What do you consider to be basic necessities? Things that, without which, it might be hard, or uncomfortable, at least, to get through the average day?
A washing machine…running water…consistent electricity…air conditioning…toilet paper….silverware—if you had asked me 6 months ago, those would have all been on my list. And yet, as a YAV in India, I go through each and every day without those things. But really, it’s not so bad. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything at all.
Of course, I go without because I don’t have an alternative. It would be considerably more difficult to give up comfort by choice. I find it hard, for example, to imagine myself foregoing AC in the 95-degree summer heat in Florida. But it’s just as hot here, and aren’t I doing just fine?
Truly, my life in Kerala isn’t all that different from yours, even without all of the above amenities. Instead of a washing machine, we wash by hand. When there is running water, we fill up buckets for use throughout the day. And of course, the well is always just a short walk away. Knowing that the power might go out at any time, we do things that require light (like bathing) before the sun goes down; after dark, there is always a candle nearby, just in case. Schools, businesses, etc. are equipped to carry on as usual even without power. During evening prayer, when we are often suddenly plunged into darkness in the middle of a song, no one skips a beat. In lieu of toilet paper, we wash with water. Instead of using forks and knives, we eat with our (right) hand.
It’s a different lifestyle, to be sure, than the one I knew in the US, but it’s still that—a lifestyle. And it’s in no way sub-par to ours in the West, where we have a tendency to think that our way is the ‘right,’ or ‘best’ way.
Don’t be mistaken—there are times when I would love to have a washer. Or to easily run water from the tap, rather than drawing bucket after bucket from the well. But still, it’s a little disconcerting, on a certain level, to realize that everything you think you need, you don’t. That everything you think you need, the majority of the world goes without.
And you know what? So can I :)
“The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, "I was wrong". –Sydney J. Harris