On Tuesday night the storm arrived. The fierce winds and pelting rains would continue for the week. Power supply in our town was an obvious casualty.
A day later I mustered courage to step out and check the damage. Bent steel electric poles and toppled trees strewn all around. The carnage was lethal unlike the one’s I had seen here.
As I passed St Thomas Church I saw a twisted steel pole and a two man TNEB team fixing a new pole with rustic tools in hand. When I came back a proud tall electric pole stood next to the previous bent pole.
Few sights of human grit have stirred my heart.
The scale of damage was still enormous and the TNEB team was stretched thin. But help was arriving from the neighboring districts.
Luckily Ayaan’s school had temporarily paused the online classes. Office work for Sim and me though was limping along aided by the UPS.
On the fourth day – Saturday I bumped into Rafeal the Senior Foreman and he said they would address our lane today. The major repairs on HT (high tension) lines were done and they would now pick the LT lines. My hopes rose.
Meanwhile Ayaan’s school announced the resumption of online classes starting Monday.
Unfortunately the same day a major snag hit the HT transformer and the entire town fell back into darkness. It would take a day for the snag to be fixed.
I was running out of time and hope.
The only option was to buy a generator. It would be an expense, a pain to maintain and add to some pollution but our life would resume.
Saturday evening I called the only large consumer electronics store in our town aptly called the Big Shop. No they didn’t stock Gensets but tipped me off about one distributor in town who could help.
Armed with a rough location map amidst pelting rain I found Devaraj. His office was a tiny room full of Genset and batteries stocked over each other and two plastic chairs.
Occupying our respective chair we discovered a new problem. Language. In broken English I explained my need and he seemed to understand.
Yes a Genset was available either for rent or purchase. And despite the next day Sunday being a complete lockdown he would come and install it.
The decision was about to be made when two men walked in. They had come to collect their UPS battery which was being recharged by Devaraj.
In that moment of shared suffering a conversation broke out between us. They were Techies from Bangalore who had temporarily shifted back to work from home because of Covid.
“Why don’t you look at Solar?” suggested Sampath who worked with Accenture. “Devaraj had recommended it to us, but we will be going back to Bangalore so I didn’t consider it”.
Solar seemed like an exotic remedy. A step in the unknown. And I had no knowledge about its effectiveness in the hills.
Sampath sensed the situation and stepped in as a translator. A cost benefit comparison with a Genset indicated a clear preference towards Solar.
” No running cost or maintenance and a 20 year warranty” added Devaraj.
And so in that moment a decision that I had always dreamt of was made.
Was it providence that someone walked in right then in that small shop and decided to help, I would never know.
The next day Devaraj arrived with his nephew and two kids aged 6 & 11. The sharp boys bridged the communication gap between Devaraj and me moving from Tamil to English.
The installation was swift. In an hour it was done. Solar was activated.
” Are you sure it will work?”, asked Abhimanyu aged 44 ever again anxiously.
” It has a 20 year warranty”, assured Sherwin aged 11.
Meanwhile the main power was back at home. The TNEB team had set up a parallel connection and our lane was lit up again.
But the doubt still stirred in my head. How effectively would the solar panels charge the UPS? And in ambient light how reliable was Solar?
I had even bought a MultiMeter to check the battery.
And then it happened.
The next day a truck overfilled with logs disturbed the electricity lines opposite our house. Sparks flew, the truck screeched, the voltage fluctuated all evening and at night power went kaput.
The next day I got off the bed at 6:30:am and checked the Battery health. 12.9 volt responded to the MultiMeter.
‘Well now’s the test. By half day I will know if the Solar panels will charge the UPS”, I muttered.
At 8:45:am with the mountain sun still ambient I went out to check the level. It had moved up to 13.9 volt. I was delighted.
At 10:am I tested the level and it was hitting 14.9 volt. Almost full power.
Solar had truly delivered.
Let the storms come now, the Sun will always shine behind the clouds