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Advice for people registering for debconf

Let me start by sharing the nice offer I got from Qatar airways today –

Qatar airways discount offer

Unfortunately it doesn’t work for me as the offer ends way before the conference will happen. I am guessing this is slack time for Qatar airways hence they are introduced this offer. I would have gladly taken this up if it was there in July end, August mid-week but guess that’s when international tourist season might start :(.

Now onto other business, while I’m glad of the response generated by my blog post about Debconf which was published about a week back I am in much the same boat as everybody else so connecting with me wouldn’t be beneficial at all. While I know the rough criteria that is used to evaluate applications, everybody has a fair chance. While I have shared some advice/insight for new people making proposals and a somewhat longer version in a mail the best way IMO is to take lots of care during the registration process.

Think of the registration process as making a GSOC application, rework and reiterate the application as many times as possible till you yourself are not satisfied with the application although May 10th is the cut-off date for bursary applications.

Having shared that, Debconf and Debian likes to have varied crowd, hence both fresh people who may be curious and have shown a slant of contributing towards free software has as much as a chance as seasoned Debian Developers.

From the numbers shared, it seems something like 109 odd bursary requests till about 2 days back and while around 28-30 odd bursary requests would be fulfilled. So it’s a pretty unenvious position for the people who are going to be making the choices.

That does not mean one should lose hope as some people cancel their bursaries, the easiest being if the visa is denied then obviously the person whose visa is denied can’t travel, other reasons might be work/business plans changing, death in the family etc. everything and anything that life can throw on you. Usually then the bursary moves on the next person on the list.

Even if you are not selected this year, don’t lose heart and try again next year. The beautiful thing about Debconf is each time the circumstances differ, for e.g. next year in Taiwan the accommodation is free from the University so it’s possible that more people would be there in Debconf18.

One contribution that people can easily do/make and doesn’t need a lot of Unix skills is the Debian SSO documentation , you could do in the Debian wiki or if mediawiki is your tea then the Debconf wiki is also welcoming which uses mediawiki. The current documentation is text-based, it would be an improvement if we have the same thing with help of pictures showing how you get the certificate and add it to your favourite browser. Let somebody who is new try it, if nobody steps up say in a week, then will do that documentation myself.

So best of luck on your applications and hopefully we will all meet either in Debconf17 or Debconf18. Till later.

India and the Agricultural Economy

Indian farmer ploughing a field in traditional style - Wikimedia commons

I was in two minds when I read Ritesh’s blog post about the Indian Economy. I was angry with Ritesh as he seemed to selectively take facts and present it rather than taking it whole. Even if he had searched even a little bit, he would have got much more better material and everybody would have been the gainer.

I have to also admit, I feel very much like a hypocrite as I have never slaved in a farm so my understanding and conclusions are a mix of media and limited interaction with farmers some years ago. There is also lots of local customs and politics that come into the picture and it’s not as straight-forward as Ritesh thinks. What he has failed to share/account for is the far worse bad and stressed debts for the industry so just saying farm loan waivers are bad without sharing any of the context makes it seem much more worse. This is when our Current Chief Economic Adviser states about loan waivers to corporates “You need to be able to forgive those debts because this is how capitalism works. People make mistakes, those have to be forgiven to some extent”

Let me start though with words from a book I read sometime back –

“On —– a peasant uprising erupted in —— . The farmers were angry with high interest rates, high taxes, high inflation and low-government prices for their crops. The system had let them into debt, and debt had meant foreclosure and loss of their fields to the land barons. ”

I intentionally have made a fill in the blanks as both the dates and places was true in India 100 years back and even today, the only difference between the two is the absence of taxes. Many people would think I’m talking about Champaran whose tale while well-known in India is sadly a stub-class article in wikipedia 😦 with quite a few citation needed tags as well 😦 but is also true today as will be seen below.

Interestingly, there is/was a remark by some unknown person who said ‘gora sahab gays, bhura sahab aaya’ meaning the white officer has gone, in his place the brown officer has come. The evidence of this is very much in the Telegraph Act and the story about its usage and its place in Indian politics

Surprisingly, sadly and coincidentally, the quote minus the dates and place didn’t happen in India but also in Cambodia. The above quote has been taken from ‘for the sake of all living things‘ by John M. Del Vecchio. The quote itself appears in the first 10 odd pages (historical summation) of the somewhat 1200 odd pages book. I actually got an old edition which tops out at 900 pages so probably some more updated input/news isn’t available but it still packs a powerful wallop. I want to dedicate a separate blog post for the book itself so will not say more on that book and what it shares.

`Sadly and coincidentally, there were news reports yesterday itself of farmers agitating for better prices just yesterday.

Some of the interesting work if you want to understand the farmer’s indebtedness is to study the ‘Income, Expenditure, Productive Assets and Indebtedness of Agricultural Households in India‘ done by NSSO.

Again, one does not need to read the whole report, there were some of the analysis shared by the Hindu here and here. This was also echoed by Logical Indian

It really boggles the mind to know than an average farming household earns around INR 200 per day. Even if you take a family of four people that comes to INR 50/- per person. Most rural joint families at the very least have 3-4 kids at the very least. Sadly Agricultural incomes do not keep sync even with the inflation index as there is no fair minimum age and wage for the Indian farmer, the concept does not exist for her(im) 😦 . Just me and mum going onto a restaurant and having one dish each easily can run anywhere between INR 200~250 easily . Cooking in the house is the same if you add/input the labor (which is usually not calculated) used to make lunch/dinner.

There was the idea that contract farming might be a solution but even that was corrupted by Multi-national companies such as Pepsi and others that the Government is showing movement to have a “model contracting law” . There are loads of stories on downtoearth magazine which deals with the above and all sorts of issues the farmer faces.

I should talk about Maharashtra and even here there was/has been an irrigation scam with figures given from 35k to 70k crores or 350 to 700 billion INR . The latest finding by the PAC has been shared here.

I will cut the blog post short as I find the whole thing personally very depressing. As far as local customs go this was from one of the farmers interaction some years ago where me and some other friends had gone across a village and came to know that all of them grew the same crop with some minor variances. When asked why is it so, while many said its fate, one of the elderly gentleman shared an experience where a farmer had planted some other thing. The gentleman prospered while the other villagers were suffering from glut of whatever they produced. Knowing he prospered, the other villagers damaged his crops and all sorts of unlucky things started happening for the farmer. In the end he realized his best bet is to follow the ways of the other villagers, at least they would be in peace.

What I have shared isn’t either unique or even unknown, even Toronto Star of Canada reported on the issue some years ago.

At the end of it all, the story is one of no education and limited skill-set and I don’t see it changing any time soon. There are some who are earning big figures, but majority of the farmers will always be in the red

Debconf 17 in Montreal

Debconf Montreal 17 logo

Before I start, debconf registration opened about a week back depending upon what time-frame you are in. So, if you have used and contributed to Debian or are curious to know and try out Debian, this would be right time to register for the conference. For those who are either financially weak (like yours truly) or those who are a minority in any way can avail those
sponsorships, more information about the sponsorship/travel bursary can be found here. Also make sure that you read, understand and accept the Debconf Code of conduct before trying to register.

Even if Debconf does give the bursary, getting a visa for Canada might be tricky but then what would be life without any challenges. In the hierarchy of wants and needs, I would say attending debconf would come in the ‘want’ category and not the ‘needs’ category as needs are simply food, clothes and roof over one’s head, thankfully all of which have been there for as long as I remember or know. ‘To dream’ is necessary for life and being part of debconf would be part of that dream.

While I have put up couple of talks, I have asked if somebody would be willing to tackle/share some basic things in Debconf 17 as well. Let’s see if I’m able to get any response to that. There was a recent Debian BSP in Montreal. While I don’t know how many bugs were fixed, although UDD shows only 32 bugs remain to be fixed before Stretch could be released.

Indian cricket team

To put things into perspective, I had gone to a friend’s place at Market Yard and came to know of a local cricket league which is being played in the city on the likes/basis of the IPL . The amount they will get is INR 88,000 (which is 1,361 USD, around the cost of ticket to and fro from Pune to Montreal and back as of date) and similar and 10 teams of 11-15 people are vying from it. The winning team will get that amount along with a trophy and signed certificates. Of course at the highest level i.e. the IPL, each night the players would probably earn a million or more for each play. One IPL season pay is what 90% of the people don’t/can’t earn in their whole lifetime.

Montreal Metro image from Wikimedia Commons

Apart from the conference, I have shared about the northern lights and the snacks on stand thing, there is one thing more to explore and that is the ‘Montreal Metro‘ . While I was re-reading the wiki entry today I was very much reminded about Pune Metro and Metro Samvaad that I attended couple of weeks before. That too as it was not held too far from my house, around 500 metres so could attend. The only hitch I see is the question mark on fate of 6,133 trees . I have shared one probable solution but then it has its own challenges . In the end, Metro is the need of the hour as vehicles in pune are reaching the 5 million mark while residents are around 3 million plus something depending on whether you chose to believe the 2011 census or the more recentish world population review . In either case/scenario I do not see any improvement unless consistent public transport is available. While Buses don’t run on time, it is hoped that the metro would run on time.

