Saturday, September 22, 2012

Millennium Transformation

Mobile phones, internet, email, LCD TVs, iPods, shopping malls, ATM – Things that generally come to one’s mind if asked about the changes in lifestyle or the development India has made in 21st century or the new millennium. “That’s it!” is what I have been thinking for the last few days. “No, it is not!” has come the reply. The list has grown in size while I wonder how my life has changed (positively) due to those advancements. Note that I am thinking from an average Indian and not as an IT guy or a rich guy (not that I am) or a gadget freak (not that I am).
Cash transfer: ATMs and swipe cards can be rated as the biggest change in our lives. This generation students who simply take their dad’s ATM card or add-on cards while moving into hostels (or boarding schools) do not know the troubles students or children staying away faced in 20th century. You have to wait for your Money Order (by post) to receive your money (the PostMan was always in demand) only to see it vanish in seconds after payments to fees, laundry-man, canteen and other friends only to have a faint smile at one or two currency notes (if left) remaining in your hand. Once I had made 800KM to-fro 24-hour journey to my brother’s University to hand him money he needed to go for a college tour (as Western Union too could not promise to deliver in 10 hours).
Online application filling: When I had to apply for my engineering entrances or later IITs for M.Tech, I had to visit multiple banks on different dates (sometimes traveling to Vijayawada or Hyderabad) with various denominations of DDs (Demand Drafts) to buy the applications; then visit the post-offices, do speed post or registered post as required, pray Gods and wait for the acknowledgement letter to confirm that my application was received; then again wait anxiously for the hall-ticket/interview letter. Now, you simply apply online, sometimes do payments online, download the hall-ticket and appear for the exam. Similarly, businessmen had to carry around big suitcases of cash and check-books to do the transactions. Now, you can roam with a laptop and a swipe card.
Road rollers and laying roads: Laying roads was a multi-day (sometimes multi-week) exercise then. Dig the road, lay stones as the base layer, roll with the big road-rollers, lay sand-stones, roll again, lay mud, roll again, burn tar (in drums), pour tar, roll again and wait for the tar to dry and harden. Now, the modern machines take the tar-mixture and lays the road in less than an hour and you can drive almost immediately on the road. Building CC (cement concrete) roads is also an easier task these days.
Plumbing: My dad bought a house and got it renovated. So, I know in detail each and every step in house-building and the effort needed. Most of those steps have been made easier and quicker due to technical advancements. Then, pipes were made of iron or PVC and the plumbers used to carry big toolkit to create threads to the pipe-ends and use big to join them. Now, the new vinyl pipes can be easily joined with an adhesive paste. Even my dad does it easily now.
Carpentry:Wood-work these days, either making doors or tables or show-cases has been automated a lot. Electric saws and blades are used to cut logs into blocks, designs are made with machinery, screws and nails are fitted with machines and polishing is applied with machines.
Flooring: Tiles were manually cut, sized and polished. Now, you can cut them using a machine.
RCC Slabs: Laying a slab for the roof would need you to use big hammers to cut iron-rods, hire an ox-pulled or tractor-driven concrete machine, fixing wooden molds with bamboo-sticks as support with hundreds of nails, water it and wait for weeks before raising the next floor. Now, you have machine-cutters for iron, ready-mix supplied by truck, fill in the metal sheets supported by pipes and you can start the next floor within days.
Threshers and Excavators:
Tractors replacing ploughs and other tractor add-ons had become a not-rare scenes. I have been to rural areas regularly, and I am surprised with the use of technology in recent years. Threshers are used to thrash grain and excavators (or JCB/proclainer as popular) are used to dug/plough the fields. A lot of middle-sized farmers too prefer this owing to non-availability of laborers because of migration and high-cost.

Milking machines:
Dairy industry too had gone a change with the use of milking machines and grass-cutters getting increased as well as the use of artificial serum. I went to AP Dairy exhibition held by the state goverment recently at Hyderabad and was overwhelmed by the huge response from the farmer community.
SMS tickets: One can travel in bus or train by just showing an SMS on their phone. I never imagined this 5 years ago, leave 15 years ago. It is not only trains, both RTC (public) and private buses in AP allow you to travel by an SMS. IN RTC, it is not even mandatory to show your ID, unless another passenger claims for the same seat. Even the ticket-cases are being replaced by TIMs (Ticket Issuing Machines). Gone were our days when we preserved all our bus-tickets, used rubber-bands to tie them, used punch-holes to play ‘buss-aata’ (driver-conducter-bus) game.
Many of these things have been taken for granted now-a-days.
Please add if you see any such innovations that have transformed our lives in the recent years - only from ‘90s onwards. The specified innovations should be available to a larger community. No references to electronic/computer appliances like MP3 players, DVDs, washing machines, please.

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