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TECH TALK: Good Books: Mountains Beyond Mountains (Part 3)

January 8th, 2004 · No Comments

As I read the book, I kept being amazed at the way Farmer battled all odds right from childhood, when he grew up in a trailer. He is 8 years older than I am, and I could not but help ask myself how I have made a difference to the world. We all only live once what is it that I can do which can help transform the world into a better place? One of Dr Farmers lines I cant sleep. Theres always somebody not getting treatment. I cant stand that. keeps resounding in my head. Here we are, with all the comforts that life has given us. And there is Farmer, amongst the tin roofs of Cange, working to ensure that every human life is saved. No price is too high to pay for the gift of life anywhere in the world.

I have often wondered can one or a few make a difference? Though the logical answer is probably a No, I have come to believe that Yes, it is possible. When Gandhi started the Dandi March, he was alone. We see the images at the end with the thousands, but that was not how it began. Frodo in The Lord of the Rings began his quest with just Sam and two other friends in his quest to destroy the Ring and save Middle Earth. There are many examples from history, from fiction, from contemporary life. We see the final results and think about all who made it possible, and yet, when it all started, there must have been One. A minds idea and a persons vision and determination can combine to bring about the most dramatic changes that one can think about. Dr Farmers pursuits are the embodiment of the fact that a few can, indeed, change the course of history. As Jim Kim, Dr Farmers colleague, says, quoting Margaret Mead, Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Added Jim: Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have.

There are many Dr Paul Farmers, but there is one Tracy Kidder, who brings it all to life. The book makes a deep and lasting impact as much for the work that Dr Farmer is doing and as much for Tracy Kidders realism-filled portrayal of the world around Dr Farmer. That is why the author is so important as a reader, we hand over our time and trust to the author, and allow us to see the world through a different lens than our own. Kidder succeeds but the real success will be if we start thinking about how we can bring an element of Dr Farmer in our lives. What is the Cange in our lives? What is the Zanmi Lasante that we can create?

Reading the book makes me think harder about what I want to do how can I use my strengths, and those of people around me, so we can succeed in the two goals that I have set myself: how can we make computing affordable for the next billion users from the worlds emerging markets, and how we can transform rural India. There are times when I feel it is an uphill struggle, and one where the challenges are just too many to try and overcome. Now, I think of these problems as part of the course mountains beyond mountains. Keep climbing. As Farmer said, As members of the world community, we must recognize that we can and should summon our collective resources to save the countless lives that were previously alleged to be beyond our help.

Tomorrow: The Scientists


TECH TALK Good Books+T

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