Reporters on the Job

Powerless in the 21st Century: India likes to portray itself as a 21st-century country, but sometimes it does seem to be moving backward rather than forward, says the Monitor's Scott Baldauf.

"When I was just finishing typing in this story [page 1], the electricity shut off. I had just enough time to save my story and put it onto a floppy disk. Knowing I couldn't afford to wait for the power to return, which could be in two minutes or two hours, I headed off to the closest five-star hotel."

Such hotels always have power, because they have backup generators. But in the business center of this hotel, four of the five computers were out of service. The only one that was working didn't have a floppy-disk drive.

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"Fortunately," he says, "the center assistant was able to assemble a computer from the five machines to make one that would meet my needs. I got an object lesson in both what makes India shine and what makes it kind of dark."

Baghdad Family Update: Visiting the Methboub family has always been an eye-opener for the Monitor's Scott Peterson. The mother, Karima, is tied up with the tough realities of the US occupation - never mind trying to raise eight children as a single mother.

Scott was pleased to grant a longstanding wish of daughter Amal, who kept a diary during the war. Scott's interpreter finally tracked down an Arabic-language world map - and a small atlas.

There was other good news: Karima still has her job as a cleaner at a hotel. Electricity is now four hours on, two hours off. Twins Duha and Hibba are getting taller by the day. But the family still worries about security. Fatima's job at a newspaper ended when its offices moved to another part of the city.

"And there is Mahmoud," says Scott. "He likes to play with whatever tools I have on my belt, like a Swiss Army knife. This time he was transfixed by my SwissTool - and the photos he had seen on TV about the abuse of Iraqis."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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