This, too, shall be made right.
When I graduated from college, my parents inherited my mini-fridge. I have no use for it in an apartment with a full-sized fridge, and they wanted to take it off my hands. They put it in the office, on a small table near the closet where their cat likes to take nap. My mom keeps it stocked regularly with bottles of Ice Mountain water because she "doesn't like the taste of our tap water."
Similarly, my roommate and I have have a (currently broken) Pur water filter on our kitchen sink because Waco water is pretty disgusting to drink. For both sets of people (my parents and my roommate and I), using filtered water is a matter of taste only - we never really have to worry about the water being unsafe or unclean, just unpleasant to the palate.
Imagine, then, if this was not the case. If, with every bottled water set before you, you had to check carefully that it was sealed because sometimes places recycle bottles with unfiltered tap water. What if my mom's daily routine upon coming home with new bottles of water was to check the seal of each one carefully, because her own tap water couldn't be trusted to brush her teeth with? What if, whenever she finished a bottle, the routine was to crumple it and toss it out the window to eventually be collected and burned by the side of the road, creating more smog in the city?
This was the daily life for the Faceless team in India on this trip. Because of the lack of fresh drinking water available, we had to carry bottled water given to us by our Indian guides each morning. Trusting the word of a waiter in a restaurant gave some members of our team a rather uncomfortable last few days and the smog, aided by a cold that quickly spread, put a few of us out of commission and made me sound like I'd been smoking since I was three. We couldn't trust the water bought at a supermarket unless we heard and felt the click of the seal breaking when we opened it.
For the sensitive Westerner, India is a dangerous place. We take great pains to ensure our own safety and well-being as we travel. We pass up milk offered in the hut of a new friend because it might make us sick. We refuse the ice at a fast food place because it was probably made with unfiltered water. This entire time, our brothers and sisters in the country are drinking this dirty water, are breathing this dirty air and are living in these poor conditions where trash gathers in the street, packs of dogs (and cows) roam about, and feces (both human and animal) litters the byways.
It is not wrong for us to seek our own health when working in foreign countries - indeed, it's a little hard to be effective in helping others when you end up being the only white girl taking up a bed in an Indian emergency room (something I know about from experience - ask me sometime). However, if I go home knowing that my new friends at the village just outside Nellore told me about their problems with getting fresh drinking water while handing me - their guest - a fresh bottle...If I do nothing for that situation, then my trip has been a waste.
I commented to my friend Chase as we arrived in the Brussels airport to catch our transfer flight to Newark: "It's going to be a while before I stop examining the seals on bottled water." And you know what? I hope I don't. I hope that every time I forget my water bottle before calss and use change from my pocket to get a Dasani (far too expensive), I remember the old Indian lady clasping her hands in front of me and asking me to pray for her village. I hope I remember turning to Prem and Vijay and asking, "Is this one safe?" before taking an offered bottle. I hope I remember how valuable water became during my time in India.
I hope I remember, however, not merely for my own gratification, not merely for my own conviction, but so that I may encourage others to act. This trip confirmed for me even more now that the actions we take in America have a major effect in India. I saw it in every advertisement, in every man on the train surprised to be surrounded by white girls, in the faces of the children of the Untouchable community we visited. I am more convinced now that the decision I make as an American consumer affect the daily lives of my new friends in the village outside Nellore.
You don't have to take the same steps I do. In future entries, I plan on detailing how I will be changing my decisions in buying products (starting with pictures of my Indian friends as a reminder of the Faceless), and hopefully (in a dream project), figuring out how I can help get a water filter and/or stable well built for my friends in that nameless village. You have joined me in this journey so far - will you follow me a bit further as I process what I have seen? Will you make changes with me to bring hope and help to those who need it?
Posted by Dianna at 7:36 PM