National Geographic : 2008 Oct
Farmers are already feeling the benefits of the high way in some areas. In Mettur, a tidy farming village at the end of a one-lane road, the par ents of Tamil Selvan, the Hyundai worker, now live in a fine, two-story house made of concrete blocks 170 miles from the factory where their son works. Next door is their original one-room house of sticks and mortar, which they now use to store coconuts, potatoes, and burlap sacks full of rice. A few years ago the state government paved the road to the village, connecting it to secondary highways and from there to the GQ and distant markets. Another innovation of the 1990s-wireless telephone networks, which fol lowed the path of India's highways to give road travelers uninterrupted coverage-helps farmers take advantage of the new roads. In places like Mettur, for the cost of a $30 cell phone and a few dollars a month, farmers can now conduct trade from hundreds of miles away, eliminating the middleman and removing some of the guesswork from long-distance hauling and selling. "The roads have changed everything," says Tamil's father, Devaraja Pillai, a warm, digni fied man of 59. "It used to be that we could only sell our crops in the towns nearby, and prices were low. Now we've got a truck, which we use to haul our coconuts and mangoes to bigger markets like Bangalore and Chennai. We can get seven rupees a pound for our coconuts in Bangalore, three times what we make around here. And we can get there in about half the time it used to take, so our crops don't spoil." A part time farmer, Tamil's father is also the village schoolteacher, a poet, and a devotee of the 19th century guru Swami Vivekananda, whose long hair and large, beatific eyes appear in photo graphs around the house. On the bright green wall of the living room, he has posted one of Vivekananda's sayings: "Education is the mani festation of perfection already in man." Those words became his credo. Six months after Tamil started at Hyundai, the company invited the families of their new workers to visit the plant, all expenses paid. Tamil's mother and father made the bus journey No one was hurt when a truck carrying hay took a spill on a curve near Jaipur. Such mishaps are common on the GQ; though designed to be state-of-the-art, the highway is only as good as the drivers who use it.