From the Editor's PCG-SR5K
The IDEA #4

I write this sitting in a little new cottage we've been building over the last one year or so in Sat Tal, a small foothill enclave defined by seven (Sat) lakes (Tal) at about 1,450 meters above sea level in the brand new Himalayan Indian state of Uttaranchal (earlier a part of Uttar Pradesh). The cottage stands somewhat isolated near a couple of small villages and a one-horse mountain-highway town (Bhimtal), with a long-distance public telephone office about three kilometers up the road, and basic electricity supplied through just the nights presently by my neighbour.

This morning, after spending more than a week offline since we are yet to get a phone of our own here, I attempted more than fifty times to connect to the internet by long-distance calling to New Delhi with my notebook computer, but managed only to spend a lot of expensive telephone time at our friend Sanjay Chatterjee's house nearby, before driving on up the road to blow a good amount of my own change at the "STD Booth".

Sanjay and his wife Sandy had in turn surely over-extended their hospitality towards me with regard to the phone on this occasion, very substantially on account of the fact that Sandy desperately needed to check mail herself, but had blown her own notebook's modem in the most recent thunderstorm a few nights before ~ when a goodly shaft of lightening bolted to the roots of a pear tree not one hundred yards out my window.

For the record: Sandy normally manages to somehow or the other keep her own e-mail just about going while she's here, through extended practice of the yoga of patience and persistence every morning from about 5:30 am, and pays a pretty fat monthly bill to top that off for her pains. Sanjay in turn very adroitly works mainly offline, leaving his e-mail to piggyback in and out as-and-when upon the hard-won connections of Sandy's daily tapasya.

My own record on the extended series of attempts of that particular morning was to connect just long enough on just one occasion to get just one e-mail sent out ~ to my wife Poonam as it happens, whom I telephoned anyway after giving up.

Now, as so many of you know by now, a singular ingredient of the experiment we've been attempting to live through The IDEA is the notion that information and communications technology today should allow anyone to pretty much live and work anywhere and anytime there's electricity and a telephone to hand.

Accordingly, I came up to Sat Tal in mid-May this trip, with intent to remain till the end of June. All of my other work has been carefully rescheduled to lend me the window of opportunity for attempting to punch through just one portfolio ~ i.e. finalization of this gazette, The IDEA #4.

And,.. I'm sorry to report that it's not really happening,.. not yet quite possible.

Little problems like having an international contributor send in a CD that doesn't run are taking just too-too long to turn around and a notebook computer along with less-than-weekly e-mail access at a cyber café twenty mountain-driving kilometers away is just not enough.

So ~ I'm now to return to New Delhi two weeks earlier than scheduled.

But it's been magic being here, looking out upon and living within a 360 degree landscape ranged from oak and pine forests, orchards, springs, rice fields, lakes, bright day-and-night skies, isolated farmhouses, inns and villages.

It's idyllic, and yet ~as always, with everything everywhere~ there are aberrations. The other night saw the first armed robbery in living memory occur deep in the night over in that house a kilometer across the valley, north from here. The householder's shoulder had been broken with a lathi (bamboo stave), and his brother had been shot at with a country-made pistol, but just missed by a hairsbreadth. Four masked men with kohl in their eyes had ransacked the house for a full half hour or more. A satellite receiver, pair of shoes, music-system, some cash and jewelry had been robbed.

Throughout this, the dacoits apparently kept demanding to know where the jewelry from the "recent marriage" in the house had been stashed ~ revealing themselves to be outsiders aimed actually at a house one hundred yards away, where a four day long marriage had been solemnized a week earlier with ~amongst other things~ raucous music blaring down the valley at all odd hours round the clock from a perennially drunk and half-asleep village brass-band that had been retained for the duration on a seemingly 24-hour basis.

A plainsman was apprehended the next morning from an immigrant-labour camp with some of the stolen goods in hand (and on his feet!) by an adolescent vigilante group from the adjoining farms and villages, and beaten savagely before being handed over to the police. Everyone seemed to approve of this, even as the cops finally carted the poor sod off to hospital.

As if just to contrast this with what one would normally have expected of such a place, not two days later, two bags of freshly-harvested green beans were then stolen from a shop-porch alongside a hill track down in the valley three hundred yards over yonder to the north-east, where they'd been left the night to be carted to market the next morning!

And today, poor MS down the slope from me has had the ignominy of having had two bags of dry fodder lifted from his shed in broad daylight!!

But just a hearty stones throw to the South East of me, there's the house of the very first young lad to have just got his own very first computer from amongst every other young lad and lassie in every other house within at least five miles of me.

The times they are a'changing ~ Yes!

And that too is something of the idea of The IDEA.

Shankar Barua
D-3/3492 Vasant Kunj
New Delhi - 110 070 (India)
vox & fax: (91-11) 689 9930

alternative version of the song playing up top ~ both by Shankar Barua