“Amidst all the boast of our IT supremacy, the nation wants to know the extent of computer literacy in the rural parts of our country. I know that in some states laptops were given free before elections to some children. But this hardly touches the fringe of the gigantic problem. Will the honorable minister explain what the government intends to do? ” thundered the much renowned anchor of a popular TV channel at the Minister.
“A good question. I have no ready information on this but can assure you that our government is determined to spread computer literacy hundred percent to the villages. This would strengthen the governance and bring people closer to the government” replied the minister.
It is not known whether it was a sequel to this conversation in the form of directions to schools but it is a fact that Saranya, Gomathi and Nirmala of class 12 were asked by the Principal of their school to do a project about the spread of computer literacy among the women in the villages to be sent by the school to the Education Department. She suggested a visit to a nearby Perumbakkam the next day and advised the girls to meet the womenfolk who generally assemble at the Noon meal centre of the schools to find out how much they know about computer and its usage.
It was a small village, dusty and dry. They found a few mothers sitting under a long shed adjacent to a school that did the duty of the dining hall for the mid day meal. Some women were seen cooking. The assembled women stared at the girls as they alighted from the car. The girls who were exuding knowledge, confidence and prosperity introduced themselves in Tamil to the illiterate women and explained the purpose of their visit.
“First let us ask you people how much you know of the knowledge revolution that has taken place in the country in general and computers in particular” asked Gomathi
“Pappa(Little girl), we don’t follow anything of what you are talking about. What do you, girls, want from us? asked one woman.
“Do you suspect that we have come here to eat the food prepared for children?”asked another woman.
No,no.We need to make a survey as desired by our school. Kindly help us with your answers” pleaded Saranya
“Ok,you can ask freely anything you wish to” said one women amidst the giggles of others.
“Have you seen a computer? How many of you have seen or using it? It has a monitor like TV” said Nirmala.
“Oh, yes, we have seen big TV in Ramu’s house though that miser will not permit us to see daily.. Occasionally we are allowed to see a Rajini or MGR movie.”
“No, not the TV we mean. We are talking of computers. There is a keyboard like type writer to the pc (They make sign of typing).If you type, the words will appear on the screen” explained Saranya
“Oh, you mean the small black box he presses to change the film from Rajini to MGR or Kamal?”
“I love Kamal” said one middle aged woman.
“You are referring to remote of the TV”
“Who said we are sitting remote. No, we sit very close to TV, not far. We can see Deepika’s face clearly” assured one woman.
Exasperated at their innocence,Gomathi said “Answer this clearly. When you type on key board do you see words on the screen?
“Words come at the bottom only when we see SunTV news”.
The girls were at their wits end. They then remembered the laptop in the car. They brought it and opened the machine. When they saw the screensaver in colour, the women in chorus shouted “What a cute little TV box? Don’t you need current for this?
“This is not TV. This is computer working on battery now. It works on data card also” said Gomathi
“We do not have Aadhar card yet.They are promising for years” said the women in one voice
“This is data card to operate the computer if you do not have power and internet”
“Where is electricity in our huts,papa.We are not interested in computer. Do not lie to us. Please show us at least Rajini movie.” pleaded the women
The girls asked in serious tone” Do you know about emails?”
“What, email, what is that?”
“The letters you send to friends through pc”
“We do not know to write or read. Are you playing with us or what?”asked one angry woman
Exasperated with their ignorance, they explained generally about personal computer, hard disc, modem, key board, Windows, emails, internet and Bill Gates to the blank faces. The womenfolk were all the time admiring these young and pretty girls who seem to know so much about things that have absolutely no relevance to them. They found their seriousness and smile charming. This encounter was a welcome change for them till the mid day gruel was ready. They had come to ensure that their wards get it in adequate quantity.
The girls thanked the women before leaving for the time given to them.They gave each one a talcum powder box.
The three girls with a smug smile on their faces submitted a neatly spiral- bound project report about the great strides the knowledge revolution has made and about the invasion of PC even in tiny hamlets and the access to internet by farmers for agriculture, weather and the good the government is doing for them and for the village school teacher to download study materials for the children. They also mentioned about the games the kids play in their free time on the computer. The project report envisioned every hut in the villages to have a pc within a decade and suggested all high school girls should be provided with a laptop free.
The principal patted them for the wonderful report in the fond expectation of an appreciation for the school from the department.