry about. When I visit Canada it takes some time to get used to water always coming out of the tap whenever I turn it on (and even hot water– wow) and being able to turn the light on in the middle of the night, when, yes indeed, there is light, even though most people are asleep and don’t need it.
You might wonder, “Well why not run the generator all the time?” That’d be an idea, but it would be expensive… And these blessed chances to practice patience and abandon expectation are priceless.

5 thoughts on “Utilities?

  1. fOutstanding blog. It’s funny that this blog should come at this time. I live on the fourth floor of an apartment building and sometimes it can take up to two minutes for warm water to reach my taps so until recently I was letting the water run into the drain until it became warm. Then it dawned on me. I said to myself “Christopher, what are you doing? You have let litres of clean, treated water down your drain for nothing other than the convenience of hot water… why?” Well of course I had no good reason other than being an over-consumer so since I have tried to just use what comes out of the tap right away or if I need hot water I will try to fill buckets for my fish to use later or my watering can for my plants. Even typing this I realize I have no concept of how frivolous I truly am.

  2. My only experience with water restrictions was probably in England where they are charged for their water usage as a utility. That was a shock. As was using dishwater to water plants (the dishsoap was bio-friendly). Mind you, they have started installing water meters on Richmond homes now.

  3. I spent a summer in Russia back in ’96 and had to heat water on a stove to bathe. I’d heat it up, pour some in a basin, mix it with some cold water, then pour it over myself and wash Japanese style. Sometimes there was no water and you never ever drank what came out of the tap. Drinking water came from fresh springs in the country. Even in summer it could get quite chilly, so that was a challenge. However, like with your situation in India, it just became part of life. I can’t imagine no electricity…actually I can as I didn’t have any on my month-long retreat this past winter. Living that simply, at least for a short period of time, was rather liberating come to think of it, but I wouldn’t want to live that way all the time.

  4. Hi Heather,Your Mom is showing me how to see people’s blogs. It is great to see the photos of your home. It is very interesting. We have been out shopping all day. We went to the Phoenix book store looking for someone who might be willing to tell us our future. Ha ha. Take care. Love Glenda

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