Yes, this is the title I have chosen to tell you my story of how Open Source has changed my life over the past year. But, this is not where I shall begin. I had finished writing all my Entrance Examinations which would determine if I could study in India’s very best Engineering colleges or not. I had written a range of exams from IIT to COMEDK, and I was expecting pretty good results because I felt that I was pretty good at these exams. Though I was not very confident (actually quite sure) about getting into an IIT, I was sure that I would definitely make it into either BITS or an NIT. And I did make it into these universities, but alas! the only stream I was offered at NIT Surathkal was Metallurgy and in BITS, Goa was Chemical. I did do a good job in the COMEDK and Amrita Vishwavidyapeetham Entrance Examinations (against my wishes) and I did get into these universities with a choice of the branches that I wanted to get in – Mechanical or Computer Science. But, I was so devastated (yeah, I was a complete idiot back then) that I didn’t get into any of the universities I wanted, that I made what I would call the worst decision I had made till date – I chose to study in Amrita Vishwavidyapeetham University instead of universities in Bangalore like PESIT and MSRIT. I knew I was not doing the right thing, but it didn’t matter, I was completely lost and beaten at all levels. It does look like I’m making a big deal out of a real small issue but this is what happens when a kid who has never failed at what he has wanted to achieve since he could remember does not get something which he considers is his own, by nature. (also the effect of being locked up in a dungeon for more than three years)
That’s how I ended up in the serene, tranquil and beautiful place called Ettimadai, which is where my university is. But inside the university, its a completely different story. Yeah, maybe its a dream university for many people and maybe it really is good, but good and dream is always a matter of perspective. To me it was like a dungeon, not only physically but also mentally. I had lost all interest to learn and let go of all my dreams and ambitions when I had come here. Probably why I felt like everything was closed in all directions. I mean, everything else was usual or what you could call usual at Amrita, bitching about classes, talking about how bad life had got, playing some or the other sport everyday, studying and doing fun stuff once in a while, making plans to overthrow the power hungry bureaucrats, schemes to end the tyranny at university and finally go to sleep. But what lacked was a sense of purpose and satisfaction to what I was doing in addition to being mentally chained (And this I have realized is one of the few things that really matters in life). So, enough about the SAD life and lets start looking at what started the STORM. I really loved going to techfests and conferences (though I wasn’t really passionate about anything back then), thought they were like my occasional escape routes 😉 Now, I have heard quite a bit about Open Source from my friends at Bangalore and people around (who were still truly living unlike me and yeah, we don’t have internet or LAN connection in our rooms at uni – what’d you expect!) and so, I decide to find out what this thing is all about and I register for the Pengufest – A workshop on Open Source Software and Communities which is happening at NIT Thrichy’s annual techfest.
I and a couple of friends from my uni make it NIT Thrichy and we’re all quite excited to be there. We think we will finally be able to get an idea of what CS is all about, because we don’t know anything about it except some crap from the textbook and some labs in which we were tested on how well we could remember the syntax. Ah! I forgot the good part, a couple of weeks before I had looked up all the speakers and googled them (Yeah, we all have laptops and mobile broadband cards – where there is a will there is a way :P). This was when I looked into Reddit, because Alexis Ohanian was one of the speakers at the techfest. I began exploring Reddit and I really loved it, though I had to deactivate my account at a later stage due to addiction. Now that I’m almost done with uni, I’m gonna be back – excited and looking forward to it. This formed the central reason to why I was going to the techfest – to attend Alexis Ohanian’s talk. We did have fun at NIT Thrichy, though we found the infrastructure to be below the standards of our uni, they had something far more better – FREEDOM and a great community. Finally we are at the workshop and I learn a lot, the most important of which is what GSoc is all about. Then, there is a session on Git but the Alexis Ohanian talk is rescheduled to the same time as the Git workshop. So, I give up the git workshop, none of my friends want to come with me but still no one’s going to stop me from attending Alexis