Friday, 22 March 2013

Solar Energy in India

Solar panels on the roof of our house,
Tiruvannamalai, India
As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, we have gone solar, so to speak here in rural India. Last month we installed solar panels on the roof of our house in Tiruvannamalai. The main reason is the lack of power in Tamil Nadu due to frequent power cuts. Although big cities like Chennai have only two hours per day with no power, the rural areas in the state can experience cuts of up to twelve hours per day. Last year after we had a cyclone, we were without power for nearly a week. Another time, when a transformer blew up, it took over a week to regain power to the area. We were able to go into town to check our email and charge our cell phones, but there were no lights or fans for days so working from home was impossible.

Although we have an inverter and backup batteries, they only last for eight hours, which isn't long enough if there is an extended cut. Since summer is setting in and the sun is hot (!) these days, the solar panels are getting a real workout but have performed wonderfully since they were installed.
Solar panels on roof
Sunlit Future, based in Auroville, provides great customer service checking in with us the first week to make sure everything was up and running. They said that their business is booming all over India so the future looks bright for solar power options here. They provide a free consultation and will give estimates on what type of solar system you need based on your power requirements.

For more information, visit their website at

Solar street light on the compound
Solar water heater installed by a neighbor 2 years ago

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Kickstarter Goal Reached!

Women visiting Arunachaleswar Temple,
Tiruvannamalai, South India
(photo by Geraldine Westrupp)
Just a brief entry to let readers know that I have made my Kickstarter goal of $5,000 to help self-publish my (work in progress) book called Sipping Chai in Chennai. The project link on can be found here: ( I have written more about the project on previous blog entries but wanted to thank my backers for their unwavering support.

Many thanks to all who pledged money to my project or other projects worldwide! I  will continue with updates via my blog and the Kickstarter website.



Friday, 15 March 2013

The Best Time of Year to Visit South India

Mt. Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, South India
Several friends from the U.S. have recently asked me about the best time of year to visit South India. As things are beginning to heat up here in Tamil Nadu as summer approaches, I have suggested that they delay their trip until October when the temperature becomes more 'winter-like' with temperatures in the mid-80's Fahrenheit or around 28 degrees Celsius.  Summer temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more than 38 degrees Celsius.

The weather in India can be divided into three main seasons- winter, summer and the monsoons. The majority of westerners visiting Tiruvannamalai arrive during the winter months beginning in October and lasting until mid-to-late March. Right now, we are beginning to see an exodus of friends who have spent the winter here and are packing up to leave as summer sets in.

Although I work in an office in Chennai that has AC (air conditioning), the heat in the city can be quite relentless during the summer. We have moved into a new office in Mylapore as of last September, which has a back-up generator. When the power cuts take effect during the work day, there is a brief 'burp' as the lights and AC shift from the government supplied power to the generator downstairs. Our previous office space did not have backup power that lasted longer than about an hour. We were sent home on many occasions due to lack of power and stifling heat in the office. This summer should be much better, I hope!

Chennai, Tamil Nadu, South India

At home in Tiruvannamalai, we have added solar panels to the roof and now have no interruption of power during the day. The panels will keep the fans, lights and computers on during power cuts but not the AC until we switch to an AC that runs on solar power...(next year's investment!) Since the rural area where we live can sometimes have power cuts of up to twelve hours at a go, this is a huge improvement and feels somewhat luxurious since our fans stay on even when the government power is off. Simple pleasures...

For further information on the best time of year to visit India, I suggest reading an article on Climate and Weather in India by Sherrell Cook at There are also numerous links such as the Indian Meteorological Department and a fun group of weather bloggers at KEA Weather Blog.

Bullock carts decorated for Pongal festival, Tamil Nadu, South India

Saturday, 9 March 2013

More Thank-You's!

Many thanks to the following new supporters of my Kickstarter project entitled Sipping Chai in Chennai.

