But yesterday, I faced it rough. The temperatures hit 40 degrees, and then my taps ran dry. I live in Dhangadi, a rural town of Nepal with severe water problems. Most of the ground water has arsenic. I have to rely on piped water, which comes only twice a day, at about 6-9am and 3-5pm.
The problem is I slept very late the other night, because I was chatting with my girlfriend all night (long distance love is very difficult). So I woke up after the water supply company had turned off the tap. To my horror, I discovered that my reservoir tank was empty. I was sweating, humidity was up to 80%, yet I couldn’t take a shower! My skin felt like it was peeling off.
To worsen it, electricity went off. I couldn’t turn on the fan to cool down my room. And the sun shone with such fierceness that I felt I was in an oven.
3pm came and I ran to the taps, to fill up my cans and my tank, but the tap stayed dry. It happens often. It’s the price you pay for living in a rural town.
I could not go to my neighbors to get water. This is Nepal, a Hindu society. I’m a black man, and they think that black people are lower caste, untouchables, you are not supposed to share water with them. All my neighbors are Brahmins (the highest caste) and Tharus, third in the hierachy. And though we talk on the streets, none of them has ever invited me into their homes. In contrast, the white couple who live a short distance away get invited to all the weddings and parties. I once asked my neighbors for water, but they gave me a stupid excuse, which revealed to me that they think I’m an untouchable because I’m black, so I’m not supposed to share water sources with them.
In the past, the caste system wasn’t determined by skin color. But “…because of the colonization in India, some people tend to think in that way.” Dr. Khrisna Bahadur Battachan told me this in an interview I had with him once, which appears in my documentary, Untouchable Love.
The problem with the house I’m renting is that I have a broken manual water pump, and so when the piped water runs out, I have no other water source. I once complained to the landlord, but she never fixed it.
And so here I was in an oven, unable to shower, unable to turn on the fan. I tried ‘dry cleaning’ myself with a towel, which I made wet by wiping the sink, but it only worsened the slimy feeling on my skin. I felt like snails had left their goo all over my body. I endured a terrible night, tossing and turning, with the bed sheets sticking to my skin like filthy rags. I kept all the windows open. The full moon shone all night, smiling at me, laughing at my woes.
Morning came. The sun rose, promising me a new day. But the taps stayed dry until 7am. By this time, I was nearly mad with rage, though I looked as calm as a stone abandoned in the desert.
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