Sometime back, I was reading an article about the somewhat uglier side of coder culture. I personally feel that the article generalizes a bit too much, though I have definitely, on occasion, have had to deal with very aggressive and annoying behavior from fellow coders. However, this post it not about those incidents - this is about something of the opposite nature.
Way back in 2002, I was just getting started contributing to FOSS, and one of the things I was excited about was local language computing, especially supporting Bangla in Free and Open Source Software. I had very little clue about what had to be done, but it was an exciting and meaningful project to work on, and I had found people from other parts of the world who were interested in collaborating with me over email and IRC, so we were slowly making some progress. I was still in high-school. In August 2002, I suddenly got contacted by a group of people (among whom was Venky Hariharan), inviting me to join a Indic Computing Workshop in Bangalore. After a bit of back and forth which looked like “oh, but I’m just a high-school student”, “that’s fine, we want you to be here”, etc. I finally found myself in a plane to Bangalore (tickets courtesy the organizers). Once in the workshop though, I started to have a major attack of what I would now probably describe as impostor complex. I was definitely the youngest attendee in the workshop - most of the other participants were either professional developers, or established members of the open source community. There were a significant presence from academia as well. The anxiety eased a bit over the next couple of days - it was an incredibly fun and friendly community, and I was glad to find people who shared the same passion around Indic Computing that I did at that time. However, the nicest moment came when I was leaving. I had an early flight, so I was leaving in the middle of a session and I suddenly noticed Karunakar, who was already quite a “rockstar” in the local-language computing space, running towards me. He stopped me as I was leaving, shook my hands, and in his usual quiet style, mentioned that he was really glad to have met me face-to-face, and that he hoped to continue our interactions online. It was a small gesture, but a very significant one for me personally. It made me feel much more welcome and comfortable in the community, and ultimately, made me much more enthusiastic about being a participant.
So, after nearly 10 years, to Karunakar, a long overdue thanks! :-)
May 14, 2012