Letter from India – January 1, 2012

Kamareddy is a village in south central India about 120 kilometers, or about an hour and a half out of Hyderbad.  Getting there so quickly is one of the signs of what we now call “Modern India.” Cars, buses, trucks and  3 wheeled  motorized rickshaws share a newly built national highway which stretches from all the way from the south to Srinagar in Kashmir: more than 3000 km, all told. Bikes and motorcycles are forbidden but that doesn’t seem to prevent them from taking to the road. We did still see many, often with a driver and 2 or 3 passengers, of all ages, and none of whom wore helmets or any of the other protective gear we now take for granted in Europe.

This road is remarkably engineered and those who produced it can be rightly proud of their achievement. The lanes are beautifully spaced and many parts are perfectly well lit. Yes, this is part of modern India and it’s a life-saver. On another road a few days ago, some weren’t so lucky. We saw two buffalos which must have been hit by something carrying a very heavy cargo and I did read in this morning’s newspaper of two bi-peds who, as they tend to say here, “breathed their last breath.”
I was welcomed to Kamareddy by a group of wonderful, devoted teachers who took time off from their family activities this New Year’s Day to participate in a seminar I was giving to English teachers.
We were hosted by the SEYWAC, a local NGO.  People eager to learn. Hungry for cultural contact with others. Surprised by my sharing. Much kindness emanated from their eyes. Much gratitude was shown … if for nothing else than the opportunity for us all to spend this time together. I’m still very moved by the fresh flowers they had attentively put together for me.

Sushil and Shayam, who organized the seminar and accompanied me from Hyderabad, said that Kamareddy itself hadn’t changed much … yet. They compared it to their own home town of Warangal where we had been a couple of days ago. Warangal, they explained, looked just like Kamareddy … 10 years ago.

In a couple of years, these folk will be connected to high speed internet. You may judge whether that’s a good thing or not … but that will always depend on what you connect to. They are anxious to learn, to read, to hear … more than can be had … locally. The move from local to planetary only really depends on  one thing: how well they can communicate … in English.

My hosts have invited me to return. I intend to. By then, some material things will have changed.  And let’s hope that the most valuable, the human ones,  remain the same.

For the life of me, I can’t remember a more fulfilling New Year’s Day.

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