Richard Martin, Technology Review
An old man wakes on the floor of a hut in a village in southern India. He is wrapped in a thin cotton blanket. Beside him, music wails softly on a transistor radio. A small wood fire smolders on the floor, filling the space with a light haze; above it,the bamboo timbers of the hut’s roof are charred to a glossy black.
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The man’s name is Mallaiah Tokala, and he is the headman of Appapur village, in the Amrabad Tiger Reserve in Telangana state. On his forehead he wears the vibhuti, the sacred daub of white ash. He is uncertain of his exact age, but he is well into his 10th decade. He has lived in this village his whole life, a period that encompasses the tumultuous 20th-century history of India: the rise of Gandhi, the Salt March, the end of the Raj and the coming of independence, Partition and the bloodshed that followed, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and the dawning of a new era of sectarian violence and terrorism. And now he has lived long enough to witness the coming of electricity to Appapur, in the form of solar-powered lights and TVs and radios.
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