Destinations Magazine

A Village Gets Connected to the World

By Kartix
Its just another Sunday morning, things are easy and slow; a bit laidback, a bit purposeful and a bit hungry. So, I got my bike out, eat a heavy breakfast, ride up to the lab I work in (almost never on Sunday, but there were things to accomplish!) and since its a Sunday with a slow start, I open Facebook. And something that I have been noticing for a while seemed more real.
During my field days in Upper Siang Arunachal, where I spent the best part of the year for four years consecutively, we never had phone network and only sometimes had electricity. There was a satellite phone in Bomdo village, which as expected, never worked too. In the initial years of my phd, 2010 - 2012 the BSNL tower could be accessed for sending messages or a rare phone call at certain angles. The signal from the tower bounced off at least a couple mountains, took a dip into the valleys between, perhaps even took a swim and reached Bomdo, very reluctantly. I remember speaking to my girlfriend while my friend Army held the phone for me on the speaker mode (that's the only mode that worked!), and everything we spoke got out a nice reaction from Army and there would be huge laughter at the end of the conversation from all three of us! There were even other times I climbed up a raintree near the helipad and reached out my hand to dial my mom's number and it would ring twenty times and she wouldn't pick since she didn't hear it. That is worse since she cannot call me back and there is no guarantee that I would be able to connect to her again.
Then, another time, I had a lux meter with me that looks very similar to a mobile satellite phone. My field assistant asked me what it was and I told him that I will demonstrate to him what it was. I dialed a number on the lux meter and held the light sensor up and pretended to speak to my mom for a minute. And then I told mom to speak to Agar bhai and passed the phone to him. He was so happy that we had network and took the light sensor from me and said 'Hello, Maa!'. This was funny due to two reasons: 1. Agarbhai himself is about ten years elder to me, so him calling my mom 'Maa' was really funny and then of course, he started roaring into a laughter too once he realised it wasn't a phone.
Once every two weeks, I would ride up to the nearest town Yingkiong, 50 km and 2 hours away to speak to my family and friends. Sometimes, that was tough too, due to heavy rain and lanslides or the bridge over the Siang river from the right to left bank was being repaired. And then again, sometimes the network was down in Yinkgiong! Desperate times! Well, but that was back then.
These days Upper Siang is a different story. There are two networks available in the village I worked in and my friends from there even 'video' call me! I even get sent pictures when Solung and Aran, their festivals, are celebrated. Its really good to be in touch with them. I even completed some of my interviews speaking to folks there to complete my article. Besides, having a phone, half the village is also now on Facebook! So this Sunday, when I turned up my laptop am looking at some of the posts from them, mostly selfies and wondering if it would have been nice if I had network in those days, I quite swiftly concluded, 'definitely not'! Its amazing that things are changing so quickly over a duration of a PhD. Wonder what else is up in that landscape, I would like to remember that landscape in the way I've posted photos and stories from there. I'm glad I wrote up!

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