Cellphones and Saligrams - By Paige Grant


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  • Cellphones and Saligrams - By Paige Grant

    1. 1. CELLPHONES AND SALIGRAMS A Nepali village makes the leap from the middle ages to the modern era,
    2. 2. This is a saligram, a holy object in Hinduism. Please pass it around and discover its secret.
    3. 3. In the mid-70s I was in the Peace Corps in a village in the middle hills of Nepal, where I taught agriculture, science, English, in a high school.
    4. 4. 30 years later went back with family to visit, and we were given a warm welcome. The village was much the same, only better.
    5. 5. It was timeless. This is a Hindu naming ceremony for a new baby girl, which has probably been celebrated like this for 5000 years. Note the saligrams -- they represent gods.
    6. 6. The way people lived had changed very little since the middle ages – what they wore, how they worked, how they built their homes…
    7. 7. All water used in the household was hauled from springs, mostly by women and girls. Girls didn’t get to go to school because they were needed to carry water and other endless work, and because any investment in a girl was lost when she married.
    8. 8. Boys were educated as a ticket to getting away from the village and getting a job in the cash economy in Kathmandu or India or further afield.
    9. 9. Wood was the only fuel, which had caused deforestation, denuded hills, landslides. Hauling the wood on human backs was terribly hard work, and there was the constant misery of smoky cookfires.
    10. 10. Goats roamed the hillsides nipping any forest seedling in the bud. Milk cows and water buffaloes and plow oxen were kept penned; their manure collected to fertilize the fields.
    11. 11. Nobody used privies, and “fecal-oral” diseases were rife. There was high infant mortality, miscarriage, infections – tough survivors, but many early deaths.
    12. 12. Everything traveled on human backs. No pony express for mail, human express. News by a few transistor radios, spread word of mouth.
    13. 13. Piped water is available at or near every home. This means girls are in school rather than hauling water; sanitation and health much improved.
    14. 14. The forests coming back! Look at the hillside behind the school in 1975 and in 2007. Goats are kept penned and there are new laws to encourage reforestation.
    15. 15. Biogas digesters have been built at every home we visited, processing animal and human waste and capturing the methane to cook on.
    16. 16. Still self-sufficient in food but much greater diversity; also cash crops – oranges, coffee -- greater wealth
    17. 17. Cellphones huge difference to be able to communicate over miles. Narayani: the huge political changes that have taken place in Nepal would not have been possible without cell phones.
    18. 18. Electricity present but unreliable -- second-tier issue. We donated a computer to the school – here’s my daughter teaching basic computer skills – but we know it was locked away when we left
    19. 19. The Nepali villagers came from a place of too little to a place of enough. We are in a place of too much and need to pare down to enough.
    20. 20. Here’s the important stuff the modern world offered: PVC pipe and plumbing fixtures. Tin roofing. Biogas design and component parts for methane gas digesters. Public health training, access to modern medicine. A nearby road. Women’s rights, equality among different castes. Cellphones.
    21. 21. What have they retained of the old ways? Self-sufficiency in all the basics – water, food, shelter. Strength from physical labor. And their ancient faith and spiritual practice is the frame and core of their life – the saligram their touchstone.
    22. 22. CELLPHONES AND SALIGRAMS Paige Grant