A prelude to Digital dystopia

November 12, 2017

Reliance shut down its mobile operations in Coimbatore without any notice. My father and father-in-law were among the scores of customers who were left with an unusable and unportable connection (no sms- no porting number; it came a week later). And, they had no one to even talk to. It was some dark fun to watch Airtel showroom turning into a helpless customer care centre for Reliance. One can imagine the plight of people for whom personal lives, businesses and banking operations are all tightly linked to their mobiles.

Not that Reliance Communications had declared bankruptcy. The press reports talked about closure of 2G operations by Nov 30th but their 4G and other business operations were to continue. What is TRAI for? I don’t follow news regularly but was there any great furore in the media? Ok, it is understandable if there isn’t much fuss…PV Sindhus don’t use Anil’s Reliance anymore, do they?

I am tempted to resolve never to buy anything remotely related to Reliance (Mukesh or Anil – doesn’t matter). But I am not sure if the Bhartis and Vodafones would be any different when they are in a similar crunch. (Already, Airtel has used the rush to dump an unwanted post-paid card on my dad, instead of the cheaper pre-paid).

So much for Digital dreams and disrupted sleep!
Thankfully, my life is de-digitized to a large extent, at least for 4-5 days in a week.

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Our War on IDs

November 7, 2017

The various ID cards and the processes to obtain/re-obtain those IDs have intruded into our private lives like nothing else before. Becoming an ID-free man seems to me to be the true path to real freedom. We must remember that the first Satyagraha that Gandhi waged was against ID cards for Indians in South Africa.

I don’t have the courage of Gandhi to go to jail refusing to take IDs, or to go to jail again after burning them. But I am happy to see that I have found a few partners to nudge me along in this journey towards freedom.

During another bus trip yesterday, my purse was picked again. Voter’s ID gone this time. Another good soul had relieved me of my Driving Licence and PAN Card a few months ago.

My repeated compromise with the capitalistic forces in carrying credit/debit cards is also challenged by these partners. As for that anti-national cash, “What kind of Gandian are you? Why are you having any more cash than what is needed for the bus fare?” chided an elderly Gandhian yesterday after I got off the bus, straight after losing the purse.

To my unknown partners: With my jolna bag & dothi, reading a book/kindle on the bus, and a prominent absent-minded look, I am not difficult to spot in any crowd. I am now left with my passport and the most offensive of them all – Aadhar. If my wife permits, from now on, I am intending to carry them in my wallet, which I usually keep in my jolna bag.

But I suspect if she will allow me to even carry a wallet now. I have to somehow convince her that my right to a purse and right to privacy are now inseparably intertwined.

As a first step towards ensuring that she harbours no ill-will towards my partners, I just showed her this quote from Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut, which I picked up for Rs.30 at Ukkadam Bus Stand, while waiting for a bus.

“While there is a lower class I am in it. While there is a criminal element I am of it. While there is a soul in prison I am not free.”


Experiential Learning

November 7, 2017

Narayanan works on the farm where our current house is located. He is hard of hearing. But a tireless worker. He starts his day at 5.30 or 6, by cleaning the cattle shed and milking the cow, and works almost non-stop till he ends his day after 6 after handing over the evening’s milk to the milkman.

I keep hearing about snakes in our village. Most of the snakes that they see are reported to be kraits or cobras. I’ve heard our boys talk about 5-headed snakes. I keep pondering if they can really identify snakes or if, out of scare, they think of every snake as venomous.

I was reading a book on snakes by the renowned snakes expert, Whitekar (translated into Tamil). It had fairly extensive details about snakes, with their Tamil names, and black and white photos.

Narayanan was passing by. Suddenly seized by either an urge to test his knowledge of snakes, or a thought that he might be interested in going through pictures of snakes, I showed a photo on the book and gestured to him, asking what snake it was. He can’t read. But immediately after glancing at the photo, he said ‘Russel’s viper’ (கண்ணாடிவிரியன்). He also correctly identified the common krait (கட்டுவிரியன்) and Indian cobra (நாகன்) on the previous pages.

“My father died after being bitten by a Russel’s viper. I must have been younger than your daughter then. My youngest brother was a few months old,” he said.

“In those days, our houses were all damp during rainy days. He was bitten while he was asleep. He kept insisting that it was nothing for a long time. Then my mother saw a viper, and killed it. Later she saw four more coming from behind a drumstick tree. Where were cars and buses during those days? Especially at night. By the time we arranged a cart and took him, he died. He had been bitten below his knees. My mother had tied a cloth on his thighs. But one lady had removed it. The poison rose to his head quickly.”

“None of us studied. After I grew up, I was bitten by a common krait. But my employer had a car. He took me to a Chritian Mission hospital in Kerala. They kept a stone which sucked out the poison.”

“Then…you know my brother, Ponnusamy…he was cutting some maize stalk for the cows. A Russel’s viper zapped around him and bit him on his knees. It was 8pm. We took him on the K.P.K. bus to Pollachi. Even then, we had to spend over 10000 rupees.”

He further spoke about rat snakes and cobras. The details and physical features that he mentioned were more or less similar to what I find on that book.

However many books I read, I doubt if I could identify snakes correctly, or if I am bitten, whether I would know how to react. Whenever even bees or wasps build their hives inside our house, we go running to Narayanan. Who teaches who?

Which system of education can impart them the learning that they gather from their experiences, dangling between life and death? Can we, at the least, not alienate them from their experiences and environment?