Jan 20

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

What We Have vs. What We Want

After reading Dale's post The Rest of the Rest of Us, I have to share a link that my brother sent me to a story about an Indian businessman's venture to give the poor of India a taste of modern life:

An Indian entrepreneur has given a new twist to the concept of low-cost airlines. The passengers boarding his Airbus 300 in Delhi do not expect to go anywhere because it never takes off.

All they want is the chance to know what it is like to sit on a plane, listen to announcements and be waited on by stewardesses bustling up and down the aisle.

In a country where 99% of the population have never experienced air travel, the “virtual journeys” of Bahadur Chand Gupta, a retired Indian Airlines engineer, have proved a roaring success.

As on an ordinary aircraft, customers buckle themselves in and watch a safety demonstration. But when they look out of the windows, the landscape never changes. Even if “Captain” Gupta wanted to get off the ground, the plane would not go far: it only has one wing and a large part of the tail is missing....

As for the passengers, they are too poor to afford a real airline ticket and most have only ever seen the interior of an aircraft in films.

“I see planes passing all day long over my roof,” Selim, a 40-year-old tyre mechanic was quoted as saying. “I had to try out the experience.”

Jasmine, a young teacher, had been longing to go on a plane. “It is much more beautiful than I ever imagined,” she said.

This story provided a counterpoint to Dale's post that was both sobering and inspiring. I'm reminded of a wonderful line from Garrison Keillor, which I heard years ago on A Prairie Home Companion and which has stuck with me ever since: "Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted if you didn't have it." (Hmm. I just looked this up, and wikiquote renders it as "Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known." Not as inspiring. I prefer my remembered version.)

We have so much to be grateful for. We also have so much to fight for, to make the world a better place. It's easy to fall into acceptance of the unacceptable. It is a good world where people can take joy in something we jaded few lament as a tiresome burden. But it is a better world where we can share what we have, finding more delight in achieving and in giving than in having.

tags: sunday sermons  | comments: 10   | Sphere It

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Comments: 10

  Srinagesh Eranki [01.20.08 05:20 PM]

Being of Indian origin myself, I had mixed feelings on the matter.

I think India's challenge lies in ensuring (by the time the next generation comes along) that everyone who wants to travel by air will be able to easily afford it.

Ideas like this (ingenious, no doubt) will only satiate people’s desires for so long.

  Tim O'Reilly [01.20.08 05:56 PM]

Srinagesh -- my feelings exactly. It's wonderful to see how much things we take for granted can mean to people who don't have them. How much more wonderful to help them to achieve what we take for granted, and to move on, as a civilization, to new challenges.

Of course, speaking of challenges, there are some things we take for granted, like cars, planes, and wasteful energy appliances, that we don't want to pass on to the rest of the world. we now know better, and must reengineer all these things so that we CAN all afford to have them.

  Jim Ciallella [01.20.08 06:15 PM]

These stories are always good to knock me down a peg. It's inspiring to see someone of your influence and success still able to keep a clear mind.

I think Epicurus said it first, "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."

  Srinagesh Eranki [01.20.08 06:28 PM]


I concur with Jim's sentiments. I have been following your blog for a while now. I'm impressed with how conscientious and a nice bloke you are. It comes across strongly. It is to your credit and is an inspiration of the "rest of us".

  Ross Stapleton-Gray [01.20.08 06:41 PM]

Tim, Srinagesh, if every Indian who'd like to travel by air does so, kiss the ice caps goodbye. (Unless some Indian or other engineers address that whole exhaust gas issue.)

But this post got me thinking that we need an analogous service, for Silicon Valley, where any tech who wants to can experience receiving Series A funding, though if they actually look in the envelope, the check is a dummy. Maybe someone can work a deal with Il Fornaio to reserve a room for "entrepreneurial simulations."

  Chris [01.20.08 11:44 PM]

Yes, an inspiration would be the right word for this post. I was pleased to read the story...thank you very much.

  Search‚óä Engines Web [01.21.08 08:18 AM]

The big irony in all this is that * Continuous Advances in Real time Internet and Telecommunications Technology * may ultimately make it much less necessary to physically travel anyplace to interact with others and for real time observations of any portion of the world.

Just try to imagine what life could be like several decades from now for even the poorest regions of the world much less the affluent nations.

  Rene [01.21.08 08:19 AM]

I've got an old comic strip taped to the wall of my office that has a simpler version of Garrison Keillor's sentiment: "Success is getting what you want. Happiness is liking what you get."

It is possible to be happy without being 'successful' and equally possible to be successful without being happy because of wanting the 'next' thing that will make you successful.

  Nicolae Namolovan [01.22.08 01:31 PM]

Wouldn't you pay some small amount of money to seat into a space shuttle, and to hear all these futuristic cool things.. ? %)

  Siri Dhyan Singh [01.23.08 04:40 PM]


how true!!!

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