Some of the similarities between the two system, apart from the fact that from what I read Montreal Metro is mostly subway while Pune Metro would be mostly elevated. There is the idea/thought of having POI (Points of Interest) and free shows etc. in order to attract young and old to travel to destinations to and fro. There are a lot of theatre groups, stand-up comedians, rock and roll as well as classical musical concerts for which people like me would be willing to travel week-ends to attend such shows. Of course, this is all in the head, we will know the reality starting this May and commercial journeys if everything goes as planned in end 2018.

single person cult-based political parties

Summer heat

Summer heat

I would like to start with sharing is the mercury has been shot in recent times to record temperatures. For instance, Pune has been recording temperatures between 41 and 43 degrees consistently. The result of that has been a massive reduction in volunteer activity on my part as well as some reduction in work activity. The body wants and needs to conserve energy. Even my mobile phone’s lithium-ion battery becomes too hot and I have to turn it off in the crucial time from 12 – 17:00 hrs after which the weather cools down a bit. I am curious to know if I’m the only one or there are others like me.

I have seen quite a few construction, re-construction and renovation projects taking quite a hit by this incredible heat wave. If it isn’t climate change then I don’t know what is. And this is not limited to Pune but the whole of Western Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and quite a few parts of North India too. In Pune we are expecting it to hit 45 degrees pretty soon. And I don’t see this ending anytime soon, at least till July when the rains comes and we have some relief from this weather.

Balasaheb Thackeray, Founder Shiv Sena

Balasaheb Thakre/Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena in/around 1966. While he was cartoonist by trade, most of his cartoons were anti-migrant in nature. The target was the urban, unemployed Marathi youth based mostly in Mumbai and the suburbs. The Shiv Sena vandalized properties run by South Indian businessman, Gujaratis. The Shiv Sena and Balasaheb Thackeray were also responsible in part due to the massive closure of cloth mills in South Mumbai. While the workers struggled to make ends meet, some whose wife and children died, fell into prostitution, drugs or whatever they could to make ends meet while the party and more important Mr. Balasahab Thackeray prospered. In spite of the many threats, there are and were many South Indians who prospered inspite of Shiv Sena’s threats. Gujaratis on the other hand went back to Gujarat and now Surat rivals Mumbai. Another decade or so and Surat and not Mumbai would be the financial capital of India, the way Gujaratis are working towards it.

Then in the 90’s people from U.P. and Bihar came in search of livelihood, again the same rhetoric and even attacks were done against people from U.P. and Bihar. The only thing that was missing for all these people is a domicile certificate which you can get only after living 15 years in Mumbai.

The only thing that they and other political parties have been successful is murdering journalists. I’m sad to report that Maharashtra, my home state has a very bad report card in preventing such murders. And it’s both the State and the Centre who have to share the blame equally.

Come to 2017 and Shiv Sena doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Balasaheb Thackeray is no more, his son didn’t inherit Balasaheb’s fiery character and the nephew has now another outfit called Maha Navnirman Sena. Also, all those who were one-time outsiders are now residents of Mumbai (with the domicile certificate) and hence registered voters.

There is another angle to it as well, Marathas for far too long thought that people they will elect from their community will do something from their community just like auto rickshaw drivers thought that educated unemployed youth from their community would be better than the agents who rip them off whenever they have some work in the local R.T.O. (Road Transport Office) . Similar to auto rickshaw drivers, the Marathas realized that none of the leaders whom they elected would ever do the work. This is why when last year there were huge Maratha rallies all over the state (peaceful demonstrations all around though). I just shared Pune as am most concerned with my city although similar rallies were held in Mumbai (Khargar), Nagpur, Solapur among other places that I know of. But as shown on youtube

there was no central leadership (a.k.a. leaders) and still they were the most disciplined lot.

While the Marathas may say one thing, in part they are also culprits of their own past. My interactions with few Marathas was that they are still smitten by what happened in the second and the third Anglo-Maratha War . It is sad because I do see them adding lot of value provided they keep a cool head as I have seen some do. Business or service is the game only for cooler heads.

Things came to a head though about couple of weeks back when Mr. Ravindra Gaikwad, a Shiv Sena M.P. assaulted some elderly Air India Staff. While things have cooled down since then, it only belittles both the person and the party.

If anything, Air India can be accused of being to gentleman like in the whole case. The only crime of its own making is it has been looted since the beginning by Indian MP’s and their relatives with over-staffing and old age of the planes and being over-priced in an extremely price sensitive market. It doesn’t have any low-cost options but all of that is another story altogether.

Converse to this, the current Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi and Malcolm Turnbull enjoyed the ride of the Delhi Metro. In Politics as well as in life, symbolism scores big. That showed where Mr. Modi’s priorities lie and where Mr. Gaikwad’s.

In the end, the writing seems to be on the wall for not just the Shiv Sena but I would say all single-personality based parties. They need to widen both their political scope and activities and have prominent personalities with strong leadership taking the country along rather than being petty-minded.

The queen is dead … long live the queen :)

I acknowledge that images are sensitive materials and have much more potential to harm others than just plain text, and while I’ll be even more careful in the future, I hope I do get the wisdom to make correct choices.

Veena - an instrument used in classical music

I am reminded of Cole in Mr. Holland’s Opus . Cole is the son of Mr. Holland and he is totally deaf. It is probably apt as although not known by many people, I am totally deaf (100%) in my left ear and some loss of hearing in my right as well.

I say it is apt because one of the divas of classical singing, perhaps one of the old greats Ms. Kishori Amonkar is no more. I do not know whether or not she knew in her life-time that all copies of her photograph are copyrighted so there is not a single photo of her which is CC-by or CC-by-0 or whatever. This is the reason her wikipedia page is bereft of her image. For most Indian classical vocalists, the Veena is the instrument for both riyaz (practice) as well as for performance, hence have used that picture to pay her tribute.

So in a way it’s good that a partially deaf person is able to give homage to one of the greats. I have seen and heard her only once, about a decade ago. As have shared in earlier posts too, I have been lucky at times to have friends who have had variety of interests. Of course, as in life we drift from friends but whatever we learn in their company remains forever. My first hearing of classical music was with group of friends around a decade and a half.

One of the ghats in Varanasi

I had gone to Benaras/Varanasi and till that time my education in music was pop, rock, thrash, heavy metal, filmi songs, bit of ghazal and unplugged. Unplugged was due to MTV unplugged. I was in Varanasi for over a month in a palace (it was a slightly run-down palace) just next to the ghats. Ghat/s is what you call the riverbank. In the picture above the steps that you see going into the river and the in-between levels you see those are ghats.

Varanasi is one of the strangest cities if you stay a while as you will burning corpses sent to the river, ashes of people being thrown on the river, people bathing in the same river and people asking priests to bless newborns. So you see death and life at the same time and this all happens on the river-banks. Apart from that, the city is also famous for classical music of all hues. Many of the nights I slept listening to the voice of somebody playing either the veena, the shehnai played in a very cool manner or the flute. Both during sleep and being awakened by the same sounds early in the morning at 0500 hrs.

Hence I can totally understand why when Ustad Bismillah Khan sahab as well as some of the other greats when being offered by moneyed people to migrate to the States or somewhere else did not want to leave Varanasi. For those who love music, the unplugged kind, Varanasi is paradise. For those who don’t know Bismillah Khan sahab died in abject poverty. The irony is that while he added richness in thousands and millions of his fans, he himself chose to die in poverty. While I never learnt any of the musical understanding as I believe knowledge and understanding either in music or moving pictures (film) lessens the magic a bit. But that month or/and month and a half I developed a somewhat ear to classical music.

While I’m not much of a betting man, I would say that anybody who spends any amount of time in Varanasi, they would be transformed by the music which beats there. While like everywhere else, there are hindu and muslim areas, I found the Azaan to be more lyrical than anywhere else I have heard in India. You go to the temple or the mosque and you will be transported to some other world. If somebody who has skill with live sound-recordings come to Varanasi and records the kind of voices and instruments there are, her(is) hands will be full and its sure to be success wherever s(he) screens that. There is lot of varied soulful singing and instrumental there.

This is the same thing I observed or rather went on a journey with her. While Ms. Amonkar was infamous for her tantrums, she was equally beautiful when she was in her flow and more than that, once she started singing, soon your eyes would be closed and you are transported to some other world. The same quality I have seen in some of the other great artists too.

The best thing of her show and shows of other classical artists who perform late at nights, the audience, at least the Pune audience has learnt the art of soundless clap. ‘Soundless clap’ means after the performance is over, you leave in silence. Instead of clapping, the silence is more treasured by the artists who understand the significance. The same thing happened with her, I was out of this world, when I came back I found I was only one is the entire auditorium and there was nobody else. I came out and while there were street vendors doing brisk business, most of the business was without sound as if nobody wanted to break the magic spell. I went to a tea vendor, by signal asked him for tea and something to eat, paid him and slowly came back home and slept.

The next day I shared this story with my grandpa, my mother’s father and he shared he also liked classical music in his time and in their time, the people had more time. There used to be such musical festivals which went for days 24×7 . That was one of the first times I felt a tinge of regret that I was born today instead of some 50-60 years back although he had his fair share of challenges in his life as well. He had been a witness to the British and Indian rule. He’s no longer with us, god rest his soul.

In the end while Ms. Amonkar left us too quickly and suddenly, I do wish and hope that she did enough that she goes beyond this karmic life and death dance . If however, there is still some more things to be worked out, I hope she is again born a woman with the same passion for classical singing as before. With that I bid adieu the queen of musical spell 🙂

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