Thursday, October 25, 2007

Social work.

A peasant Marathi couple receives some training in basic computer skills and the English language from a non-profit organization. In a village of illiterates these are the only seemingly advanced people. These days the family talks like they are the Gods because sometimes they attempt to fix the old turtle-ass windoze'95 computer in the local dawaa-khaana, the only computer in the village of five thousand people. They are the talk of the town. Not much happening down there. But a peaceful life, no magaj-maari. The exciting part of their evenings is discussing how they managed to repair the computer and how smalltown gaavtis are conquering the tech world. Following is one such late evening conversation between Barkya-the son, Meeta-the oversweet daughter, Champa-the mother and Gopi-the father. The family is gathered around the tiny kitchen illuminated by a dim light bulb, clothes hanging from various hooks in the wall, paint peeling off from the ceiling, Gopi and Barkya in ganjees riddled with holes and chaddees with colorful line patterns that only Marathi men can be seen wearing.

Champa : Arrey, tey Baarkya chaa maitrini's wife got pregnant disk. hee hee sorry, fragment disk. I forgot how to repair. Something defrock, defraack, techya maaila!
Punk-ass son Barkya: Defrog, defraaag, kaai-tari pan! Vedi zaali kaa?
Extra sweet daughter Meeta : Disk Defragmentor !
Half-drunk Gopi : waah waah ! chaan chaan!
Gopi : Tumhala kaai maahit naahi! I go today to fix the hard problem. Blue screen !
Everybody : aga baaya! Kaay saanghtaas kaay ?
Gopi : Blue screen. Looking at me. Laughing at me.
Barkya : Feku nako re ! Fukat chaa tension.
Champa : Gup bus rey baarkya, tujha maaila!
Barkya : Manjhe tula naa, aai?
Champa : GUP BUS !
Champa : Tar kaay kela tumhi ? Laavli vaat Bill Gates chee ?
Gopi : Arrey, Bill Gates laa mee ek kaan-phaadi deeli. Billia, bagh, maazaa shee nako bhaandan karu. Tula mee karel...... reboot ! Gelaa blue screen, hoy kee!
Everybody : lai besht ! lai besht!
Everybody : clap ! clap !
The entire village is thrilled about how the super-family continuously solve caampooter problems. The villagers have seen the caampooter but they don't know what the heck is it for. They have seen things move on it, some photos, some color but mostly they are terrified by it. Not to worry. The super-duper-family will be there for the rescue. Lots of progress.
What triggered this vision is a real life "help the gaav-waala" effort I participated in when in college. I saw a flyer in the Juhu area and decided to join-in. They were trying to make a village computer-literate. It was a remote place, a 4 hour train journey from Dadar. I was expecting some idelogical nerds to lead the effort, instead I saw rich hot housewives from Juhu and even hotter daughters and sons in charge. The village was decorated as if a royalty was about to arrive. The village girls performed a pooja, a dance, we had some delicious food, some ribbon cutting and nonsensical speeches by pretty aunties and their kids. For quite a while I did not see the computer. Eventually I saw it. It was an old machine donated by one of the rich aunties. Nobody knew whether it worked or not. They turned it on, windows booted after an hour or so. That aunty's son had probably downloaded a truckload of porn causing it to slow down. One family in the village (Gopi's) was appointed to look after the computer. Nobody told them what to do with the computer. The remainder of the evening was spent lazing around the village and getting served by the gaavwaalas. I don't know if that computer was ever turned on again or if it did anything useful. And I kept wondering throughout the outing, why would the aunties take so much pain to travel all the way from Juhu to God-knows-where. They were too glamourous for social service. Ok granted that social workers need not neccessarily look dorky, but they usually are. The thinking probably goes as "I am a total dork so I will help others to heal my pain". (no offence meant; Asha, AID, Saheli you guys rock,serious) But these aunties? What the hell were they thinking? Maybe their husbands were conspiring to take over the village zameen. Maybe they wanted to show their kids how lucky they were to be born in a rich family. What did they want from all this tamasha? Its drives me nuts !

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