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Jan 13, 2003
S Narayanaswamy :: Solar Cooking

For 15 years now S.Narayanaswamy has cooked a majority of his meals with the sun. “I love my solar cooker,” he says. “It is like a pet dog to me.First thing in the morning, I wheel it out to face the sun.” In Tiruvananthapuram with above average annual rainfall, that’s a pretty serious commitment.

But then he is nothing if not committed. It is fortunate for solar cooking that it has a devotee in Narayanaswamy:he was a top bureaucrat when he retired and his devotion to cooking with the sun adds credibility to the idea.

His wife says he was a doubter at first: in the eighties when Narayanaswamy was serving in Delhi she found a friend using a solar box cooker. She suggested that they take to it too and he had dismissed it as impractical. He now admits that would be most people’s first reaction and that is what may be stopping its widespread adoption.

A few years later --posted back to Kerala-- he found himself heading a programme to promote the use of solar cookers. The diligent bureaucrat that he was, Narayanaswamy decided he must become expert in what he was advocating. And that was how a sun box wheeled into the Narayanaswamy household.

He has been a passionate believer ever since. He does not gloss over the down side: it is not for the fast-food family [a meal can take two hours to cook], nor can it be for the gourmand who wants to saute or fry or get exotic. The cooker may need to be moved a bit every hour or so to stay in sun’s focus. And you need a back up system for the rainy days and the nights. For all that, he says it’s a boon. With a solar cooker costing around Rs.1500, the cost per meal will stay fixed at half a rupee for 15 years, whereas with gas, the current Rs.5 /meal will constantly rise. Besides, “it needs no continuous attention while it cooks, it does not burn the food, it can cook several items in one go, you can place an item in it any time and take it out when done, you can cook two rounds in a day, the food cooked in it is tender and softer and more nutritious and above all it is an oven which can cook, boil. roast and bake! All these advantages rolled into one. Which other appliance can boast of all of these?, “ he asks.

He retired from the Indian Administrative Service as the Chief Secretary to the state of Kerala in 1990. In retirement, he continues to be an unceasing evangelist and keeps an open house to anyone who wants to consider the option. All his friends have been badgered into trying it. He has counseled women groups to take to it. He constantly gets the press to promote the idea. He will answer all serious mail. He has urged President Kalam to install a few in Rashtrapati Bhavan so the children he is so fond of, can see them on their visits. And finally there is his book : “Making the most of solar energy”.

Today Narayanaswamy is hampered by a serious ailment but that hasn’t slowed him down. He has two cookers on his terrace and says there may be a third soon. When GoodNewsIndia suggested that for solar cooking to succeed it may have to be scaled up, he bristled in a letter: “The box solar cooker has been made to look like a country bum who has walked into a glittering Oscar gathering to the embarrassment of the partying crowd. When it rains or is cloudy the behemoth of a Scheffler system in Taleti and Tirumala costing a crore of rupees or more is as helpless as the small box cooker which costs but Rs.1500. Compare the money that is uselessly tied up in the two cases? In fact the former is more at a disadvantage as it cannot capture diffused sunshine which the box cooker can. “

On cloudy days in Tiruvananthapuram, Narayanaswamy won’t quit: he inserts more al. foil reflector wings on his loyal pups to fetch his meals from the sun.

S Narayanaswamy
J-7, Jawahar Nagar
Tiruvananthapuram 695 041
To order his book send mail to
And here is a great link brimming with basic solar cooking leads.

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