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Of Sunflowers & Windmills


By Savitri Narayanan

“Long weekend coming up,” said Mahesh, “Who wants to go to Goa?”

The dinner was over and Meena was about to clear the table.

“How exciting!” said Vishwas, “Papaji, when shall we go!”

Vikas was equally excited. He got on to Mahesh’s lap and pleaded, “All my friends have been to Goa!” he said, “except me! Please Papaji, let’s go!”

Meena smiled indulgently at the boys, her questioning eyes on Mahesh at this sudden Goa offer.

“Alex called this afternoon,” he said, “They’ve moved into a bigger flat and would love us to spend a few days there!”

Alex and Eliza were their next-door neighbours who had moved to Goa a year ago.

“Sounds good!” said Meena, “It would be lovely to catch up with Eliza and meet Zubin and Sarah! Children grow up so fast!”

“Bengaluru to Goa is about ten hours’ drive!” said Mahesh, “If we leave really early on Friday and drive back on Monday, we’ll get two days there!”

It was still dark and quiet when they boarded the car and headed north. Since the roads were deserted, they could cover a lot of distance at good speed. In the back seat, Vishwas and Vikas were wide awake with their eyes on the road.

“Get some sleep,” said Meena. “You’ve hardly slept last night!”

The children ignored the suggestion and continued to look out of the windows.

“I think I am hungry!” said Vishwas, “When shall we eat breakfast?”

“I too need a cup of tea,” said Mahesh. “Boys, look out for a good eating place!”

Soon they found a place and pulled in the car. It was a small place with a few tables and chairs out in the open. A sheet of canvas pulled overhead provided shelter from the sun. A middle-aged man and a young woman were busy cooking. Two boys were helping around.

“Delicious! Out of this world!” said Vikas savouring the hot pooris along with the potato curry with spicy gravy.

“Which state are we in now?” asked Vishwas, “Karnataka or Goa?”

It was a long time since they had done any long-distance travelling. After the lockdown and immunisation drives, the virus was on the way out. The world was opening up and the boys were trying to make sense of it.

“Mollem is the place where we enter Goa,” Vikas said. “There in Mollem are acres and acres of rainforest spread over the three states – Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra!”

Vikas liked Geography. Vishwas looked at his elder brother with wide-eyed admiration.

“You mean, to go to Goa we don’t have to cross Maharashtra?”

“That’s right,” said Meena. “Karnataka and Goa share borders.”

“Goa shares borders with Maharashtra too!” said Vikas.

Papaji, so many sunflowers!” the boys were thrilled to see the large expanse of sunflower plantations along the road. Back in school, there were two sunflower plants near the craft room. Once in a while a sunflower or two would bloom but here it was like a large yellow carpet waving in the wind!

“These are grown here not for beauty but as plantations to extract oil!” stated Mahesh. “You know sunflower oil, right?”

“Groundnuts, coconuts, til, etc., are oilseeds”, said Vikas trying to digest the information, “Do sunflowers too give us oil?”

“Yes, the sunflower seeds are collected and oil is extracted,” explained Mahesh. “Just as they shell the coconuts and groundnuts to extract oil!”

As they continued their drive, it got a little boring. The road went straight ahead with hardly any ups and downs nor any twists and turns. There were hardly any houses, shops or people to be seen.

Papaji, is this the Deccan Plateau?” asked Vikas, suddenly alert.

“Yes, my son!” said Mahesh, pleased with his son’s general knowledge.

Vikas turned to his younger brother, “Deccan plateau is a large, elevated area spread over southern India, surrounded by the Western ghats, the Eastern ghats and the Vindhya ranges.”

“Oh! We’re driving through a plateau!” the enthusiasm caught up with Vishwas, too. “What we study in the textbooks are turning real!”

As they left behind the fields, farms and bushes on both sides, they noticed something new. Far away from the road, on both sides, stood tall poles like the school’s flag-hoisting pole! The poles stood in a row, far from each other. Usually, the poles along the roads would have electric wires connecting them, not here!  Instead, there were pinwheels that gently rotated on the tips of the poles!

“Those are windmills,” said Meena, following the children’s gaze.

“Why windmills? Why on this plateau?” Vishwas was curious.

“I think they make electricity,” said Vikas. “No clue how!”

Growing increasingly happy about their road trip and the children’s curiosity, Mahesh tried to explain, “Energy comes from motion, i.e., these windmills help us generate electricity. As the wind blows and rotates these blades, energy is generated. This energy is directed to run turbines in nearby plants. The electricity generated there is distributed to light and heat our homes!”

“You mean we get electricity from wind!” Vishwas was amazed.

“From waterfalls too, I think”, said Vikas. “I don’t know how!”

“The same principle!’ explained Mahesh. “Here it’s the wind, there it’s the force of the waterfall that rotates the turbine blades. Energy is motion, it can change forms and make things work!”

“Looks like we’re entering Goa, look at the signboard!” they sat back excited at the thought of seeing the Arabian sea.

            (Savitri Narayanan is a retired educationist at present in Bangaluru. A mother and grandmother, loves readig, writing and travelling.)