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Innovation in a forest


It was a short rise up the hill and the beautiful little bungalow lay serene at the top. After an open flat space in front the ground dropped stage by stage way below to the thin silver strand of a mountain river. The well wooded hill went up at the back providing deep green cover.

We selected this spot because of its away from civilization natural beauty. No human habitation was visible from the place. The little bungalow stood all alone. When evening fell, reclining on the chairs placed on the balcony we enjoyed the twinkling lights of a faraway hill city. Our room behind us glowed with the golden light of three large lanterns. The place was without electricity.

In the morning Ramu, the Chowkidar appeared at 8 to know our likings for breakfast. He was the spot in-charge of the bungalow and his wife provided the food. She cooked in the well-equipped kitchen using a two feet high brick oven lit with wood fire. Last evening, Ramu gave us a short tour, showing the kitchen, the modern bathroom attached to our guest room, a little of outside and their living place. They lived in a small hutment behind the bungalow.

After giving him our breakfast choices, I wanted to know the time we have to alert him for the hot water for our bath. I have experienced earlier that it takes some time to heat buckets of water in wooden fire in forest dwellings where there is no electricity. It was December and I cannot take bath in very cold water. I had already seen the water in the tap to be quite cold last night.

On my enquiry, Ramu smiled, 'Saab nal mein garam pani mil jayega' -"You will get hot water in the bathroom tap".

I couldn't believe it at first and showed my surprise. But Ramu didn't budge from his stand and confirmed again that we need not worry, we will get hot water from the bathroom tap when we need. He didn't reveal the small mystery, and I also didn't press him further. It seemed to me he enjoyed his secret quite a bit.

Before he took leave I just asked him about the source of water. He took me outside the bungalow and showed me the small water tank on a rise about 30 feet higher than our place. Apparently, a mountain stream feeds the water tank which in turn supplies the bungalow.

"Can the water in the tank get heated by the weak winter sun?" I thought, laughing at myself.

In an hour our breakfast was served. Food cooked in wood fire has a special aroma. I love it.

After breakfast we went down the narrow winding trail to the river, roamed around for three hours and having our fill trotted uphill sweating. Taking a brief rest I went for my much needed bath. Sure enough I got very comforting warm water in the tap.

During lunch, Ramu revealed his mystery.


Could you, the reader, unravel the mystery of how the tank water got heated without electricity?

The innovation

A pipe from the tank came down to the bungalow, but instead of entering the bathroom, it entered the kitchen and through the bottom portion into the two feet high oven. After passing through the middle of the oven It exited near the top of the oven and went back up to the tank. A separate pipeline supplied the bungalow needs.

When the oven was lit with firewood and breakfast was prepared, cold water came down from tank, got heated and warm water being lighter, flowed up to the tank again. The single oven served dual purpose. It helped to cook the breakfast and simultaneously through a circulating water current heated up the water in the small tank.

Presumably, Ramu kept the oven fire going even after preparation of our breakfast. He must have had an accurate estimate of time required.

Nevertheless, I couldn't but marvel at the simple innovation using just the physical property of warm water lighter than cold water and the effect was magical.