Thanks to Tyler Lloyd for this opportunity to revisit my Peace Corps years. Please visit his site, mypeacecorpsstory.com, where he has posted our interview, and his conversations with many other Volunteers, who have served or are currently serving in tin different parts of the world. Thanks to technology, he is able to reach out across the globe to record his stories and share them on the web.
The connections available to us during our time in India were very limited. If there were family emergencies back in the States, Peace Corps country headquarters could assist through resources available through the American embassy in New Delhi. In most instances, we were left to our own devices which, for me, largely consisted of sending international aerogrammes through the local post office (they actually did reach the States in most instances, some friends saved them). I am not sure they would be very interesting reading for anyone now, but they were our basic means of staying in touch over our two years of service. Some friends would also send tape recordings of messages and popular music. At that time we were also getting a steady dose of new British rock groups’ music; the Beatles were on the top of the list. I think I heard “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” almost every day for two years. We also had a short-wave radio and were also able to listen to the BBC and Voice of America on occasion. No TV.
I hope you will enjoy listening to “My Peace Corps Story.” And thank you, President Kennedy.
Back in my Peace Corps years, we were all eager to change the world. At least over a thousand of us who were in India in the mid to late sixties, but that all changed when Indira Gandhi sent us home. I have been back to India on two different occasions over the past decade. Technology has played a major role in India’s economic growth as a source of customer service and technical support to the rest of the world. But now many current local Indian authorities are increasingly clamping down on Internet and telecommunications access across the country. They have cited national security as the primary reason for restricting access. It also seems that local and state officials can conjure up other rationales. In one case, officials suspended social media apps to prevent cheating during a state exam for government accountant positions.
If India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to show American investors that his country has “the most open economy in the world,” he would do well to address these local practices from the national level. As I was often reminded during those Peace Corps years, India is the world’s largest democracy! The Indian government has taken steps to bring the country into the 21st Century: Its policies to reduce red tape, attract foreign businesses and expand digital services have enormous potential. It would be a shameful regression if these reforms fail to reach that potential because of suspended WiFi.
I know that Prime Minister Modi is not trying to change the world like those idealistic Peace Corps Volunteers of the sixties, but I believe that he can do something to preserve India’s digital future.
Ray Myers India 29