Eco warriors are the new superheroes. And for a water-starved city desperately looking for a superhero, Solar Suresh is an ideal, if reluctant, candidate.
At the launch of ‘Naturally Chennai’, a project anchored by Joint Managing Director of Savera Hotels, A Nina Reddy, and her team of ‘Green Goddesses,’ 73-year-old Dwarkadas Suresh packed the hall with rapt fans.
An IIT-Madras and IIM-Ahmedabad graduate, the reticent social media sensation has become increasingly popular for his inspiring home in Kilpauk, designed to be self sufficient by using solar panels, rain water harvesting, biogas, terrace gardens and an Air-o-water machine, which makes drinking water out of air.
The day-long organic fair at Savera hotel opens with a talk by Suresh. Visibly startled by the thundering enthusiasm of the audience, when he is introduced, Suresh begins by saying “If I knew there would be a reception like this I would not have come,” to the visible disconcertment of the organisers.
He adds with a grin, “I seem to have marketed myself well. But, it’s no rocket science. For most of the things I have done, I have taken the ideas from villages. Nothing is original... I was happy doing everything for myself. I am a selfish person that way. But the media, especially social media, has caught on, particularly over the last seven years.”
Suresh then takes the audience through a power point presentation explaining how he outfitted his house. To begin with, he installed a 3 KW standalone rooftop solar system, to generate electricity. “I have not had even a one-minute power cut in the last eight years,” he says, triggering a round of enthusiastic applause. A member of the audience interjects to ask about maintenance. “There is no daily maintenance required,” he answers, adding “I am a lazy person so that suits me very well!”
While the nuts-and-bolts information on the equipment in Suresh’s home, and cost breakup, has been the subject of multiple articles and videos, what is interesting about his talk is the fact that he denies engineering any of it. Instead, he says his policy is to “find experts, and leave it to them”.
The rest of the slides go through rainwater harvesting methods, biogas and terrace gardening. He states, “If anything new comes to the country, I am the first to invest.” This includes his latest project, a futuristic contraption that extracts water from air. “The Israelis came up with this technology. Now it is made in Mumbai.” In a stall at the exhibition, the team behind the Air-O-Water pours out glass after glass to incredulous potential buyers.
Winding up his speech, Suresh says his wells are brimming with water and storms make no impact on his daily life. “On Vardah cyclone day I had full power,” he chuckles. “I switched on all my lights and TV. I took such sadistic pleasure in the fact that only I had electricity — all neighbours came to my house to charge their phones! It’s like that old Onida advertisment. Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride.”
(For a related story on the organic fair, turn to page 5)