Venkatarangan Thirumalai
Michele Becker
Jason Woodard and Jana Rumminger
Carol Grewal
Mark Pinto
Mahesh Rajan

For details of my project based in South India please visit:

Mystical South India – Tamil Nadu and Kerala Photography Tours

Flower market, Tiruvannamalai
(Wild Photography Holidays)
India is a photographer's paradise. It seems like every time I round a corner in Chennai or Tiruvannmalai there is something colorful and interesting to be captured. Many of the photos on my blog of Tiruvannamalai were taken by family members (my husband's sister and her partner) when they visited us in December and January, 2011 and 2012. I have an inexpensive digital camera that takes OK photos, but to really capture the rich colors of India it helps to have better equipment than this.

Sunset through Chinese fishing nets, Kerala
 (Wild Photography Holidays)
My sister-in-law, Geraldine Westrupp, and her partner, Martin Sammtleben, run a photography tour each winter (December-January) in Tamil Nadu and Kerala called Mystical South India. With visits to Tiruvannamalai, Mahabalipuram,  Gingee Fort, the French sea-side state of Pondicherry, and Cochin  (just some of the stops on the Mystical South India tour) visitors get a taste of South India with the assistance of two experienced photographer/tour guides. Wild Photography Holidays takes photography groups all over the world to scenic locales like Iceland, Norway, Spain, and Bhutan as well as South India. 

   Please visit their website at and travel around the world through the lenses of their cameras.

    The photos on today's blog post are all from Wild Photography Holiday's website. Enjoy!

Kathakali performer applying make-up, Kerala
(Wild Photography Holidays)

Fisherwoman at Sathanur Dam, Tamil Nadu
(Wild Photography Holidays)

Sadhus, India's wandering holy men, Tamil Nadu (Wild Photography Holidays)

Friday, 1 March 2013

A Walk in Rural India

Tending his herd
Summer is slowly arriving in South India; the sun feels hotter and I wear my floppy wide-brimmed hat whenever I go outside during the day. By the end of the month we will be in full-fledged summer mode, and it will be too hot to walk in the midday sun (at least for me).

On Thursday, I walked back to our house after shopping at several stores near Ramanasramam. It's about a 45 minute walk if one takes a path south of town. It was noon so the sun was high in  the sky and there wasn't a cloud to be seen. There used to be a short cut through the local college campus but that is closed now, so I followed a path I am not familiar with and got a bit lost. I knew I just had to keep Mt. Arunachala behind me and head for some electrical poles in the distance; I wasn't very worried about being off the main path. 

I recommend getting lost in rural India because you meet a lot of friendly people asking where you are going. I cut through one field full of Nubian goats; they looked surprised to see me tromping through their grazing land. An elderly man tending the goats must have seen me coming in the distance and wondered what this foreign woman with the floppy hat and sunglasses was doing carry two bags of groceries through his field in the midday sun. "Where are you going?" he asked in Tamil. I pointed off in the distance since I still don't know the word for 'home' in Tamil. He smiled and nodded his head (Indian head nod) as I wandered off in the direction of our house, still another 30 minutes away.

By the time I got home, I had met at least a dozen other friendly people working in their fields, tending cows and goats or working on the government road project near our house. I wish I knew more Tamil because I really wanted to explain where I was going with my bags of groceries so that is a priority this month, learning rudimentary Tamil. 

I was feeling very overheated by the time I got home, so it might be my last walk in the midday sun until after summer has ended. I have much respect for the workers here who labor in the hot sun for eight or more hours per day for very low wages. I was bushed after just a 45 minute walk in the heat ...

More Thank-You's for Pledges!

Mt. Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, South India (G. Reinhard)
Many thanks to the following people who have recently pledged funds for my Kickstarter book project at

 Venkatarangan Thirumalai
 Maya Kumar
 Megan and Michael Whittaker
 Karen Koch
 Rani Kumar
 Gokul Raj
 David Kosakowski and Family

I truly appreciate your support!