When Solar Lamps Lit a Wedding Dinner | Milaap

When Solar Lamps Lit a Wedding Dinner

I was on a field visit to Durgapali, a small town in Bolangir district of Odisha. The field trips are to assess the impact of a loan offered by field partners. The visit was regarding an update for energy loan. The group I was to meet consisted six local women who had collectively bought solar lamps.

Jagyasini, the leader of the group, volunteered to host me. As she and I stepped inside her house, she loudly announced my arrival in the compound. And what seemed like another long shout in odiya, she ordered someone to collect all the members of the group (or that is what I thought she said). Given my incapability to understand the language and her incapability to speak any hindi, it was like playing a game of throw-ball with lots of misses. Later when all the women joined in, it seemed like being asked by an amateur juggler to put up a ten ball juggling performance, more than she was prepared for.

I started with Jagyasini, asked her how has the solar lamp, she bought with the loan money, been doing. Immediately, she took out a huge lamp which did not look like any of the other solar lamps I had seen on my visits. Before another round of unsuccessful throw-balls got started, her youngest daughter jumped in to save the conversation. She explained me how before buying the solar lamp using the loan, they had bought one from the local market. "It was expensive and did not last more thana few months," she explained.

Since then the family had been struggling to get it repaired. The new one had been sturdy and was helping them well with their daily necessities of cooking, eating, going out to relieve themselves late in the evening. Meanwhile, a banter had ensued in the group. As I made my way through the unknown words around me, Jagyasini's daughter nudged to speak more, "Oh! The solar lamp has been a very useful resource in community talking too. When the electricity goes away, we all sit together and do a lot of fun."

Rukmini, Jagyasini's sister-in-law, lived next door, their houses joined by the same compound area. She told me about her family and very fondly mentioned her two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter. As I asked her if she could bring her along so we all could meet her, she cut me, "She is such a nuisance that you'll not be able to have one sane conversation." I abandoned the idea and continued my talk about the solar lamp she had bought. Her face lit up, excitedly she told me how they had hosted her granddaughter's second birthday party with the help of solar lamps. "A birthday party!" I jump up almost. "That's not it. There was a wedding in the locality and during dinner the lights went out. We all collected our solar lamps and the dinner went on."

There is no end to human remarkableness and ingenuity, meeting these women borrowers proves that to me. Surbhi, another group member, added how she does not even have an electricity connection at her home. She lives without any fan and electric lights. All she had was a solar lamp which was enough to cater to her family needs of charging the mobile, cooking and finding things inside the room. "It makes no difference to us if there is an electricity cut or not", she quipped.

We grew up learning to work our way through minimal of the things, to find work around and quick fixes. The local word for it is jugaad or little hacks for life. But, seeing these women getting quick fixes even through the bare minimum, leaves me feeling fuzzy and delighted inside.