One Cup: Blessing


Maun, Botswana

I managed to salvage one cup from the last of the water barely dripping out of the bathroom tap. One cup of water. And I still need to brush my teeth, shower – or at the least, throw some water on the unkempt hair on my head as it’s sticking up on one side. I also really need to go to the toilet, but there is no water in the toilet tank to flush with. My stomach suddenly growls. How will I have breakfast? I’m so hungry. But without any running water I can’t wash the dirty dishes in the sink and so I have no pan to make porridge with. Looking into the mirror, as my eyes adjust to the morning light, I realise I also need to shave. My beard is pushing the boundaries of looking ‘professional’ and it’s long enough as it is. I think to the day ahead and begin to think about how this will affect me over the next 24 hours. I have 2 litres of clean drinking water in my bag and that’s it. In this 35 degree heat, I usually drink 3 litres and still come home feeling thirsty. As hard as it will be, and as much as a small sense of dread creeps over me, I can’t help but think I’m still one of the lucky ones. I’m too busy wandering what some of the few orphaned street children we met two weeks before will do (some of whom probably lost their parents to HIV/AIDS). Our neighbour, an Indian boy called Jay, came round last night to tell us the local water pipe had burst and that we should start collecting as much water as possible. If only I had started collecting water then, I tell myself. I hadn’t even thought of how it would affect any of these things then. If this ever happened back home in the U.K, I can picture already how outraged customers would be. Phoning the local council and demanding answers. Flooding the water company with angry calls seeking instant fixes. How dare we have access to water, even if for the briefest of periods. And compare it with this – Jay tells me the last time this happened they had no running water for FOUR months in the peak of their 40 degree summer. People were queuing for hours in the early hours of the morning to fill up buckets of water from the local river. How did they manage and still carry on their normal lives, I ask myself. I am pulled back to the present moment as my bladder rumbles again. How did they use the toilet if there was no water to flush with? It didn’t really seem to faze him, and it’s an interesting experience I am still glad to have been faced with. These are exactly the sort of challenges I wanted to have thrown at me before I came. So that I could really appreciate what I have at my fingertips.

Our taxi to work arrives in half an hour and we have no running water left. All I have is this one cup of water to get ready with… One cup… And I’m still probably one of the lucky few.

Water. It really is a blessing.

The skin cracks like a pod.
There never is enough water.

Imagine the drip of it,
the small splash, echo
in a tin mug,
the voice of a kindly god.

Sometimes, the sudden rush
of fortune. The municipal pipe bursts,
silver crashes to the ground
and the flow has found
a roar of tongues. From the huts,
a congregation : every man woman
child for streets around
butts in, with pots,
brass, copper, aluminium,
plastic buckets,
frantic hands,

and naked children
screaming in the liquid sun,
their highlights polished to perfection,
flashing light,
as the blessing sings
over their small bones.

(Blessing by Imtiaz Dharker)


One response to “One Cup: Blessing

  1. Did you know that pula, which, I’m sure you know, means rain, is also the country’s motto? In fact, like you said, rain or water in Botswana is a blessing. So pula is not just money, it is also a blessing :). Love the new blog, you should help me with mine!

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