Flatter World, Heightening Thoughts!

The day began with the sound of the cell phone alarm. (The Kantipur today has a picture of a people carrying a man who fell unconscious Saturday morning due to staying on the line from Friday evening to get the form of Nepal Telecom, Gulmi. There were 7000 people waiting to get the 1500 forms available, the caption reads.) But I didn’t pass out on hearing the alarm. Actually switched it off to wake up at 5:30. Technological dependence nevertheless.

I had the control over technology in the morning but I was back in its mercy when there was no internet connection in the lab, neither in any cybercafés in Baluwatar. “Subisu is shifting its tower so there is no connection” we were informed. Back home there was no Subisu to worry about so the research began. Kathmandu Metropolitan Traffic Police have a website too, it was a discovery. The important Research Page though under construction made me happy to see it anyways.

I was surfing for Araniko Highway traffic jams and it was a discovery again when I saw my own blog entry displayed atop the page! Nothing resourceful there so the search led to this . A minimal exercise of fingers and viola I get everything I am looking for, right from Araniko Highway opens to KMC’s plan to driving licences to go electric soon.

Then there was load shedding in my area. Technology is dependent too, I realized, on energy. The artificial depends on the natural. But the cell phone came to my rescue once again. I tuned to a local fm to listen to gazals and spent my time. Lights on and its time to read “The World Is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman. One, two, I just keep turning the pages in succession, the more I read, the more I am addicted to it. My experience was what these exact words “Exciting…a great book…it makes you see things in a new way”( Joseph Stiglitz, The New York Times) ( Its on the book cover.) No, I haven’t completed the book so quick but it has made my mind race in the speed of lightning, taking me down the memory lane to what I’ve been making of myself this very instant. Outsourcing jobs from Boston to Bangalore, Dalian (the Bangalore of China!) and a teenager in US is taking lessons from a teacher in India?? But “Want outsourcing with Fries?” was just too much to handle. And that was back in 2004! I just came to know of it! Am I supposed to feel outdated and partially informed denizen of the world speeding in the third wave of globalization? I don’t know.

All the things stated above are in the first chapter itself so you can figure out that I have a lot more to go. But whatever litte I read has made me think. The thoughts it provoked though aren’t necessarily “Globalization” related ones made me remember the past and wonder what I was up to then. The internet came into existence 1991 it states, I was in UKG( Upper Kindergarten) then. I saw the computer for the first time in 1993. We were informed of the internet too though we didn’t get it all as 7-8 year olds. The screen, the hard disk that was what we understood. Other than that there was a game called “Prince” which we would love to play. I still remember staying back at hostel one holiday to play “Prince” and eat “Pa” (our code word for Pachak as kids) :). To know of the internet only after 2-3 years of its existence even in Nepal is something to think of, isn’t it? A self-proclaimed “Deshbhakta” teacher (now in the US) of mine used to say, Nepal only has access to (technology) 50years after its discovery! Even as kids we used to find that pretty depressing and discuss among ourselves “Why is our country like this?” Its good news that she was wrong and sad that we never realized it then.

I guess never before in human history did people see their lives changes faster than it did after the access to computers and the internet. “Think of what person can do with pen and paper. Think of what one person can do with a typewriter. And then think of what one person can now do with a PC.” Friedman writes and it’s a good feeling to experience that living in a country dubbed third world not to forget the mind boggling fact that outside Africa, no country is poorer than Nepal. Its per capita income looks like a misprint: $270 a year. Sudan’s is more than twice as high. (Quoted from Should we globalize labor too? by Jason DeParle , NYT). This again an outcome of surfing about Gure Sarki and finding him in New York Times! Globalization of labor, Mode 4, GATS are all debatable but this discovery of a Nepali Farmer in the World Wide Web is a testimony to the fact that of the “Age of Communication” I am a part of regardless of whatever developmental stage my country is in! The world is flat indeed. It feels flatter when my friend is woken up to go to college by her boyfriend in Norway. And keeps shrinking with “Lovers” conflicts in the IM and free web smses. I say it’s all good if its love that it being promoted!

