A brave chaiwala’s ‘green’ chai

Innovation doesn’t have to be about a new technology or a new process. It could simply be reimagining one’s own life in new ways.

I learned this just yesterday, in an urban slum, in no-man’s land between Delhi and Ghaziabad, in Uttar Pradesh.

The slum was not even a slum, just a few dozen shelters, held up with bamboo and plastic sheets. Neither water nor electricity was supplied here. In the afternoon, when I went, the heat was close to being unbearable, uninterrupted by any breeze at all.

Everyone in this slum was sweating, except for one person – a chai wala, who had put up two solar panels on his fragile rooftop. Thanks to these panels, he watched television and ran a fan, his two priorities.

Not all the residents here use solar panels, even as they suffer the heat. Many residents explained that being able to find solar products was a challenge. You can’t buy them in regular shops.

This doesn’t mean slums should be handed over solar panels. Infact, slums should get priority over other residents for grid-based electricity, because they are the most vulnerable and deprived.

Also, they consume less than middle-class homes. We should not dump green technologies on them and stop being accountable for their deprivation.

But there is a lesson from the chai wala for many of us.

If an illiterate man can trust solar panels, why not thousands of educated elite?

 

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