This has been a cold winter. Like the good old fashioned Canadian winters, say old-timers. I recall one of our first few winters in Canada when the city was in the grip of a deep freeze.
One morning, as I put on my winter jacket to go grab the newspaper from the porch, I spotted our neighbour Steve making his way to our door with a large pail in his hand.
“May I trouble you for some water?” he asked.
I was instantly transported back to our years in Chennai during a phase of particularly severe water shortage.
With a couple of monsoons having delivered less rain than expected, the rivers and reservoirs were running dry. Water pressure was low and we had gone from staying up later to collect some water (when demand was lower and therefore there was hope for a reasonable pressure) to going down three floors to fill buckets at a neighbour’s place on the ground floor. Until their taps ran dry, too. Then it was waiting for the water tanker to come and fill the underground tanks that each building complex was equipped with to be able to get one’s meagre share of water. People resorted to innovative ways to save on water. Eating on banana leaves was one – one didn’t have to do dishes! A neighbour would actually save her laundry until her husband could take them to Bangalore on his weekly business trips. He’d leave one load there to be picked up next week while bringing back last week’s clothes.
Distracted by these thoughts, I invited Steve inside. It was bitterly cold out. Taking the pail from his hand, I asked if he needed cold water or hot, all the time wondering why on earth he needed any water. I wasn’t aware of any water shortage in this land of lakes. In the US, yes, when the grass on front lawns became brittle and dry during a harsh summer. But here, in Canada?
“Our pipes froze,” Steve was saying. Apparently, their furnace was malfunctioning. It would start and cut then restart, etc. With the temperature dropping inside the house as well, the pipes froze. They had had no water for a day and had been managing with bottled water, while waiting for the furnace technician and the plumber to show up. But now the toilets were in a bad shape and needed to be flushed, he explained, in an obvious state of embarrassment. I told him it was something that we were very used to where we came from, to come on over for showers, etc., while I called my wife to get coffee going for them.
– T. Karthik
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