Adventures in Madurai


It’s 10:00pm on September 9th, our first night in Madurai. We (Ted and Brian) are strategically unpacking portions of our oversized suitcases, trying to maximize the space in our tiny (and temporary) room at our host organization’s Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims. It’s hot… real hot. But we’re enjoying the gentle breeze generated by the ceiling fan revolving above our heads.

And snap… The power goes out. Welcome to Madurai.

We sit in the now fanless, almost windowless room as sweat flows down our faces. It’s easily over 100 degrees. The air is heavy. Mosquitoes commence their kamikaze attacks our arms, legs, feet and necks. Despite the discomfort, we make jokes about it for the next hour and play the 8-bit video games on our 1300 rupee cell phones. We imagine the apartment we’ll move into for the next ten months and all the amenities it will have. We dream of windows and working fans.

A few minutes after 11:00pm, the power comes back on. We let out a cheer as the fans begin to circulate air and the lights allow us to resume our space maximization efforts. The worst is behind us… or so we thought. Within two hours, the power is out again. And the pattern of sleeplessness and sweat puddles commences.

Since we’ve been living in Madurai, we’ve averaged of 2-3 hours of electricity a night. We’ve become good at maximizing our “power hours,” making sure to shave, wash clothes, and take care of basic sight-oriented tasks within this short window of opportunity. We’ve also become good at sweating while we sleep. (Does this count as exercise?) When the power goes out, we attempt to distract each other (and the other residents of the center) from the discomfort we are all enduring.

Making this video was just one attempt to keep sane:

So the question is, where is all the power? Everyone we’ve met has claimed that power outages have gotten much worse in Tamil Nadu over the past six months. Is it the result of poor planning or the overconsumption of electricity?

One person we spoke with suggested that the power outages are intentional and that the outages are being used to convince the people of Tamil Nadu that the controversial Kudankulam nuclear power plant, which is set to open in a few weeks, is necessary. Perhaps the frequent power outages would create less sympathy for the plants’ protesters.

We have no idea if this is true. But we do know this–South India is hot. For all of you in the north, please send us some snow.

For as long he can remember, Brian has wanted to make the world a better place. This led him to become a Math teacher, a yoga teacher, and a Peace Corps Volunteer. While teaching Math and Physics at a small village high school in rural Kenya, he picked up Swahili, started a chess club, and discovered his true passion‰ÛÓhuman rights and international development. Upon returning to the U.S., Brian pursued a law degree and spent three years studying international law and human rights. Having seen the power of education to transform lives, he also raised money to send his former Kenyan students to college. Since graduating from Penn Law School in 2010, Brian has been clerking in the Superior Court of Vermont, researching legal issues for judges in the Criminal, Civil, and Family Courts. He is excited to work in the field of human rights in India, a country that has long fascinated him.

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8 thoughts on “Adventures in Madurai

  1. Great video guys! You are such good sports:) I can totally see how hot it can get over there. Reminds me of Delhi in summer:(

  2. Brian and Ted- the heroes from Madras (for us everything in the south is Madras). How about a manual ‘How to’ coming to us on subjects you guys will soon excel? Sight oriented tasks to be done in a specific frame, understanding opportunity and seizing it well, gathering public opinion on burning issues and printing only the ones that stir a conversation (power cuts being a strategy to appease opposition to the nuclear plant, set us three at the Delhi office thinking and talking), being Patch Adams reincarnates at the rehab centre, making small spaces feel bigger, making great videos (which Shilpa and Ramaa will thank you the most for) and contribution to Survivorman. You guys are awesome… Keep it going.. I mean endurance and humour..

  3. Oh my god, I started sweating just watching this….Please come to Bangalore!!! It’ll be a great relief for you both!!

  4. Ted/ Brian
    Awesome video. Reminded me of Bohemian Rhapsody!!!!. I always wonder how people in India are walking around without sweating and their shirts or dresses not crumpled. I am told they slow down the body rhythms and let the temperature within and without reach equilibrium. Tried that one day and five minutes later went back home to change my shirt!!!!
    Keep them coming.

  5. Hang in there guys! I was the ’10-11 fellow at PW, and I remember how hot Madurai can get. Best of luck with the apartment search (if I can be of any help at all, feel free to shoot me an email!) Have you found the Reliance Fresh grocery store by the office? Pick up some Odomos for the mosquitos, if you haven’t already — it works pretty well! Looking forward to your next update!

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