Powering a Billion Dreams – One Hamlet at a time …
Feb 16, 2015
I never realized where I was heading until I sat in that ferry that would take me to the Irukkam Island. Irukkam is located in the middle of Pulicat Lake, comes under Tada Mandal of Sri Potti Sri Ramulu Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh. It is only accessible by boat which is 3 nautical miles from Bheemunivaripalem (B.V.Palem). A passenger ferry is available only two times a day to reach the Irakkam Island. I was deputed as the supervisor for one of the Solar-DC Off-Grid projects of CYGNI where the aim is to provide the population with no grid connectivity with an off grid DC power solution. This island is very close to India’s prestigious Sriharikota SHAR Rocket Launching Centre, yet electricity is a costly affair for the residents of this island.
In that small boat, filled with at least 50 unknown eyes that were trying to steal a glance at the alien body in their territory, I was nearly planning out my survival schedule for next few days. After about an hour, the boat reached one of the boat houses at the island, where with little enquiry, I was pointed to the direction where our installation site was. This was a small village with 26 families, which was in coherence with reports and installation material accompanying me. As soon as I reached the village, the day 1 of my work started, the village assistant accompanied me to all the houses and introduced me to the families living there and my purpose of the visit. I still recall their reaction, some of them greeted me with great eagerness, and some with restrained concern and some just nodded their way through as if this is just another awareness campaign. The “24 hours of electricity”, seemed like a title of a fancy story to them, no emotions appeared on their faces as if they had heard it lots of time. After all the solar installation I have done, this was the one installation where I felt that, “OK! I will do it, prove it, electricity for poor is not a myth”.
They day passed, in planning the next few day’s work, and making resolutions. In the evening, I was taken to the Primary Health Centre, where arrangements for my stay were made. This was a small room with no beds or other stuff but a futon. That night I slept like anything, it was next day when I woke up to the sound of tractors and a blocked nose, I realised how cold it was and how exhausted I was last night.
The mornings were the one of the most overwhelming part of the experience I cherished during my stay. The green paddy fields spread across the area, the cold breeze gushing besides the ears, the site of fishermen, birds, clear horizon, clean air there was everything the nature has to provide in its true form. If only, somebody could have played a santoor for background score, this could have been a scene from old movies with a countryside frame running across the television screen.
The day started with unloading the materials which turned out to be a piece of cake, thanks to all the village support. The workers for all the civil work were arranged within few hours and the local electrician, Nagraju, agreed to volunteer for the installation of the system. We started with erecting the poles for mounting structures; and simultaneously cabling the houses. Once the work started, the villagers begin to realize that this might be their closest chance to actually see a fan running, a bulb glowing in their small dwellings. From day 2 onwards,50% of our work load was taken over by villagers. They came out to contribute their share of manpower to the valued project.
It took 2 days to erect all the mounting structures; by this time the villagers have become pretty friendly with me. Every day in the evening all the villagers would gather around a small temple, called Ponniamman Temple, where I used to brief them with next day’s work and answer their curiosity regarding the technology and how the light will be generated from sun. Every day I used to explain same thing to them but their curiosity never seemed to end, with each day the restlessness and the eagerness in their eyes seems to increase. They were more determined than me and now they believed in the Solar DC System more than me.
Every evening was unprecedentedly beautiful. I don’t know what I liked more, the red and orange sky with some cloud balls here and there or the small glimmer of lights in distant darkness or the wave of birds that would pass through. I tried every evening to sync in with that exquisiteness, but…….!!
The project was completed in no time. We installed the OGH-DC system in 26 homes, a temple & a community hall and provided 1 unit each of fan, tube light, charger and bulb in every houses and a LED TV in community hall with 2 fans, 2 tube-lights, 2 led bulbs & 1 mobile charger socket . Every time a cluster was completed and started, people would shout in excitement. This was the end of darkness for them; especially the kids who would enjoy the fan and tube light, the remote controlled equipment had become a new play tool to them. They would point the remote towards the equipment in all possible manners as if to check that in how many ways they can use this remote. Those moments have been engraved in my memory. I have never been more proud of doing something.
It was not long till sunset and again I sat at the edge of Pulkat Lake, to admire the island one last time, the red and orange sky with some cloud balls here and there and the wave of birds that would pass through. But now there were bright lights shining in distant darkness. Like each evening, I tried again to sync in with that exquisiteness, but this time I just sat there to admire the lights.