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Consultancy Projects

1. New Life has taken up consultancy assignment of Tamilnadu Afforestration Project of the Department of Forests, Government of Tamilnadu for marketing products of the Village Development Council of the TAP project beneficiaries.

2. Consultancy on Changes in livestyles of Rural population in the Project areas of New Life after the introduction of Mobile phones and Digital technology..........
Client: Flamingo International, UK (http://www.flamingo-
Assignment date: March, 2009.

In 1960’s – or more precisely a decade and half after independence from colonial rule - listening to news bulletin in radio, was a kind of urban and educated daily routine, which soon sprawled in the rural communities as people gluing to the available community radio facility, in their typical rural neighborhood. A rural head of the family had his regular agenda, accessing daily news bulletins broadcasted by the state run organisation, obviously marking his elite personality trait as a committed quality in running a voluminous joint family. Command and communications are bestowed and well conceived as the positive features of leadership. Ownership of bigger size valve-state radios and keeping them in elevated wooden tables at a main place where the members of the family gather and receive their guests, are considered as the show of affluence of the family – both in terms of purchasing power and versatility of their awareness. And later, owning a hand radio - as a solid state transistor radio was often called – was still more valued as an elite urban belonging.

The technological, and now as, digital divide, which we normally define as the unequal distribution of the benefits of the rapid technological advances, especially with the spurt of leaps in semi conductor and digital industry, and the attempts to narrow down the divide, across the globe did leave its own socio-economic and cultural manifestations among rural communities in India. In the following decades, digital divide in Indian villages has not been seen as undesirable economic condition, the marketers achieved successful targets, when they captioned their television sets as "Neighbor’s envy; Owner’s pride”. A habitual obsession of the individuals was exploited by the advertisers, to denote an ownership of higher quality.


Courtesy :

As time evolves through the process of reducing the technology divide, at least a few in the assorted range of digital devices remained no longer a status symbol while the non-ownership is considered as a functional deficiency. The declining digital divide, in recent years, made the momentum of metamorphosis obvious. The show of opulence has now become a class less essential.

Last year, new subscriptions for telephone connections occurred as 27% from the poorest socio-economic groups and only 17% from urban areas, of the total mobile phone users.[i] These figures identify the vibrant attitude of the rural masses, to grab the modern technologies to their end, when they are affordable to them. An improved purchasing power of individual would now mean, lesser the dependence on the combined resource of the joint family. It marks the flexibility of preference for versatile habitats and making their home away from the home. The apprehensions over the decline of the joint family system are featured as lack of social security and health care of the elderly people the family. When such concerns are posed to a youngster in this village, who prefers a nuclear family for many reasons, he quipped – "So now, they (age old parents) have cell phones.” Answers are similar from people from younger generation, which implies elderly people can access health care facilities for chronic and acute ailments over a telephone call. For the rural communities with the nuclear households, the intimacy and the emotional cohesiveness of the erstwhile joint family are facilitated by voice calls and SMSs. While the direct inter-personal relationships are affected, the conventional joint family has transformed into a virtual social network and could be personified as a joint family in absentia.

The transformation of the livelihood implies new perspectives, newer needs, changed habits and improved efficiency at work, of the rural masses. Conventional confidential quotes in livestock markets are now overwhelmed by mobile phones negotiations. The traditional and generic ‘one to one’ market information systems (MIS) are now upgraded with the grace of digital telephony. Better bargains made over personal phone calls. Transporting the agricultural produce is considered only after phone calls. Masons take instant instructions from their supervisors and engineers far away. Workers take the feel of empowerment with the procession of a hand phone. In every workplace, where the actors positioned at far away places, the required confidence to execute the work always facilitated, when their toolkits are complimented with hand phones. Farmers share experiences, manage forward and backward economic linkages. Farmers do like their children to have exposure in internet and information technology. These digital devices add value to conventional knowledge giver, since the giver has to necessarily be a knowledge getter too, to meet the demand driven objective scenario. The present rural environment depicts that telephony provide a viable up gradation of delivery system for the conventional knowledge transfer.

Over the past decades, the bloom in the communication, telecom and mass media industries, at the back drop of globalization and privatization has transmuted the habits, responsibilities and behavior patterns of the rural masses. Earlier the head of the family started his daily routine by listening to morning radio news bulletin, and now he has additional responsibilities - recharge mobile phone batteries for a hectic day ahead. Listening to koliwood film music, habitual routine in home and work places of Tamilnadu is done by switching to FM radios. The old cassette and disc players are no longer in the scene. SMS forwards, ring tone, caller tones cinema song exchange comprise new broad range of habits generated by the devices owned by the individuals.

Among the other habits, the more significant is "missed call”, now seen as a typical Indian behavior.[ii] In India, a missed call does carry a message and considered not always as a deficiency of etiquette. Normally missed calls are considered as technological deficiency of the network. But here, a missed call is user initiated alert/message to the second party. "Give me a missed call when the program is over, I shall pick you up at the gate”. Conversations of these sort could be heard everywhere around. Normally a missed call is considered as benevolent usage pattern and not certainly otherwise. Often a missed call is generated is to make the second party obligatory to use his airtime to converse with the first party. It conveys, a helper need not pay for airtime, but the beneficiary does it, voluntarily. A worker reports at the cost of the boss. Age old parents talk to employed children, at no cost of them. Wife gives missed call to husband. Other than work places, more uniquely, the missed call becomes a new genre of indicators of intimacy. Missed calls are well arranged often between members of the family, relatives, friends and loved ones. Missed calls are more pervasive and prevalent among lovers. Lover boys are expected to be ‘magnanimous and manly’ to accept missed call invites from their girlfriends. For the lover girl the missed call is a show of her affection and intimacy with her boy friend and invite for the new electronically enabled virtual courtship.

