Years ago, I was a student. Although I'm still a student at heart, fact is, I don't attend any class anymore, so I don't qualify as one. I'm a professional. During my dorm years, I never got pocket money enough to buy gadgets. My parents would have to buy them for me, which meant convincing them there was a genuine need for it! You know the rest of my story.
Today, close to a decade later, I've moved beyond campus life. But the reality is still the same. Now I realise, convincing myself is tougher than convincing my parents. A couple of years ago, the world went gaga over SuperAMOLED displays! Samsung did a brilliant job, no doubt. You just had to have a phone that had such brilliant capabilities. Around the same time, Samsung launched the Wave and Galaxy series of smartphones. I had to think twice for every rupee I was shelling out. I opted for the Wave instead of the Galaxy S.
Swooned by the SuperAMOLED display, the ability to play HD movies, a 1GHz processor with graphics capabilities, a brilliant camera and all, the Wave, at a price much less than Galaxy seemed perfect value for money. In fact, many agreed with me. Everyone had good things to say about the phone. On paper, it was a gem. Besides, it was an upgrade from a Sony Ericsson K750i. Anyone remembers that phone? But something somewhere was not as quite right. Hmmm, well no I am not talking about the app store. I won't get to that.
A year later, I wanted to change and get more practical. Paying over Rs. 20,000 a couple of years ago, simply meant I wouldn't take a hit. A year later, I decided to opt for a BlackBerry - a Curve 9300 for Rs. 14,000. Ok, now don't ridicule me, please. On the good side, Gtalk works brilliantly on it for chatting with my contacts on Gmail and Google Apps. Email, of course, I don't even have to talk about. It does its job well. It has hiccups, we've witnessed outages as well. But, I haven't yet had the opportunity to chop fruits and vegetables in the air! Or, for that matter have birds catapulted to attack pigs; or, run like a jackass around an oriental temple. Being dumb is cool in today's world right? I yearn for those dumb moments as well. I passed through the whole phase where Instagram was conceived, rose to great heights and even got acquired by Facebook for a fortune; without actually experiencing it! I was on the wrong platform. Flipboard? What is that? I keep seeing my friends play around with it. Thankfully being associated with Digit doesn't leave me naïve as the first generation BlackBerry men. My “smart” phone simply didn't support it.
All the “cool” and “exciting” things seem to happen over Android and iOS. As with most of you, I don't live in the US, where I could buy an iPhone for cheap. I live in India, where for good reason, voice tariff is heavily regulated, but that means no operator finds it viable to offer such cool gadgets at throwaway prices the way the Western markets provide.
The only viable and exciting option I have is Android. Considering that most of my online accounts are Google-ready, it just makes perfect sense. The same holds true for most in my circles as well. I have been thinking of having a smartphone and tablet soon! As every shrewd human, I always run for the best of both worlds. I want the pleasure of using the best apps, the more exclusive the better. After running through my selfish mind, I finalised on getting an iPad and an Android smartphone!
The next step after deciding was to finalise a budget for it. It seemed like I was spending half a lakh. Half a lakh! Considering that was the amount I was to spend, I wanted to evaluate what was the best I could do! Also, the limitations that surface a couple of software iterations later were a cause of concern. Shelf-life is a major concern to me now. I don't want to change my device every year or two.
I wondered what I could do with half a lakh of rupees. Aamir Khan has been a favourite on TV these days. Could that half a lakh save some 'sister' of mine I don't know in rural India? You must have read an Indian baby got sold for Rs. 62 right? I came across some figures on the website of an Indian charity/NGO. Technically, with a donation of Rs. 500, I could adopt a destitute aged person for one month! One whole month! I had a budget of 50,000, and here all that was needed was Rs. 500. That's 100 aged destitutes for one month, or 50 aged destitutes for two months. Yes, you know arithmetic. Or, consider that this also translates to 100 months for a person. That comes to a little over 8 years!
For Rs. 13,500, I could help a “poor disadvantaged widow purchase a buffalo”. For the price of a basic iPad, two widows in rural India would have a buffalo they could milk, fill their stomach and sell surplus milk and ghee to the open market! I now suddenly don't mind holding on to my lousy smart phone. So what if I can't chop flying fruits and veggies. I'm a non vegetarian anyway.
But, being among the more privileged in this nation, many of us would tune in to Satyamev Jayate and tweet or comment on Facebook from our smartphones (me included) on how things need to change. As you can see from the figures above, a lot could have changed, already. My intention was not sensationalism here.
Technology, in my opinion, is not all about splurging on expensive gadgetry. Anyone could buy, right? That would be getting to what the best your dough could buy for you. My point is about the best you could do with your knowledge of technology! This is going beyond. It's about a better life! If with your technological expertise you can make your life easier and help someone else ease out their burdens, you would've done your bit of giving back to the society that nurtured you and sustained you. Keep the spirituality part aside. Plain basic give and take is what I'm talking here.
Half a lakh on two slabs of silicon and glass (I admit I drool over them myself); or a bunch of school girls who would thank that 'someone' who saved them from a life of burden, exploitation, humiliation and contributed to their learning a skill that feeds them, grow on to become women, run a family, and build a home with values? That's a generation reformed! It pays you back because your future would encounter that reformed society. What goes around, comes around, as they say, right? Which of the two will be a worthwhile investment? That's the question to be asked.
This wasn't meant to hit the guilt button. If you can afford to pay for such gadgetry, feel privileged and enjoy what technology can serve you today! Celebrate it. Celebration is good. It improves overall happiness in our society. That's how it ought to be. I was just pondering over my own buying decision. I could use technology to build something more worthwhile, with the same money. It could be a windmill, or a solar charging kit for a village home.
Coming to my next phone, I'm still contemplating. Help me decide. I know what I would want to buy. This question is whether I must buy, or not. I don't have the strength to think on my own. Look forward to your comments and suggestions. I will arrive at an answer after I get a larger perspective. The search is on...