Photographers' Blog

Solar power nightlight

August 1, 2012

By Adnan Abidi

Near my house in Delhi at Deenu bhai’s tea stall, I noticed a very young visitor; 7-year-old Sohail. He was Deenu bhai’s relative visiting him from Aligarh for the summer breaks. Before leaving for work, I enjoyed a cup of tea at Deenu bhai’s, and as usual, I was sipping a steaming hot cup of tea with a snack when I saw Sohail with a drawing book.

Hot summer mornings keep away a lot of lazy lads who otherwise are found gossiping at Deenu bhai’s place. I was finding no such company, so I asked Sohail what he’s been up to. He showed me a few landscape drawings, which were mostly village scenes with huts and animals, with the sun rising at a location painted in yellow.

GALLERY: SOLAR INDIA

I am no art critic, and couldn’t actually make out anything in those drawings. But I recalled my childhood days, and compared it with Sohail’s to figure out a similar thought process in both of our generations. Neither of us have ever imagined a typical Indian village scene during or after sundown.

I come from a village named Baharpur in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and I recall we used to get up at 5a.m. and play until 4p.m. As darkness enveloped the entire village, oil lanterns were the only source of light. All major work had to be completed during the day, as there was no electricity once the sun was down.

This realization suddenly filled my heart with respect for innovators like Sun Edison – a company dedicated to the development of solar plants which provide electricity to the remote village Meerwada in Guna district of Madhya Pradesh. This is such a remote village, that a trip of 20 kms (12 miles) once took four hours during the rains.

We reached Meerwada in the afternoon and the village seemed similar to any other remote Indian village, but as time passed during my shoot, the village magically transformed. In wonderment I watched the village sparkle with the power of LED lamps. Darkness didn’t stand a chance.

Once I walked to neighboring village where this technology was absent, I realized the benefits of harvesting the power of the sun. I was not surprised by the similarities I saw 25 years ago in my village. Digital camera technology has come quite far in dealing with minimal light, using a high ISO to take a picture at night. But this was not the case in this particular village, which only had a few oil lamps to illuminate the night.

I asked myself “was having light at night all the benefit the village received?” I was proved wrong as Manorbai told me that she started a tailoring job at night after finishing her daily duties on the field and as a housewife. She started earning a few extra dollars for her family which brought them some comfort and conveniences. The solar power harvest not only help with the villagers’ income but it also brought health benefits. A bore well was set up in the village with people taking full advantage of it – just by paying a minimal fee. The well ensures abundant and also hygienic water that prevents the spread of diseases.

Solar power changed people’s lifestyles. No longer were they left handicapped when the sun went down. While photographing two young girls Ramsiya and Bhoori playing during the day and studying at night, I saw how solar power had empowered them and had given them a better life.

Hopefully this small piece of technology might cause a change in people’s perception – especially young creative minds. If I ever do a follow-up on this same story, I would be glad to see the children drawing a village scene… a scene at night.

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