Ohanian’s talk. I dunno why but I just wanted to attend the talk so badly – call it fate, destiny or whatever but I just had to be there. And there I was – it was a skype talk over a projector and really bad bandwidth. But, the very presence of Alexis Ohanian just gave me the vibes. When, he started talking I just could feel the vibes and somehow the interest that I had lost, the passion and dreams that I had let go all started coming back to me. There’ s a lot of what he said that I really liked and was influenced by but that’s for another post. Basically, I was just taken off my feet by his open, friendly and calm nature. I felt he was just someone like me but I knew he had done a lot more (way way more) and hence, ever since then he has always been a very captivating role model for me. And this was the beginning, though I was low on self confidence, though I was going to step back into the real world after almost two years, I had a direction I could follow and this was definitely a start. I really believe Reddit and Alexis Ohanian were partially responsible for this. So thanks guys! I owe you one, big time! 🙂
The very next semester, I started daring to dream. I felt like I really had to get some stuff going my way and thanks to an amazing Networking Prof. I had then, I was allowed to do my Computer Networks mini project in Python – Yay! I decided to implement something completely out of the box (based on a friend’s advice) SNMP – Simple Network Management Protocol. Turns out there are different version of this which can be implemented through the PySNMP framework and we ended up experimenting with each one finally choosing v2. It was a great experience, though I couldn’t get everything that I wanted to work working, the proxy that we wrote in Python and the different SNMP bits we implemented was weirdly satisfying (I’d also tried out some bits of the twisted framework then). This is where, my learning curve was really starting to take shape. This time I really wanted to take part in GSoc. Though, I started off a bit late I started lurking on IRCs pestering a lot of people and trying to get to know how things worked in the Open Source Universe. This was when I discovered my community – a study group, a technical community with whom I could identify myself with. This was just like how people connected in a Metal concert or at home in a family, it was inbuilt – everyone just got together and built something and they enjoyed the process and what the community as a whole had to offer. This was HEAVEN for me! For metal concerts and technical conferences I had to travel and these happened once in a blue moon, but with Open Source everything was in my laptop, through it I was the king of my own little world. Getting back to GSoc, after a lot of IRC discussions in different channels I finally decided that at this stage two organizations suited me and my skill set to a really good level – Mozilla and Apertium.
I realized that GSoc was more about getting started in your area of interest, a project you are interested in and the best place to kickstart your journey as an Open Source Developer. The Apertium community was just great, lot of amazing people who were ready to help and more importantly teach in a way that I could learn by myself. They fueled my Open source desire even more and this is how I started off – trying to build a Machine Translation system through Apertium’s toolkit for the Hindi-English language pair (gotta really work on it seriously sometime).
At Mozilla again, lot of people helped me out to get started. Here, is where I made my first patch and to see it online and knowing that it was going to be part of Firefox was something different for me. Through these communities I had learned so much, a hundred times more than what I had learned at my university. Though I didn’t get through GSoc that year ( to save my pride – it was a narrow margin) I got into Open Source Development and this was a turning point in my life. And this was the FIRE rising, everything was falling into place. I was rediscovering all my interests and hobbies, and working on them too. Ah! This was bliss, this was what I had wanted – now I had a purpose, to change the world through my skills, add some value to it or at least point out where it has gone wrong and do something about it. (yeah, I know – overstatement but everyone loves to hear that , me included)
