Monday, August 28, 2006

Another good use of blogging...

Don't worry, the fourth installment of "Consumerism in India: A Faustian Bargain?" is coming shortly. But since my last post I realized I forgot to mention another nice example of using blogging to give voice to the voiceless.

Over at randon-typing, Aneesh has posted a conversaton he had with what Americans would call a "gopher." (link to the English translation, though read the original post as well for some context). Only this was no intern getting coffee for a corporate executive. This gopher was a 12-year old boy working at a seat-cover shop (for those who haven't been to India, seat-cover shops, which supply replacement seats for the widely used motor bikes, are common in most cities).

There are very interesting similarities and differences between this boy's views and the autowallah that I discussed in the previous post. After the boy tells Aneesh a story about a classmate who has deliberately failed the fifth standard so that he can continue to get free meals from school, Aneesh tells him "Don't you do things like this. Study well and you'll get food automatically."

The boy replies: "One never gets food automatically, you have to work for it, no matter you study or not." Like the autowallah, this boy has developed a realist orientation to life borne out of his own experiences and first-hand observations.

On the other hand, the boy shows much greater optimism about the changes that "development" is bringing to his life and the lives of people in his colony. The autowallah, when asked whether all of the "India Shining" talk has changed anything for him, responded "Kya bakwaas, gharib aadmi gharib ho raha hai, aur aamir log aur aamir" (What bullshit, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer).

Here's how Aneesh's boy responded when asked "development, what does it mean?"

"it means, the coming of newer things to the city, the beautification of the city, people getting jobs. You know bhaiyya 4 people of my colony are employed by the service." Later the boy asks Aneesh if he has been to the new mall, about which the boy says:

"What a great place it is. The bijli ki sidhiyaan (the escalator) are fantastic. They take you up and bring you down, automatically. Mangal City (another mall) is useless, they only have the up escalator. It's like as if they want you to stay there forever, it's one-way."

I'm not going to try to find any deeper meaning in what these two first-hand accounts by people who do not currently, and likely will never, have a blog to spread their views tell us about economic development in India. They are important stories, and the world should hear more of them.

If anyone knows of others who are using the blogosphere this way, please let me know. I'd like to begin keeping a record of these types of accounts. Comment here or email me at zavestoski [at] gmail dot com.


Subah said...

Hello Stephen. Thanks for the comments. I must add the obvious...that in some ways, as (privileged) scholars or researchers from 'the West', we are (unwittingly) complicit in the economic and power structures that create such conversations. I want to emphasize that by blogging or writing about these incidents, I am not changing anything for the autowallah.

gaddeswarup said...

Interesting conversations. I miss these living abroad and do not find these in most Indian blogs. As you say, I am not sure whether one can read any deeper meaning in them. They represent some reality but how does one find out whether the status of women has any thing to do with the welfare of the sciety or such questions from similar anecdotes?

Hiren said...

I feel that blogging is the best mass media tool in the hands of the individual. If used with imagination, it can really be a voice for the voiceless and used to highlight issues which normally would never be highlighted.