1100 Barber


This is a story that happened a few months ago, and then I postponed posting it!! Today I opened my word processor after many days and saw this orphaned post lying down waiting for it’s journey to our world of WP.

Last day I was in college and thought that I could get a nice hair cut. By sometime in the evening, I went to the nearby saloon and sat there waiting for my turn. The barber shop, with a large space and big mirrors all around, with pink painted walls reminds me of all the other saloons that I have visited till now. The vallikavu barber shop is no different from all the other shops, except for the characteristically large space. Usually the hair saloons in my village and even in the town are all cramped up into a very small room.

The person at the saloon was busy dressing a foreign lady. I guess she was Swedish. It looked like a boy cut and She was happy with her new hair style.

After the long wait to get to the throne, I finally was sitting right underneath the grace of the barber’s scissors. I always go for a “very short” hair cut. The long hairs disturb me whenever it touches my ears!! So, there was I, witnessing the shower of my old hair on to the blue cloth that draped me. His scissors were showing its might over my dull and weak hair. As the scissors reached the front part of my scalp, everything went blank!! Yes, we call this phenomenon by various names – load shedding, power cut, outage and many more. Well the fact was that the barber, his scissors and my hair (and head!!) were at the mercy of the tube lights that lit the whole room. The barber instantly stopped his onslaught on my hair and I was relieved for a while. He slowly opened the side curtain to let in some light from the near by shop which had a backup supply. I was scared that my hair stylist (!!) would use such fantastic ideas – as power sharing – to cut my hair. After some time he opened the drawer chest and took out his 1100. The old Nokia 1100 is a great phone. You can use it for 3 purposes – call, text and … well if you are used to the unlit village roads, then you would sure have used the third feature of this humble mobile device – the torch light. He pressed few buttons and phew.. “Let there be light”. Instantly my head was lit by the 1100N light. He held the phone between his lips. To point to the exact region on the head that he wanted to work on, he would light only that part. Amazing!! I was struck by the way a humble technology such a torch light on the phone could increase the productivity of the people in the village. After talking with many people and finally on the verge of getting an engineering undergrad degree, I was impressed!! Damn impressed by the people who thought about this idea of putting a torchlight into the phone.

Lack of power in the rural areas is a big problem in India. Though the situation is drastically improving over the years, it is still a fact that most of the roads are not lit, most of the shops would have at least an hour of power cut per day, usually at the peak evening hours. This small innovation is helping the businesses across the villages become more productive. Also, it is making the lives of people a bit better and secure!!

This incident makes me think of the case for “engineering for solving people’s problem”. Last week I was greatly impressed by Dr. Muhammad Yunus’ speech on “Social business – for solving societal problems”. After that I had started observing some of the most common problems that people around me face everyday. It is also extremely inspiring to see the innovative ways people find to overcome such nagging problems of daily life.

To sum it up, I am terrifically impressed by the way the barber used technology and innovation to better run his business. At the same time I am also amazed at the possibilities that scientific inventions can create in our lives.

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