Finally, how can I not talk about Nolan’s films when I’ve written an thought provoking, hope rendering and what I think to be an inspirational blog. Obviously everyone has watched The Dark knight Rises and it is by far one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I had given up an interview for this movie – by Mu Sigma, which might be good in terms of money but it just isn’t my kind of work. So, how has the Dark Knight rises had an impact on me,well – I’m now trying to climb out of the hole with no rope. Its made me introspect and has restored my lost confidence. Obviously everything I’ve done has resulted in what I am now but this movie served as the final trigger (which was pushed easily because I saw it at iMAX) which has brought back my confidence and self belief. Every time I feel a bit low, I just watch that scene where Bale climbs out of the well – thanks Hans Zimmer, that’s some really powerful music. Movies like this and lot of others which I have reserved for future posts have had a great influence on me. Fight for what you believe in and never look back (maybe except for mistakes so you don’t repeat them :P). That’s what I am trying to do now – An MS in Computer Science abroad, lets see what happens because I have no net to hold me. All I know is this, I can fight back and I will fight tooth and nail for what I believe in – so no worries 🙂
Though my physical freedom is still in question, I have become mentally free and ideas just started exploding, I’m transcending all the previously existing boundaries. I have begun to “Connect the dots” to find out what I really want. Now, I feel great, there’s always some kind of deeply satisfactory feeling inside everyday and it looks like each day has so much to offer. Wow! Now I feel stupid that I didn’t realize that all this was just so simple (hard work, lots of effort etc. but simple in terms of knowing what has to be done). I have another enemy, laziness – I somehow have to beat it but seems impossible right now 😛 Anyways, thought this was a good post to publish on Doomsday – was holding this back for that. I’m sure the Mayans will agree 😛
I’m finally LIBERATED !!!!!!
PS I wanted to write a longer story, but then it’ll get too boring.
The next day we somehow managed to get up real early and we set off at 5:30 am for a walk around the town of Devikulam. I must say, it is a really beautiful town. I just loved it. I would love to upload more photos of it in the blog, but that would make this too long. As we walked admiring the beauty and simplicity around us we came across a church perched on top of a small hill with steps leading to it. We climbed up and this was truly a heavenly experience. With the first rays of the early morning sun hitting us through the trees at this wonderous church , made the experience truly holy and heavenly. It was a different feeling all together to bask in those enchanting rays and watch the mist slowly fade away among the hills and tress, clearing up to reveal a beautiful town. This is a feeling that will remain imprinted at the back of my head no matter what. What a beautiful way to start the day!
Then we went on forward and into the town. The town appeared to be built during the british colonial times. This can be easily inferred from the architecture of the buildings here with those huge brick like shapes and signature british style and colors. We saw a couple of cute little pussies on the way. They really were adorable and were hiding by the house of some advocate. It was very calm, tranquil and soothing to walk through the town and finally arrive at Rajalakshmi for breakfast. I had never had Appam before, and I must say it is quite good and you must try it. After a heavy breakfast and some refreshing tea we headed back to the hotel to freshen up.
We got ready to go surprisingly fast, and got to the auto waiting for us outside. The auto guy turned out to be a real helpful and pleasant-mannered guide, Munnar- If you wanna hire an auto you hire it here. We first went through the beautiful roads absorbing all the enchanting views around us. Then we stopped on the way to look at a tree infested with honey bee hives. The driver told us that it wild bee honey was famous in Munnar and these hives were set up within 6 months of extracting honey from the earlier ones. But I wonder why the bees would want to build their hive in the same place their friends got incinerated ? After about half an hour on the auto again we reached Matupatty dam. It was beautiful but too picture perfect for me. I generally don’t fall into love with mainstream places that much, so I din’t really enjoy it as much as I had enjoyed my walk in the morning.
Again back onto the auto we stopped at a place called photo point. I never understood the point of naming a place photo point when travellers and tourists are not allowed to shoot photos there. Apparently you had to pay to actually take photos over there and the price would be reasonable only if you were shooting a movie. This again looked very artificial to me. As we went a little forward we stopped by the Indo-swiss farm. We could’nt go in as we needed recommendation and influence. So all we could do was go close to the fence and watch the beautiful cows graze and enjoy the tranquil beauty and wish we had done something to get inside the farm and have a bit of that beautiful cheese which I had been dreaming about.
