Many of you must have read on various blog posts, Facebook statuses and tweets about the success of recently concluded KDE Meetup at DA-IICT. I could attend on the Day 1 of event and I must it was most definitely fun and inspiring to be there at the event. I saw a young team of volunteers lead by young Yash Shah organise a successful KDE event in a very short period of time. Maybe Yash and his team should blog about how they did it. This post is not about that. Most interesting stories have interesting sub-plots or smaller stories that have to be told as well. This post is about one such small story (pic).
KDE Meetup was organised in the state of Gujarat. The organising team had sent out event notifications to various colleges and universities of Gujarat ( and other states of India ). One such invite reached Bhulabhai Vanmalibhai Patel Institute of Business Management, Computer & Information Technology a constituent of Uka Tarsadia University, Bardoli. Bardoli is a small municipality in Surat region. A group of 50 students from this college had registered for the meetup. That meant, these 50 students had to travel around 300-400 KMs, an overnight journey to Gandhinagar to attend the event. Reach Gandhinagar early in the morning, freshen up in the hostel/hotel and then run to the venue. And brave those chaps were, they did all that. It was a bit amusing to see a bunch of 50 people in suits ( some kind of college blazer/jacket it seems ) in a FOSS event *.
Day 1 commenced with a introductory talk by student mentor, Professor Muthu and then my talk. Following that, it was all "how to code in Qt / KDE" talks by our own awesome dudes - Vishesh and Shantanu. Those talks were pretty much live coding and explaining how to get started with Qt and KDE development. At 1 PM we broke for lunch for an hour or so. Post lunch we had a group photograph ( a la Akademy style ).
This is the point where, I decided to not attend talks and rather spend time talking to some folks. I wanted to talk to Mitul Maniar, professor from a nearby college who was attending as a delegate. As I sat on one of those benches in the sprawling gardens in the campus and spoke to him about FOSS and related things, I noticed something suspiciously worrying. A big gang of students, standing exactly on the opposite side of the garden near the lecture hall 1, were deep in discussion among themselves. They were not sure what they wanted to do. They were trying to decide on something. All of them wearing the familiar navy blue blazer.
I told Mitul that definitely there was something wrong as they were the only delegates who didn't go back in to the lecture hall to attend the post lunch workshops. I wanted to go upto them and check if everything is alright. But I hesitated and waited for them to make some kind of move. The discussed a bit more and then I saw the big group breaking up in two. The first group started walking away, I thought they were going to the lecture hall. No! They didn't. I was wrong. They were leaving the campus. I decided to ask. By the time I, along with Mitul, reached the big tree in the middle of the garden, most of them had either already left the garden or about to leave.
I stopped Gaurav Prajapati, one of the delegates from that group and asked him whether they are leaving. And why? He said, yes many of of them want to leave because they were not able to understand much during the pre-lunch sessions. I asked them exactly what they didn't understand. Gaurav was joined by another guy, who told me that they are having a very difficult time after the initial introductory bits. I requested Gaurav and his friend to immediately tell his group to stop and talk to me. It took some amount of convincing from my side that I wanted to listen to them and hear them out and their issues. Mitul talked to them in Gujarati as well and told them to wait and listen. Slowly, one by one Gaurav and his friends convinced most of them to come back.
The huge (Neem?) tree was a perfect place to sit and talk. So I sat right there and told them to sit along with me if they are fine with that kind of setting. Luckily most of them were fine with it. So we sat there and started talking. I asked them what happened and why they were leaving. They told me that they were really stressed out and fatigued because of the overnight journey and the amount of new things they heard was just too much information thrown at them in a very short time. They were dejected and had given up all hope to get anything out of this event.
They told me that most of them are doing an Integrated M.Sc. IT course and were in Second year of their course. They also told me that they were new to many concepts that was told to them during the talks. They knew about "Open Source" (which is a subject in their course) and knew what FSF was. I asked them if they use Linux, most of them said yes, at least in college. Some used it even on their personal laptops. I asked them if they know or have used GCC, surprisingly every one did. How about Vi/Vim? Everybody raised hands. One dude in the group said, they have Python in their next semester. I immediately told them that they had pretty much all prerequisites they needed to be in the KDE Meetup and the workshops.
