The Power of One


People in Sakad, Madhya Pradesh usually use two buckets of water to bathe and wash. One day, I filled one bucket slightly less than half, thinking that I would be fine with just one. One of the young women I live with, upon seeing my single bucket called me ‘conjuice‘, meaning cheap, because I had skimped on water. She asked why I used such little water when there was plenty available from the tank. I quickly responded that I was just saving water. She looked at me critically, “Water cannot be saved with just one person and one bucket,” she replied. “Teek hai (ok),” I said and continued on. She and I have a tug and pull relationship, so I let that one go.

Then the other day we went into town, and I stopped for a few bananas. The man selling the bananas asked me if I wanted a plastic bag for them, which immediately struck me as odd because usually every purchased good here is overly packed with plastic. I try to ask for items unpackaged where applicable, but I usually forget. But this time, when he asked me if I wanted a bag, I declined and walked off with my yellow goodies in hand. My same friend of course chided me, “Why did you not take a bag?” she asked. I was a little more firm this time. “What will happen to the bag once the bananas are eaten? It will end up on the street.” Sensing my retort, my friend replied, “No need to be like Gandhi. Nothing will change with just one person.”

I smiled inwardly. Why did I not use one more bucket or take one bag? At the moment, I am not running a huge campaign to save water or clean up trash (though perhaps I should). I’m just being the person I want to be in the present moment in time. I realize that person conflicts with the outside world at different times, and I suppose I will always conflict in some way. How I define myself gets created and re-created as I interact with the world. When faced in a situation where ‘the power of one’ arises, I know that there is nothing great that I am doing for anyone or anything. I am simply being the person I want to be in any given situation. For me, that is the power of one.

Mansi Goyal,  August 2009 Indicorps Fellow

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