Far away from metropolitan Chennai, which is very slowly becoming cosmopolitan in nature, here in the small southern towns near the southern tip of the peninsula, electricity is in severe shortage with about eight hours of power outage every day. That sudden darkness and the stopping of ceiling fans is yet another reminder of the phenomenally luxurious everyday life that I am lucky enough to lead back in the good ol' US of A.
The night sky is full of stars as soon as the lights go off. Venus and Jupiter are so bright that they could even cast shadows of us mortals here on earth.
This brilliantly lit night sky is, however, nothing compared to the diamonds that glittered after nightfall in Pommern, Tanzania, thanks to that village without electricity being a lot more isolated from the rest of the electrified world.
Kids being kids, they seem to have even more fun than they usually do, when the power goes off. I bet that the first thing that comes up in their minds is that they have a wonderful excuse not to do their homework!
Yesterday, there was a great deal of noise next door, with kids screaming in delight. I stepped towards them; it turned out that one kid was projecting a movie from a cell phone on to the wall, with the sound blaring from the cell phone.
Back in my childhood, excitement was when we found a couple of negatives and projected that image on to a wall using a flashlight. That is so, so, so lame compared to these hi-tech kids' excitement.
When I asked them how they were doing it, an older person in the group replied: "It is my phone and I had no idea that it has such a feature. These kids, they figure out everything. It cost me 7,500 rupees for the phone, and now they are using it as a cinema projector"
After the show was over--because the power supply was back on--I walked up to the kid and asked him what phone it was. "G5" he said. I didn't recognize that brand name. I asked him whether I could take a look at it. It was a G'Five "wisepad" model, and it comes with a bright built-in projector light. How awesome!
In the US, I had never a smartphone with a projector feature. Perhaps this is one of those features customized for markets like India--similar to how Nokia had introduced a few years ago a cellphone with a flashlight.
I imagined my students doing presentations in the classroom with their smartphones and projectors. No need then to even boot up the big time display projector in the classroom. Or public health officials in developing countries doing their campaigns so easily with these smartphones and built-in projectors. Just awesome.
I ought to thank the power shortage in India; else, I might never have known about smartphones with projectors. Things we learn, and the strange ways we learn. But, hey, something new everyday!