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India’s mobile revolution: a view from below March 3, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Doron, Assa, India , trackback

Assa Doron

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

I first met Rakesh many years ago on theghats (landings) of the holy river Ganges in the city of Varanasi. He offered to take me for a boat ride, an absolute must-do for a tourist, like me, visiting the city for the first time. Since then I have returned many times – as a tourist, a tour guide and now an anthropologist studying the city and its inhabitants. Rakesh and I kept in contact by mail over the years, off and on, though I only really caught up with what he was doing when I was back in Varanasi. Then, on a recent trip to the city, he proudly showed me his new mobile phone, saying that from now on we would be able to speak anytime, anywhere. He also asked me to give his mobile number to all my friends who intend to visit the city. Through the mobile phone he has been able to increase his earnings markedly, he said, with people from all over the world booking his boat in advance.

Among members of the boatman community who work on the Ganges ferrying passengers, Rakesh is one of the few who can read and write in basic English, thanks to his own initiative. The mobile phone gives him the means to communicate and maintain contact with his friends and clients, both in Varanasi and around the globe. Since his first purchase Rakesh has already replaced his mobile twice with increasingly advanced sets. We now keep in touch via text messages and, on special occasions, person-to-person calls.

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

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