We went on to echo point. Again I could feel the same artificial beauty(I mighta repeated it a couple o times :P) but then on the plus side we did have a great breakfast – bread omelette and maggi noodles. We also tried cinamon,masala and lemon teas. They were bad here maybe except the masala tea. So my recommendation – maggi noodles and bread omelette.The onward journey to the other boathouse was really good. The views (especially near chundavurrai tea estate) along the road were wonderous and I really loved it. You could just stare out of the auto and get lost in your own thoughts. Ah!….How delightful it was !….
Next on the list was Kundala lake where we wanted to do some boating. More than the lake I loved the huge trees around it. I wish they’d maintain it better, then it would have been even better. The Kundala dam was damn narrow with space for only one vehicle to fit across its width at a time. I wanted to try out the row boat and my friends preferred the peddle boat. My choice was voted out and so we did get on to the pedal boat. It was a leisurely afternoon and I almost fell asleep on it. We saw quite a few ducks and just lazed around in our seats on the boat when we were’nt watching them…..Oh!…we were also pedaling (stating the obvious). Then we got back to the auto where we had o make a choice between the Tata tea museum and Top slip due to lack of time. We chose the Tata tea museum as we could’nt miss that….I definetely don’t regret this choice!….it was totally worth it!
Now it was time for the long trip back. We did do some constructive work on our way. We got into a tea garden for the view and the true feel of being in Munnar. It was great. We also bought around a litre of honey for Rs80 thanks to our helpful auto driver, saw lots of trees being chopped and later found out that they were the ones used to make papper, ate passion fruits(awesome!) and fresh carrots before we stopped by an elephant camp. I really wish I paid and took the elephant ride through the tea garden. So hope none of you miss it and start regretting it like me. Then we went on back to the city and to the Tata tea museum.
We hurried into the museum as it was almost time for it to close. There we had a good cup of complimentary cinnamon tea. Then we went in to watch the documentary on the history of the Tea companies in Munnar. It was pretty good.(Except for the actors) The museum was great with a collection of antiques from the british times, everything from telephones and old typewriters to animal trophies. We were then shown and explained the manufacturing process of tea. One thing you should not miss here is buying the white tea and black tea. I had white tea and its just exquisite!….you should definitely try it!
Once we were back at the hotel it was time to take a bath and go back to Rajalakshmi for some good hot dinner. It was a fun night with all of us going crazy for no reason. We finally got back to the hotel to get up at 6 the next morning and move on to the Cochin side.
I’m starting off with my most recent travel destination Munnar. Its a brilliant place though I did not expect it to be. Well, I had started off my journey with two other friends from my college. A last minute decision as we could not go to Silent Valley. It took us 5 hours to reach there and we had to switch buses at Udumalapet. We started off late….nothing out of the ordinary……and got into the most crowded bus that I had ever got onto in my life. Sweaty and damning my luck I was out of that pit and reached Ukkadam bus stand . We barely managed to get onto the Udumalapet bus on time. After these preliminary glitches the rest of our journey was eventful. The wind mills on the way to Udumalapet are something you must not miss. I just loved them.
Then we got onto the Munnar bus at Udumalapet. This took us through the Anamalai tiger reserve and the Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary. The was pretty sunny and the views were good but not brilliant till we reached Marayoor. Here we bought a couple of peculiar fruits(I think they were berries) and an avacado without actually knowing it was an avacado. From here the journey was filled with sights and sounds of tea gardens and streams creeping their way throught the hills and ending up as water-falls. They were beautiful sights.
One of the best experiences to the nose as far as I am concerned is when the mild fragrance of tea engulfs it as you are passing by a tea factory. This is exactly the experience you will have when you are around half an hour away from Munnar. After this brilliant experience we arrived at Munnar town which appeared to be lost in its own frenzy. Not quite what I had expected judging by the tranquil journey we had had. The thing that struck me first when we went to the tourist office just by the bus stop was that this was a place full of friendly people. Honestly speaking,this is the place with the best auto drivers out of all the places I’ve been to India. They are the best and cheapest guides you could get. We went by auto to our restaurant at Devikulam called Autumn trees, it was 7kms away fro town. We encountered some beautiful sights on our way there from which I realised why this places was so popular.