Then they told me that, they have never used KDE SC before and weren't sure what was happening. I asked them why didn't ask questions. Then came and amazingly interesting answer. One of them told me that they were scared to ask questions ( a standard Indian student thing, imo ), and they were more scared about asking them in English. They said, they understood English fine but were just scared when it came to asking a question when surrounded by 320 other people. Funny, how that resonated so well in my mind. I immediately told them, that is hardly a worry. When I was in school in Panvel, I was shit scared to talk to people in English especially when I used to go to Mumbai for college/classes. I remember writing my questions before hand, modifying them to fix grammar etc and then finally raising my hand to ask the question. FWIW, I know, somewhere deep in my heart, I am still scared to speak in English. I know, I have made a lot of grammatical mistakes in this post and the previous ones.
I spoke to them for almost 2 hours. Told them what KDE and KDE SC was. I told them what we do. I told them the benefits of contributing to KDE Project or to any FOSS project. Tried to tell them how that makes a difference to them and their lives. How it helps in their career? Told them not to run away and give up. Tried to convince them to stick around. I requested Yash to arrange a special workshop on the next day for all the 50 delegates. Yash was kind enough to organise it. We roped in ex-GoC students Sinny Kumari, Aditya Bhatt, Yash Shah, Jigar Raisinghani to conduct a workshop. The agenda was set. Show them what KDE SC is. Demo a few KDE applications. Then show them how to write those applications. Also the most important bit was to make sure the workshop was conducted in both English with splattering of Hindi and Gujarati so that they would be comfortable. All of them readily agreed. We told the delegates the time and place for their special workshop.
I left the event that very night. Next day from Pune, I remotely followed their workshop (pic) over IM messages with Jigar and Yash. Did a quick Google Hangout with them ( thanks Yash ). I couldn't believe what I saw. I remembered the dejected eyes and droopy shoulders from the day before. All of them were smiling now. They were enjoying their special workshop. KDE SC and KDE Edu was demoed to them. They clapped when saw Simon at work. They were a happy bunch. They even fixed Qt related mistakes that Aditya did at the end of the workshop. They asked questions about their doubts. Epic! Interestingly, they finished their workshop in two hours ( 2 hours less than the first workshop on Day 1 conduced for the rest of the delegates ). Post lunch they attended the regular workshops with the rest of the delegates.
Before leaving, the Bardoli Gang, as we now call them, thanked all the volunteers. In their own words - "We want you to come to our college and organise KDE Meetup there too.”. Another quote as Yash remembers, "agar hum koi dusre workshop mein hote toh chale bhi gaye hote aur hume kisi ne roka bhi nai hota" ( translates to - "if we would had gone to some other workshop, we would have left. Mostly nobody would have stopped us" ). To quote Devaja Shah ( a regular dot writer now and event volunteer ) - "Words can’t describe their enthusiasm and eagerness and our joy and happiness. The sole aim of the KDE community was met - everyone is a part of our community and we do our best to help them."
Personally, for me, I am happy that this event was a success. One of the metrics for success would be when we see contributors coming out of this event. I am already getting reports that people are hanging around on #kde-in and looking out for Junior Jobs to get their feet wet. We already have Devaja Shah and Kesha Shah who plan to actively contribute to Dot. I had told the Bardoli gang, please hear me out, I don't want them to leave. You have come a long way to attend this event. You have even paid for it. Hear me out. Then decide if you still don't want to stay here. If you leave, I would consider this as my personal defeat. I am super glad that they stayed and will stay. I am very happy and satisfied about this, more so than any other achievement I have had since my association with the KDE Project. KDE, the community is the most friendly community I know of, it always welcomes newbies with open hearts. Glad that I didn't fail.
What I like most about this incident is that it associated with a place which has huge significance in Indian Independence. The Bardoli Satyagraha. Do read about it.
Thank you all those who attend the event. Thank you Vishesh, Shantanu, Rishabh, Sinny, Jigar, Rohan, Aditya. Thank you Professor Mutthu. Thanks Mitul for standing by me during those two hours and translating in Gujarati when required :). Organisers/Volunteers you have probably read my email. I shouldn't forget to thank our awesome sponsors - SaniSoft, VCreateLogic and ThoughtWorks. Thank you Devaja, for helping me write this post. Thank you Smit Shah for pestering me daily to write a blog post :).
Trivia : Only other person wearing a blazer was the event lead - Yash Shah :P.
Update : Since it is a rocket science to embed photos in LJ. I am just including the whole set from Sinny Kumari. Here you go.