~Written By Bharat Budhiraja
It’s been 22 years since my parents inducted me into trekking in the Indian Himalayas. On each of my annual sojourns I have passed through scarcely inhabited remote settlements. As a child, my attitude to these was of indifference but as I grew older, the hardships of these mountain people began to disturb me. When the sun goes down, darkness, made more eerie by the looming mountains engulfs the whole place. These small Himalayan hamlets lack the very basic amenities of a 21st century civilized world like electricity and easy access to water. Now that I am a trained Mechanical Engineer, I want to use the knowledge I have acquired, to create some means of helping these poor people lead a less arduous life. I have read and realized myself after spending twenty five years of my life in India that this country has an enormous surplus of energy in the form of non-conventional energy sources like solar. I wish to use my knowledge and understanding of core mechanical engineering principles to develop cheap and efficient devices that are able to convert solar energy into a usable form.
I did my entire pre college education from a school which gave higher priority to moral pursuits than to scholastic endeavors. Every morning all the students of our school got together in a mass congregation, which we aptly called the ‘morning assembly’, to sing spiritual hymns praising the almighty. The hymns were followed by ‘student recitations’. Several students would come up to the dais to recite poems and excerpts from writings of great thinkers and philosophers. This was our daily dose of morality. One line from one of those recitals stuck with me after hearing it time and again, and I quote, "You will go abroad to foreign lands that you may bring back knowledge with which you may do service to her". It was from an address delivered to students and teachers of the Bengal National College on 23rd August, 1907, by a freedom fighter, philosopher and poet Sri Aurobindo. The aim of the address was to motivate the students to be patriotic and devote their lives for the betterment of their country, India. This one line always inspired me while I studying in England and United States, and eventually after spending six years in the west I returned back home to India. The reader may think that I am being too idealistic. Yes, I did have my personal reasons, like being with my family and friends, living in my childhood house again etc., but, I always had a strong desire to ‘give back’ to my motherland for what she had given me in all those years that I grew up here.
There is a famous quote, by Paul Coelho in his book The Alchemist ,” When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it.” What is the probability of a person studying in the United States to find a job in an American company based in India? It seems that my desire to come back was so strong that all the circumstances worked in my favor. After completing my masters I eventually landed in a job in an American start-up company manufacturing milk chilling machines for rural India with erratic electricity. The phrase ‘give back’ acquired a whole new meaning since I started working here. If someone who does not even belong to India is spending all their time and energy in solving a widespread problem, then why can’t I? It’s been almost two years since I’ve been working here and trying to fill the gap in an inefficient cold chain between the source and consumer. We are now adapting our technology to work on solar energy, so that we can provide sustainable cooling solutions for agricultural produce. Life seems to have come a full circle for me. I’ve always wanted to harness solar energy to create something that could serve as a self-sustainable and economically viable power generation source, and I am doing just that. I may not be lighting a lamp just yet – but then who said that it’s the end of the road? The journey has only just begun...
About Bharat Budhiraja: