Vivek Kabra grew up in Jalna, Maharashtra, thinking solar cookers as the only utensils to cook food in. Once he stepped out of his home and went to IIT-Bombay, he was astonished to find out that it is a rare commodity outside his neighbourhood!
Although the whistling pressure cookers did not make dal and rice as tasty as his mother did, Vivek did not think much about advocating the benefits of solar energy cookware.
This, until he read a shocking report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating the dangers of cooking on traditional stoves and how they are putting the lives of women, who predominantly cook on such stoves, at risk. This inspired him to lend his voice to solar energy and help lakhs of families cook clean.
Since 2012, he has taught the art of making portable, waterproof solar cookers to over 1.2 lakh children, empowering their families to give up smoke and tree-felling and harness the energy of the sun.
And now, the IIT alumnus is coming to Bengaluru to teach people of all ages how they too can make the cooker at home. Click here to book a slot in Vivek’s workshop now!
A 6-year-old in love with solar energy:
The first solar cooker that he ever saw was gifted to Vivek when he was just six years old. “Initially, it felt magical to just witness food being cooked with no flame or fire. Eventually, it became a habit. My Mom always said that it’s more about the taste and flavours that you get from solar cooking than the fuel or money saved,” he shares with The Better India.
The memories of the flavours that make up your childhood never really fade away. But such childhood memories rarely push you to start an initiative to impact thousands of people, right?
For Vivek, it wasn’t just about the savoury dal or the aromatic rice but also the fact that cooking temperatures play a major role in shaping the food.
“We need to understand what makes food healthy. Most people will agree that a roti cooked on chulha tastes far better than the one cooked on a gas stove. Same goes for khichdi cooked in earthen vessel vs the one cooked in a pressure cooker. One reason behind this is the flame temperature. Lower the cooking temperature, more are the nutrients retained and better is the taste, flavour and aroma,” he says adding that by their very design, solar cookers cook at very low temperatures. Lower than wood stoves.
In a country like India where sunlight is in abundance and fossil fuels are fast depleting, switching to green energy sources is working toward a less toxic future.
Want to add some more flavour to your food? Make your own solar cooker and be a pioneer in your family! Follow this link for more details about the location in Bengaluru, cost etc.
The sky’s the limit for this IIT alumnus!
For Vivek, one thing was very clear right from the beginning of his journey in IIT-Bombay. That he was not meant for a regular desk job. But his passion for solar energy did not go unnoticed by his professors.
“I didn’t sit for most campus interviews and my professors knew that as well. One of my professors asked if I’d be willing to work in the field of solar and thermal energy. I found the proposition exciting. So along with five other friends, I joined a firm in Pune. Ten months into the job and I knew I couldn’t do it. So I just packed my bags and came back home . . . I always wanted to be at home with my family,” shares the IIT grad.
Around the same time that he quit his job, he read WHO’s report that annually, over 4 million people lose their lives directly or indirectly due to the air pollution caused by traditional stoves or chulhas. At that point, he knew he had to take out his childhood gift to the forefront and share it with as many people as possible, the advantages of shifting to solar energy.
“We started promoting solar cookers through an experiential festival called SuryaKumbh, wherein children explore the art and science of harnessing solar energy through a hands-on experience of cooking their food in a self-made solar cooker,” he says.
As of today, this festival has empowered 12,15,000 kids not just from India but also from Kenya and Dubai in the techniques of building their own solar cooker.
What is unique and special about these cookers is that they are portable. So you build one in the Bengaluru workshop and carry it home without any hassle. Planning a trip to the mountains? Take the cooker with you. Going off the grid with your friends? Add the solar cooker to your inventory!
Did that catch your fancy? We knew it! Click here to book your place in the workshop before the slots get full.
What to expect in the Bengaluru workshop:
In just two hours, you can build your own solar cooker and learn how to cook in it too! Surprised? So were we. But Vivek assures this time will be ample!
“The solar cooker that will be built during the workshop has taken us 5 years to perfect. It’s a portable, waterproof and a highly efficient design that can help you boil, bake, steam and roast different recipes using just the solar energy. To put in context, you can cook dal and rice in the two accompanying vessels in 1.5 hours or bake a cake in just an hour,” shares the IIT alumnus.
The workshop cost includes a reflector, two vessels and two insulating covers among other things. But in order to learn how to cook in the solar energy cookware, you also need to bring along the following:
Stationary: A cutter, oven gloves or a napkin, a pen or pencil, a scale and a pair of scissors.
To cook: cake batter, pulao/khichdi/biryani ingredients, soup, eggs, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, noodles, pasta or any other dish that needs boiling or baking
Miscellaneous: A large bag to carry the cooker home
“The solar cooker can be used to make ghee from butter, soup or green tea, roast seeds and nuts and, since it is portable, you can actually use it in your office, on treks, picnics or at home to have Sun blessed food every day,” signs off Vivek.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)