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?