Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rural Revolution

daily labourers- the few old ones still available

Evening swim at Kollidam river near my village

I had been observing the changes during my pilgrimages to my village. But the transformation I saw this time was breath- taking and dramatic. It is nothing less than a Revolution; both physical and in the mind-set. Mobile fones, transporation and TV have changed the landscape and mindscap.
I saw this in my own village last week.
There are 100 mobile fones in my village of 160 households. The sheperd, casual labourer,the milkman, school students and the guy on the bullock cart carry them. Some of the fones are the latest versions with camera, music, video and can be used as torchlightalso. With my three-year old fone, I had to hide my backwardness, while the village kids impressed my with their versatility in use of multimedia facilities of their fones. When I was talking about my son in USA, my neighbour said let us talk to him. I was hesitant saying it would be expensive. But he did not care. He took the number from me and called my son in his fone and the whole gang around me spoke to him. The cost of the call to USA, he explained to me, was just three and half rupees ( 8 cents ) per minute. One of the lowest in the world !
I tried to show off my nano iPod. But there were no takers. The boy next door showed me his collection of 35 songs in his cellfone and showed me how he makes recording from the FM music channel of the TV.

Transportation has made people moving. During my time I had to walk 3 kms to school and a similiar distance to college. Now they go in buses, cycles, mopeds and motorcycles.

The TV has opened their eyes. I was taken by surprise when the boy from the the neighbourhood started discussing an NBA game. The TV ads have exposed the villagers to the whole world and to the latest fashions. No one was willing to hear my stories about America or Delhi !

My village as well as the others in the area have a problem now. There is a shortage of labour since many boys and girls from the traditional labour class are getting urban jobs. It is very difficult to get labour during peak seasons. The solution has started arriving with mechanisation. I used to do ploughing with bullock-drawn ploughs. Now most of the ploughing is with tractors. Machines are used for harvesting and are being introduced for transplantation.

In my trips in the past I used to impress my village folk about the world beyond them. This time I was the one who looked like a country bum among the villagers who knew more than me. I have come back impressed, educated and enlightened. I am now as optimistic about my village as I am about the urban youth who are becoming global players riding on the IT revolution.