FEATURED WRITER : The Story of sustainability by Divya Balineni

“Beeep beeep beeep”, the coffee machine sound startled me and pulled me out of the daydream. 

“No matter how many things we have that we once dreamed for, the heart always looks for the next big thing”, I thought and shook my mind off of the daydream.

I walked to the kitchen to get my morning coffee. By habit, I poured the coffee and took out the coffee mug, walked towards the sink to rinse it. I opened the tap and heard “Hissss” sound, no water. As an immediate normal reaction, I ran to all the bathrooms in the house and opened the taps to hear the same hizsssss. A silent OMG screaming in my head and I looked for my phone to call my townhouse management office. 

It felt like all the frustration in this world just hit my head with a bang. Running all the worst case scenarios of not having water in my head, I dialed the community office number on my phone. While the phone was ringing, I was preparing my angry speech if they told me there's water maintenance or something. There was no email or text message that there will be maintenance today. How am I going to get through the day without water? My head was swirling around just one word "WATER. 

The phone ringing stopped and the person on the other side said, “Hello, this is ABC township management office, This is Sherin speaking, How can I help you”. 
I said, “Yes, this is Divya and I live in 123 building, there’s no water in my house. What's happening? Is there any maintenance going on that you guys did not tell us about”. I realized how impolite I was after I finished that sentence, the anger really got into me.
Sherin replied, “Sorry to hear that ma’am, we don’t have maintenance planned for today. We would have sent you an email if there’s any. Let me look at what happened and call you back” and the line got disconnected. 

Now the frustration turned into anxiety, “What could have happened?. With the Winter Storm watch, it's not the right time to have a water main break or any other water line issue”.
After 5 mins, Sherin called and told me that a water main broke near our building and that they’ve already called the maintenance people to take a look at it. She also mentioned that if it's a small damage, it might be solved in 4 hrs or it will take a day or two. Wow, more than a day without water, is that even manageable?. I never experienced this crisis of water before. I haven’t even stored water for emergency purposes. Should I drive to the nearest gas station and get a can of water for emergency situations? What’s the bathroom situation? Should I book a hotel room if it's not fixed today? 
We humans are smart enough to make a basic commodity like water easily accessible. We made it so easy that we have taken it for granted. And the thought of not having it never crosses our minds.

While this railing thought is running in my head, a childhood story came rushing to me. The story from where I learnt about the importance of water and sustainability.

It was a story of a man visiting his sister’s family and on that visit, he got to teach his nephew a valuable lesson about sustainability. This man’s name was Pillai. He traveled miles in a bus to his sister’s house, and was greeted by his 10-yr old nephew named Vinod. 
After exchanging warm hugs and loving smiles, Vinod assisted his uncle Pillai to wash his hands and legs by pouring water from the pot using a mug. Back in the day, people used to have a pot of water outside their houses to clean their hands and legs before entering the house.
Pillai was humbled at Vinod’s kind gesture and appreciated him for helping, went on washing and when he was done, he said “I’m done Vinod. It’s enough”. 

In Vinod’s excitement he did not catch Pillai’s words, so he was continuously pouring the water. Pillai got angry at this and snapped at Vinod for wasting so much of water. It startled Vinod, he took a second to realize what has happened and with confusion, he asked his uncle, “It's just water, we have plenty in our house. Why do you have to be so mad?”. 

Pillai got even more frustrated with this arrogant question and said, “Will you do the same if its Ghee?” (Ghee is an Indian version of clarified butter). Vinod did not know how to respond to that, so he stayed calm and listened.

Pillai went on explaining, “Abundant supply doesn’t give us the right to exploit it. Think wisely and use only as much as you need to. Please don’t forget this and apply this principle to lead a sustainable life”.

This little story stuck with me since I heard it for the first time. This is where I first learnt about the value of water and sustainability. Sustainability is using only what you need wisely and to refrain from exploiting any natural resource just because you have it in abundance. Water is a finite and irreplaceable resource that is fundamental to human well-being. It is only renewable if well managed. Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself.
Just this small crisis of not having water for a day got me panicking. This makes me think, are we truly prepared for the crises that we have in front of us? the ones that we know are coming as the effects of Global Warming? Were we prepared this time last year when we entered into quarantine? 
We live in this generation that will enter into the History books as the period with back-to-back crises, Covid-19 being the major one. It's high time to take a step back, think and apply sustainable practices in our day-to-day lives. Sustainability starts at home and every small step such as not letting the water run without being used and replacing plastic bags with cloth bags, etc., counts.

About the Writer:  
Divya is an IT Infrastructure admin and a mom of a 2 yr old. Writing is something she has enjoyed doing since she was a child and it has been her escape from reality. Passionate about sustainable fashion & writing, She blogs about her fashion style and sustainability on dstylebook.com and on her Instagram page @dstylebook. 

This piece was written as Divya’s final assignment for a six-week Creative Nonfiction writing workshop.