Sanskrit. That’s the second the book had me thinking of. We had to study Sanskrit in school right from 1 to 10. A friend of mine (now in US) hated it so much that she left our school for another when we were in the 8th standard. It was supposedly an old and out of date thing to study. We all complained it was tough but scored almost full marks in it always. I never hated Sanskrit, rather I hated the Maoists who had made it a “crime” to study it in those years of conflict. Back in school we used to have “favorite slokas”(Mainly from The Geeta).Our school was different and a friend of mine would even lie the name of our school when other “supposedly cool outsiders” asked of it. Now, I am realizing how cool it is to know all that ( Sapta Rishis to names of 18 purans, discuss content of the 4 vedas, be able to quote the “Niti” slokas” and be able to sing Vedic hymns). The credit goes to Amartya Sen. A story from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is how he begins the “The Perspective of Freedom” chapter of Development as Freedom. He is quoted telling a story of a “frog in a well” to Friedman in “The World is Flat” too. The more find these Sankrit “घुसपैठ” 🙂 in literary works that have in some ways changed the world, the more empowered I feel. The dream wants to be fulfilled….These discoveries are sheer joys I tell you. Feels so good! I feel like digging back the past and going deeper into whatever I had learnt then. They used to call it the blend of the ancient with the modern (the education system) and I am seeing what difference it makes!

Thanks to the book for making me remember all that. Its to get back to doing the another in thing again that’s blog ( that have given the people a chance to stop yelling at their TV and have a say in the process) as stated by Überblogger Glenn Reynolds. True again.But this time I got no leisure to write what all in TV makes me yell so have to stop.

Time for the magic again: post an entry made in Nepal to be viewed by any one around the globe in fractions of section!

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3 comments

  1. Indeed, a nice read on ‘the flat world and Sanskrit.’ And, your sensibility and choices of reading demands praises–go girl, go. It makes me regret of my wasted youth, the most serious reading I did when I was your age was probably ‘Playboy,’ a little exaggeration here, but other readings I did weren’t any better. Leaving behind my unwholesome reading habits let’s see what you had to say in this post.

    ‘The world Is Flat’ is a great book as long as Thomas Friedman constricts himself with facts on the impact of Technology and its proliferation. And there is no denying that world is getting flatter due to that. But, what gets murky is his linear analysis on the repercussion of flatness. He believes and advocates that in the flat world everyone is in ‘level ground’ meaning everyone has access to resources and opportunities equally, which sounds great, almost like Marxist manifesto (ironic, isn’t it, for the bogeyman of capitalism?). But, on a closer look, the picture isn’t as rosy as painted. Friedman, often forgets, with flatness comes edges, and someone has to fall off.

    Ok, here is an example, why equal access to equal opportunity and resources are not EQUAL:

    Consider, two youths, one from rural Humla and another from KTM, who finished high school in their respective places. Now, both want to pursue higher education in the U.S. Assuming, both have access to Internet. Yes, indeed, they have access to same information in the net about the prospective schools they like to choose, on admission process, on scholarship, etc. etc. In that respect Friedman is 100% correct, the playing field is leveled, compared to pre-internet era, where the student from KTM had a huge advantage over the student from Humla because, he would have some relatives or friends here in the U.S. to provide with the needed information. And information is power when it is distributed un-evenly. But, the equality ends here.

    For instance, both of them try to get admission in one of the Ivy Leagues. Now, the student from the Humla is at disadvantage because he wouldn’t have a counselor to assist him with the admission process, no legitimate person to write recommendation letters for him, no one to review and correct and embellish his essay, no certificates of chairing the many committees or clubs, and mostly understanding and support form the family on the daunting task he is taken. And should, I mention the financial support?

    So, you see, the student from Humla is left behind even before the race began. Provided that he is not as prodigious as Einstein or Beethoven, in that case god himself didn’t set the playing field leveled. Who has a chance against giants likes of Einstein?

    But, one might argue that, “so what Humla guy couldn’t get into Ivy, he did get into the next best thing on the fact that the world is flat, where he had the same opportunity and recourses?” True. But, my point is even in the flatness that Friedman advocates so vehemently there is unevenness, holes in between, and not to forget edges. Microcosm of flatness is a whole different story than what Friedman has chosen to see.

    Besides my ranting, that’s what exactly books are supposed to do—teach you to see things from different perspectives.

    Keep your writings coming.

    Cheers!

  2. I apologize for the previous long, long comment, can’t help myself for my insatiable and incorrigible need to rant. Perhaps, for its lenght, it’s been caught by your ‘moderation.’

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