Meaningless Patriotism

The $10 laptop went the meme in the blogging circuits.

This was ostensibly in response to the $100 laptop of the OLPC project.

Hopes of doing a ‘Nano’ must have risen up in the minds of readers. But the cost suggested was so ridiculously low that it was difficult not to be skeptic about the whole affair.

And then came the update from here. The whole thing was a sham. No laptop but a storage device. And why a government should muck about with a storage device is something I don’t have a clue about! Perhaps some cheap publicity to satisfy the whim of some politician or bureaucrat somewhere.

Even assuming India could build such a device, say after 5-10 years, given the natural reduction of cost of materials etc., imagine the opportunity cost of missing out on so many years. Time in which kids could have had access to more information, picked up crucial computing skills and armed themselves with useful knowledge.

Just so we get this straight.

I am patriotic. Very proud to be an Indian, proud of its heritage, culture and spirituality. And firmly believe that India is yet to give her best.

But that best will not emerge by methods such as these.

Innovation is not building something cheaper. Of course it takes some creativity to do things cheaper. But it is ultimately an act of copying, a semi-intelligent copying. Nothing more.

Original ideas, ideas that define a race and culture and act as the seeds of lasting prosperity do not issue from mimicking.

India might have discovered the idea of Zero, might have had astronomers who peered further than most into the dark spaces of our Universe, might have sent its heart out in a hundred waves of spiritual impulses.

But all this counts for nothing in my book.

The field is material and not some abstract world of the spirit. The field of battle is here. There are no longer the impediments of lack of opportunity, or tools, or the colonial restrictions of the past.

We restrict our own capabilities by aping. Our pride is a false one when all we can muster up is to gather the scraps of a reflected glory.

The next time someone says the youngest kid to do a Microsoft certification is from India, or India will launch the $10 laptop, I suggest we, the blogger community at least, refrain from talking it up or feeling proud about it.

It is a time for shame when a many thousand year old culture has only its infantile babblings to be proud about.

Vande Mataram.

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