For the joint family in rural India, a streamlined harmony that keeps all the members - young are old, male or female - united in the depth of intimacy and love. The functional harmony is the principal feature in a typical joint family system in India. Much of importance attached to a range of well evolved socio-cultural protocols. These protocols facilitate the interpersonal relationships in Indian joint family. This feature is very unique and special to Indian families. Manners like respecting elders, touching their feet as a sign of respect, speaking in a dignified manner, taking elders’ advice prior taking important decisions, etc. is something that Indian parents take care to inculcate in their kids from their early childhood. Religious practices, cutting across the various religions, come in handy in making family protocols. The head of the family responds by caring and treating each member of the family. Ethics and discipline are the baseline in promoting the intimacy among the members of the joint family. Sampling the mind set of the typical Indian family, Renowned scientist and the former president of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam a most popular dignitary of Indian house hold, prefers the traditional Indian joint family system[1].For him it inculcates righteousness and discipline among the new generations.

The intimacy in the Indian context is well perceived by the multi national service telecom service providers in India. The figure[2]below shows the front page ad of a MNC in India, in a vernacular daily, which promotes its new competitively priced pre-paid scheme, with the picture gracing with love birds, to imbibe the sense of intimacy to sell the product line. Here, the appeal is strong. The advertiser knows pretty much, he would reach the ultimate realms of his intended target.

For the head of the family, Intimacy and togetherness are coupled with a role of leadership. As a rule, it’s the say of the family head that prevails upon others and the rulings of the head of the family, are positively binding the rest of the family. Incase of any disagreement, the matter is diligently sorted out by taking suggestions from other adult members. Economically a joint family is bigger institution. There is always an empirical assets and liability picture. Day to day affairs is managed by the head of the family from the larger pool of the cumulative income of the members and the family resources. Large families tend to be flexible and well-suited to modern digital era, especially for the 67 percent of Indians who are farmers or agricultural workers or work in related activities. As in most primarily agricultural societies, few individuals can hope to achieve economic security without being part of a cooperating group of kinsmen; rest relies on the bonds of the conventional family system. The clusters of relatives live very near each other, easily available to respond to the ‘give and take’ of kinship obligations. Even when relatives cannot actually live in close proximity, they typically maintain strong bonds of kinship and attempt to provide each other with economic help, emotional support, and other benefits.As joint families grow ever larger, they inevitably divide into smaller units, passing through a predictable cycle over time. The breakup of a joint family into smaller units does not necessarily represent the rejection of the joint family ideal. Rather, it is usually a response to a variety of conditions, including the need for some members to move from village to city, or from one city to another to take advantage of employment opportunities. So now, they are net worked strongly, with individual SIM cards.

Typically, a nuclear family may be conceived as a unit consisting of a couple, children, and grand parents, and pets.. And the typical joint family consists of a couple or more nuclear family units. In India however, there exists a special kind of family structure – extended family - that really is quite vivid in the way it manages to handle and keep intact the human relations. ‘‘Ideally, I would have loved to have them living with us. Since that cannot happen, we try to call them as often as we can,’’ says a masonry worker who lives away from the main family, due to the profession."While the family goes nuclear worldwide, the joint family system with its lessons on compromise and harmony still endures in India” Says a media report.[3]

Living in joint family is considered to be profitable in terms of collecting suggestions in need and overcoming stress with support from all stages of family members, never they have had the feeling of being alone. The family members can share their views for improvising on errors or consequences which they never heard; alone they might not be able to take the appropriate decision which may lead to recession of their mental stability.

One can always depend on their parents and relatives for finding solutions of their hurdles in life and spend time with their loved ones, in situations of confusion and stress. Rural Indian psyche observes the Inculcations of habits which they neglected will be projected practically into their lives. Confidence levels are high and never wanted to give up easily, realizing the importance of loved ones and relatives.Even when the Joint family system is physically not possible as family members are spread far and wide, the core values and sentiments keep continuing in the form of extended family and the mould of extended family is now framed by telephone networks, assimilating traditional ethos into the new fabric.

Help with family medical care has become the characteristic litmus test for togetherness and intimacy of the Indian family. In the virtual joint family network made possible in these days of digital communication, medical decisions over an ailing individual, at times of acute and emergency conditions well managed by the family and relatives.The belief that blood is thicker than water; that there is a code of ethics about the obligations between generations; that it is the duty of the young to look after their old, just as it is the duty of parents to look after their children. When the "missed calls” are around they never missed anything. For them life is just a missed call away.

Couples keep their bonding with their parents by seeking support in rearing their children. Parents also provide emotional sustenance in the difficult task of finding a work-life balance. Mothers and mother in laws – the knowledge givers, as of now – pass the traditional home medical skills to their wards. On the other way, age old parents receive their directions for the reach professional medical help through their wards. Whoever may be the knowledge giver, grand parents, and mother in law, employer, relative or a friend, their connectivity to their intended beneficiaries stays virtually intact. And now, both the knowledge giver and the recipient have the choicest means of delivery systems of knowledge, from the spurt of inputs from the digital telecommunication industry.

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