Early life and nature of childhood:
My childhood roots from Champaran, Bihar, although I grew up in Ranchi. My father, a disciplinarian and an educationist, established a school for the minorities of the backward community and stood by its values. He made sure we attend his school and not a convent or high-end institution. On the other hand, most of my vacations were spent back in the village which seemed like a completely different life. I used to be very playful and was one with nature during my holidays.
This liberty to be on your own was in itself a different experience for me. I recollect growing up with great sensitivity towards village seniors, the magnanimity of the country, issues of poverty, agriculture and minority communities. I had never resonated with the structured education patterns and the conventional “A grade” ambitions. I spent most of my college days doing photography, painting, being a part of election campaigns and everything that caught my eye and added to my growth.
Later, I got enrolled into journalism and started enjoying the process, making great friends who were terrific intellects. My curiosity has always driven me forth in life. With my father’s determination towards social causes, I always wanted to work for social welfare. Later in life as my hunger for technological learning grew, I somehow discovered the magnanimous issue of information poverty in the country.
Vision behind Digital Empowerment Foundation:
I have travelled throughout because of my resolution to establish internet infrastructure and connectivity for the people and have been blessed with opportunities to work around the world as people invite me to share my experiences on how one can step-up on the digital infrastructure for their countries and render its access to the deprived ones. In broader light, when you are doing strong work with passion and compassion to empower the community, it becomes relevant around the world.
About my motive in empowering the people- We live in a developing country yet struggling with basic amenities like food, water and shelter. I believe that information poverty is a big burning issue for us because anything we start to do or change begins with knowing about it.
A poor man in India has the right to access rationalized food rates but in practice, he would need to document his identity, sign papers, know about the schemes or find the location of his nearest shop. Access to information is indeed a privilege; and the less privileged ones always have to be dependent on middle-men which leads to their perennial cycle of poverty and exploitation which can only be broken by the power of digitalization. Our value and genesis is to digitalize the means, and extend this access to each and every poor person in this country.
Hurdles and challenges in life:
The initial days of my career journey and the job hunt race have been a big lesson that life has rendered to me, quite young! With dreams in my eyes, I moved to New Delhi to kick start my career but had to struggle for four years without a job, at the cost of pain and financial crisis.
When I got my first job after the long haul, I was kicked out after 2 months! Around 1994, I started working for a computer functionalities magazine having very little knowledge of the computing world. Years later, when we got abundant access to computers and the internet, I started surfing obsessively and religiously that somehow landed me a job as the Head of Internet in The Hindustan Times.
I then founded a start-up in partnership with my friend, making websites for many popular newspapers of India. I realised how the world was moving towards the era of digitalisation and how the under privileged class was going to suffer due to the lack of digital skills and awareness. That’s when I truly landed to the niche I am in today. It’s been quite a journey, but I never lose hope- my innate curiosity still drives me towards the best, just like those initial days of my career.
Lessons in life and key message of ‘The New Normal- How to Survive the New World Order’:
The book is aimed to carry forward the voices of many people who have shared their wisdom for the community, which I have jointly edited with my friend Dushyant. We want to carry forth the message that the new world order is heavily dependent on information and technology and how it is going to transform lives.
Covid19 has been the biggest example that changed the perspective towards digitalization from being an alternative or a luxury to the primary tool that is keeping the world order in place. We were rendered to be over-consumers of resources in pre-covid times; these new times have taught us the importance and value of localization over globalization. In this new world order, globalization is becoming localisation while globalisation is becoming more wisdom oriented and local-contractual oriented. This is teaching us how to live without a big congregation.
This book celebrates the knowledge that we have acquired over a long time and how we apply this in the present circumstances of the pandemic. We vouch to localise the digital infrastructure and at the same time also extend an individual ecosystem of localised digital infrastructure to every pocket, every village and every community.
The words of wisdom that resonate the most with my life is that we ought to create a world that is not patriarchal, not feudal and at the same time is heavily participatory and dependent on the wisdom of women and the children and not only of men and the old people. A base of digital infrastructure could create a more independent functional and aware society that is away from the roots of patriarchy.
Role of Mentors in life:
The role of my father as a disciplinarian and my upbringing are permanently printed in my memory. I got to study five different Indian languages and explored two very different lives of Champaran and Ranchi which added to my personal growth and self development. My wife's role in my life has been tremendous- of a partner, confidant and my support system.
The biggest mentorship guidance for my life comes from my thought processes, the mere guides of common sense, scientific temper and a self-critical viewpoint. We all ought to be guided by such virtues. I wish to see equality in best practise in order to holistically educate the new generation and change the world for good. We should not be constricted by rules but make due efforts to mould them for the better. The future is of the ones that dare to think beyond.
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