I have taken up a new job that has provided (and will provide) me with some wonderful glimpses into rural life in India. I was apprehensive of writing about my experiences because I feared I would sound either condescending, on the one hand or aloof and distant, on the other. So, I will just write down what I observed and ask you, the happy reader, to examine it with an unbiased view without judging me:
1. The last time I traveled the interiors of Karnataka, 15 years back, the state of public transport was poor. Now, even local intra-district buses are well-maintained with bus-conductors armed with ticketing machines. Roads are better, with even the tiniest of villages accessible by a motorable road.
2. Interventions in rural areas to improve the livelihood of the poorest is possible through different modes. I believe, and I saw, that ICT will be the the most essential driver for all these interventions. Internet connectivity opens up opportunities in ways I did not imagine.
3. Agriculture is afflicted by slow growth. I am confused between shutting down agriculture and encouraging improvements to sustain the thousands of acres of farmland.
4. Women are more careful with their money. In villages and in my house.
5. Villages I visited are still communities of people living together. Not just a group of households. Every family knows what’s happening with the immediate neighbourhood.
6. People I met in the villages were more courteous – offer snacks to any guest, invite them to their house and talk about sukha-dukha.
7. Functional literacy is a huge, huge advantage. Going by the number of young school-girls I met, I think the fact is well-appreciated everywhere. I personally found it heartening to see so many smart, bold and literate girls.
8. Finally, I am happy that I find fewer things indispensable in my life – PC, TV, Reading and shampoo!