I hand-washed our sheets today. Here in India that is nothing out of the ordinary, but for most Americans, (and maybe other Western cultures) this might seem unusual. It was no problem at all. I placed the sheets in a bucket with washing powder and water and let them soak for a bit. Then later I used my hands to churn and stir the water to wash and then to rinse them. There are washing machines available to purchase here but many Indians consider it an unnecessary expense when it is just as easy to do it by hand yourself or to pay your maid to do it. Maids are quite common here and it seems like a regular part of the economy. Everybody has a maid to come and sweep the floors and clean the bathrooms and do other household chores. The cost is very low. We have not yet employed a maid, since we are still just getting settled into our home. After I washed the sheets, I took them outside to the balcony where we have a clothes drying rack that hangs from the ceiling of the balcony. It is on a pulley so that I can lower it to place the clothes on it and then hoist it up high to dry. A clothes drying appliance would be ridiculous in this hot climate. Everything gets hung out to dry, even though the sun will eventually fade the brightly colored clothing. It is so hot that I don't even take much effort to wring out the sheets and clothes. They are still dripping a bit when I hang them on the rack. I hoist the rack up high and then look out over the rooftops of Nagpur and think how quickly my life has changed.
Last night there was no water from the taps. It wasn't that the well ran dry, but just that the water tank for the building needed to be refilled from the well. All residents, I suppose, take their turn running the pump to fill the tank. We just moved to this apartment building and no one has yet shown us how to work the pump that fills the tank for the building. It was the middle of the night, so we just had to wait for some other resident to wake in the morning and realize that the tank was empty. Meanwhile, one of the two faucets at the kitchen sink is what they call "Corporation Water", a public utility. This faucet was the only one that had water since it is not dependent on the tank. I filled up a bucket of water from this faucet and carried it to the bathroom so that I could shower myself using a small pitcher to take water out of the bucket. This might also seem unusual to my American family and friends, but it is nothing new here. In fact, the Homestay where we stayed for my first week here didn't even have a shower. We used the bucket and pitcher method all week.
When I look out of our windows, from the 3rd floor, I see endless rooftops. Some have solar panels. All have water tanks. Several rooftops have men working on them to build another floor of the building. Endless rooftops with trees sprinkled here and there. Birds that look like small mourning doves, but their cooing sounds different, are seen often on the balcony and window ledges. Even amid all of these buildings and rooftops, there are a few roosters nearby that can be heard every morning. And one confused rooster prefers to cock-a-doodle-do at the setting sun rather than the rising sun.He might be a kindred spirit, as I too am more of a night owl than an early bird. Our balcony faces west so we have a great view of the setting sun, but it is usually far too hot to enjoy sitting out there to watch the sun go down. Instead, we sit inside, under the ceiling fan and watch the round orange ball of fire sinking low in the sky. Occasionally we hear some barking dogs or a loud MOO from a roaming cow. Its different here. More than just hand-washing bed sheets, so many big and small things are different.
I washed the sheets and hung them to dry on the balcony. The heat of the sun and the coolness of dripping water filled my senses. I felt content. Happy to do this work of daily life. To care for home and husband seems maybe too simple an existence but isn't this life, right here in all these small moments? Isn't this life, in the washing of the clothes and the dripping on the balcony in the late afternoon sun? All these small moments add up to one wondrous life. I don't want to miss one moment of one day in India.