After all the beautiful sights it was time to bargain for a price at the hotel. We did get a the room at a reasonable price. The hotel was’nt that great(it was clean though which was all that mattered) but the location was good. So we decided to go for a walk after having a cup of tea at the tea stall by the highway. As expected the tea was brilliant, the best tea I had had in my life ( Hav’nt visited Assam yet!) and I mentally made a note to drink tea at this place for all the three days we were here.
The walk was quite a treat. We enjoyed it as went along the highway due to the beautiful surroundings which were so laid back and also due to mild weather. As we kept going we noticed a small path by the side of the highway which lead down to a beautiful lake. The lake was enchanting enough for us to go down by the slushy, muddy and slippery path. When we reached the lake it was just an amazing experience which I shall not forget for years to come. The lake was just beautiful and was tempting us to take a dip. We resisted that temptation as we knew we were better off on land than in unknown waters.
We just could’nt take our eyes off the lake, but it was getting dark and we had to leave. So we slowly trudged up the path and made our way back to the highway. To our surprise we discovered that there were leeches all over our shoes. One of my friends did provide us with some entertainment by jumping up and down with his shoes in his hands. He was repulsed by the leeches and when he saw that a small leech had clung on to his calf he pulled it off and started running back to the hotel. My other friend and I had cleared off all the leeches off our shoes and walked back to the hotel and had a good laugh about the leech-phobic friend of mine.
Once we had got back to the hotel it took us some time to get ourselves spic and span and double check for leeches in our shoes. After all the tidying up we decided to walk a bit into town and have dinner at a small hotel called Rajalakshmi which was suggested to us by the receptionist. It was a shabby little place with tables and chairs all cramped up in a small space. The food, I would’nt say was exceptional but it was good and very very affordable which reduced the overall expense of our trip by quite a margin. The people here were as friendly as ever and we had a good time eating and chatting up at the table. While going back we sat down on low clearance wall and talked some more and tried blowing the fog to make it look like we were smoking. I loved doing this ever since I was a kid and this time was no exception. After a night full of maniacal fun we retired to the hotel and slept quite early so that we could get up in time to go down the Mattupatty side of Munnar.
Just found out a bit about Cyprus and Crete today [Courtesy : Globetrekker TLC 😉 ] Will post about Crete some other time though.
Firstly about Cyprus, It is famous for its awesome beaches and bars. Cyprians are known to love partying. They have a hell lot of good beaches. They have mid afternoon bubble bath dances on the beach and parties raging from the night till dawn. Cyprus is also known for free diving, one of the world’s 3 best free divers is from Cyprus and he can dive upto 75 metres. Free diving is a dangerous and beautiful adventure sport. It takes years of practice and a controlled & calm mind to go even over 20 metres. Its also home to the Temple of Apollo (The greek Sun God) which was destroyed by an earthquake which occured more than a thousand years ago. The beautiful ruins of this temple lie facing the beach which makes for a beautiful sight. Apparently, during the Summer solstice the Greeks come over to this Temple to perform a thousand year old ritual to show the people the importance of the temple in greek culture.
Cyprus has the influence of both Greeks and Turks as the Turks invaded it as well. There is a buffer zone dividing North Cyprus from the rest of Cyprus though it is recognised as a seperate country only by Turkey. North Cyprus is full of Turkish Cyprians and the rest is full of greek Cyprians. Even the currency differs in these two parts. But since the past few years there has not been any agitation between the Turkish and Greek Cyprians and they are allowed to pass through the buffer zones to meet each other or explore the other part of Town. All in all , Cyprians are a wonderful set of people who host mind blowing parties and I’m happy to have seen that episode!
More details and dvd order available on: