This Paradoxical World

The former actress and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha, ruled this wonderful state for more than 15 years, before her untimely and mysterious death a few months ago on 6th December, 2016. A lot of people in Tamil Nadu love her and that is why she was elected over four times. She was a queen and an iron lady who bowed to know one. She kept the right-wing fanatics at bay and cemented her position as the “supreme leader.”

She sounds cool, doesn’t she? She was cool….. except for the fact that she was also corrupt and she allowed corrupt people to flourish under her rule. Of course, prior to her rule the corruption was at a grander scale. So I guess we, the people of Tamil Nadu, should be happy that corruption happened at a lesser scale during her rule. I never voted for her party when she was alive and I never will vote in the future. The woman was corrupt. But I cried like a child when she passed away. I sat in front of the TV for a whole day and watched her funeral procession, her body being lowered into her grave, all her old speeches, and I cried and cried and cried. I even sat with my grandmother, who was her big fan, and watched Jayalalitha’s old movies and songs from the 1960s and 70s. In fact, I just discovered a Facebook page in dedication to her and my eyes were filled with tears when I went through her photos and her quotes. I don’t quite understand this. What is this new-found love that I have for this lady? I agree that I did have a soft corner for her even when she was alive because I always admired her boldness, and her leadership qualities. But still, how come my eyes moisten when I think about her even now?

My mind goes back to the Facebook post that I wrote a few weeks after the lady’s death. I wrote that what happened was for the good of this state’s people. I believe that the two cyclones that damaged this state in 2015 and 16, and this death has united the people more than ever. This unity led to the popular Jallikattu uprising. If those two cyclones and Jayalalitha’s death hadn’t happened, the Jallikattu protests would never have occurred. People learned how to use Facebook and Whatsapp to unite when those cyclones struck, and the protests were organised from the lessons that were learned. And the “Iron Lady” of Tamil Nadu would have crushed those protests if she had been alive. “Not on my watch,” she would have said. But then, people wouldn’t have protested in the first place if she was alive. We took matter into our own hands because we have this feeling of insecurity after her death. There is this great power struggle happening to consolidate power, and the dormant right-wing fanatics have started wagging their tails in her absence. All this makes us even more insecure. We have always been having this feeling of insecurity about the safety of our language and culture and this feeling has only been heightened now. But I believe everything is interconnected. All of this happened for  a reason.

What is it that is happening to us humans? I am not sure. Ours is a strange existence with a paradoxical history and we have tried to comprehend it  by giving it various meanings. But what is the truth behind it all? Only time will tell. But there is no guarantee that we will live to see it.

 

The Paradoxical Paradox (or I just realised I like the word paradox):

In Tamil, there is a saying — “Yellam Nanmaikkey!” This could be roughly translated as: Everything that happens is for good or Everything happens for a good reason. Or something like that. This leads us to some very interesting questions and thoughts. I mean, think about  all the tragedies that have happened on this planet so far. Are you telling me that all of that happened for good? I am not an atheist, so this allows me to think further about this question. Of course, we are yet to understand the human mind completely, we can neither understand God’s mind nor his plans. Do we even possess the kind of mind that it takes to understand God’s mind? No. We can only guess. So what is it that I am guessing here?

I think that that saying is true, everything that happens is for a good reason. This is going to offend a lot of people. Maybe even the British occupation of India happened for a good reason? It did result in the death of a lot of people, our wealth being plundered, and other injustices, but still, maybe it is for the good. What about the horrendous caste system? That too happened for the good? The caste system has caused and is still causing a lot of injustices in this country. It should never have happened, and if I could travel back in time I would travel back to stop it from happening. But, what good has the caste system caused in this society? I could think of nothing. A lot of people in India have managed to preserve their “pure” blood lines. Is that any good? I don’t know. The holocaust happened for a good reason too? The US butchering the middle east in the name of freedom and democracy is good too? If we want to believe that “Everything that happens is for good,” then we should also be ready to believe that all these injustices happened for a good reason as well. Maybe we will see the good at a later point in time. Will we? Or maybe we never will, but our grandchildren will see it one day, I guess. Life is so unfair, isn’t it? I don’t understand life, I don’t even understand myself at times. Things seem so strange, and meaningless.

What you should do

What does this mean? Does this mean that you should sit back and watch as life unfolds? Should you silently observe God’s plans regardless of how cruel the events are? Of course, we think it is cruel, but it happens for a good reason, I am sure (I guess). But still…… it doesn’t feel right, does it? I think we should fight back. We should fight against all injustices even if that means us losing our lives. Aren’t we just little dust motes stuck to this bigger dust mote called Earth flinging around recklessly in this dark vacuum? I think at the end of the day, us fighting against all injustices is also part of God’s plan.

 

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“About Me”

I once had an About-me page on this blog. It spanned over 10 points about my likes and dislikes and I tried to explain what kind of a person I am and I hoped it sounded “cool”. I still remember what drove me to write that — it was another About-me page that I had read on a blog and I thought that it was totally awesome. That page had two sections, a shorter introduction and a longer introduction and I loved how that blogger described  himself. This was about five or six years ago. But after a couple of years, I took down that page because I thought I sounded a bit narcissistic and egotistic. I still love reading About-me pages and those little Twitter statuses. I wish I was someone and I could describe myself perfectly like so many others. Now this leads me to the question, “Who am I?”

A question that I have been asking myself eternally. I was thinking about this just yesterday and my impish mind immediately gave an answer — “He who cannot be described!” You know, like You-know-who. Pretty cool, right? Except, I am still unsatisfied with this answer, and yes, there is a bit of egotism even in this. At least even if I had some talents, I could label myself as a “pianist” or a “Kung-Fu master” or a “programmer” or a “writer”. I wish I had all these talents, but I don’t. I am a talent-less lump of a being. But, but, what is the need to label oneself? I don’t know, it just feels good to know who we are. It feels good to have a purpose or a role to play in life. I hate groping around in the dark and I wish I could categorise myself under some banner that I could proudly stand under.

But this doesn’t mean that people should be labeled like commodities and treated and judged as such. I have come across such people who refer to others as “Cancerians” (is that even a word?) or “Leos” or “Liberals” and the list goes on and on. I get irritated when people do this, and some people ask to be referred this way which is even more pathetic. “Liberal” reads a Twitter status.  This is just pure madness.

I am neither a conservative, nor a liberal. I don’t have rigid views as I understand that each situation is different and so our rigid views cannot be a solution to all situations. One size does not fit all. What this world requires is common sense. I understand that I need to be a capitalist in one situation, and a communist in another. I will be a liberal in one situation and a conservative in another.

Please do not confuse this with adapting to different situations; I am not talking about adaptability. I am talking about having common sense.

All of this is delusion, all of this is pure madness, and the problem with labeling oneself is that it adds to this delusion. How much more deluded do you want to be? This is literally inviting delusion inside of us. Even atheists sound so religious in their belief of non-existence of God.

Hold on a second, hold on a second, let me think about myself before I continue with this rant. What are the labels have I given myself or I have acquired naturally through my birth? I am an Indian, a proud Tamil, and……. can’t really think of anything else…my mind just prompted me to add Raja Yogi and Kriya Yogi, but I think that would be an insult to all the great Yogis who lived before me and are living right now. Let’s dissect this for a moment — Indian and Tamil.

I have a sense of loyalty to this country that I live in and I take pride in being a Tamil. Is there anything wrong in this?It would be wrong if I think people from other countries/states or people from other races or people who speak different languages are inferior to me. I don’t think that. Some people may say that a country is an artificial man-made entity and so there is no point in being patriotic. I completely disagree to this as it is this man-made entity that protects us from the barbarians out there. If you live in one of those villages that is located near the India-Pakistan border and if you rely on the Indian military for your protection, I am 100% sure that you would be more patriotic, but since you are able to sit in your comfy chair, inside your cozy home, you make such mindless comments. All your reasoning, and all your philosophies and principles and labels will only work with people like me. Why don’t you go to Libya and proudly unfurl your banner and appeal to the poor misguided ISIS souls with all your individualistic charm? I am sure it will work out and the world will be a better place for all of us. Please do us this favour. The world counts on you. And don’t forget that selfie.

So, is it wrong to call oneself a pianist if one is good at the piano? Not at all. All I am saying is, just don’t go too overboard with it. Don’t become one with the piano and think that guitarists are part of the problem. Do not constrain yourself under any category.  Don’t be this or don’t be that. Human beings are more than just labels.

A special note to people who label themselves as vegans, atheists, and nihilists:

***** start of note *****

Don’t be a condescending prick.

***** end of note *****

How I fell in love with Linux and How you could too

Age of Darkness

Operating System — mankind has fought many religious wars over this topic in its brief history.  Before I was a silent observer to many of such bloodshed, before I myself occasionally partook in such battles, before I even learnt that such holy crusades had happened, I was a happy Windows user. It was a time when nobody ever compared Windows to any other operating system. This was mostly because we never knew that such systems existed (I live in India, a place where Apple’s influence is still not as powerful as it is in the West). I lived in a Windows world without knowing it. So did I love Windows? To this, I ask you: do you love your toothbrush? Because I neither love it nor hate it. I don’t think anybody even thinks about their toothbrush when they mechanically brush their teeth without giving it a thought. The only time we think about our toothbrush is when we want to buy a new one. Windows was like that — I neither loved it, nor hated it. It was a tool that I needed to browse the web, watch a movie, program, play games, and so on. It was a tool for me to do things and I didn’t think about it much. But all this changed on that fateful Sunday in the year 2011.

Age of Enlightenment

It was sometime during the last quarter of that year, and I was lying on my bed on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was feeling bored and suddenly the word Linux popped into my head. ‘Linux,’ I thought. ‘What exactly is it?’ I got up and logged into my desktop and googled. What followed was enlightenment. There are hundreds of Linux operating systems out there and we could choose the one that best suits our needs and tastes, I learnt. It was a mind-blowing moment. ‘There are hundreds of operating systems out there?’ All I knew was Windows and an operating system that runs on Apple computers. And the best part: it’s all FREE!

The desktop of an operating system, in the Linux world, is extremely customizable, and if you still don’t like it, you can install a new desktop and get rid of the default one — WOW! And all these years I was stuck with the same boring desktop.  I decided to install a Linux system in my computer and I was spoiled for choice. I couldn’t decide which Linux system to install. Then I googled, ‘the best Linux distribution for beginners’ (in the Linux world, an operating system is usually referred to as distribution). All the roads led to a Linux distribution called Ubuntu. I wasted no time in downloading Ubuntu, followed some online instructions to install and dual-boot it alongside Windows. It was simple (although I did end up accidentally formatting the entire D drive when I tried this the second time). I loved Ubuntu. I spent many months, downloading and installing various software, and customizing the desktop environment to my heart’s content. It was a period of great enlightenment and empowerment. I felt so happy with my new-found powers and control. As days passed, I learnt that I could rip apart the whole Linux operating system and put it back together! This was too much power and fun for me. I learnt that I could even touch and manipulate the brain of the operating system — the kernel  (Each operating system, at its core, has a kernel. Windows NT, is the name of the kernel used in Windows operating systems, Darwin is the name of kernel used in Apple’s Mac OS X, and Linux is the name of the kernel used in Linux distributions. In fact, it is the Linux kernel that gives Linux its name). I could manipulate the kernel itself? That is exactly what I did after learning this fact. I followed an online tutorial and made some minor edits to the kernel. I felt like a mad scientist. This is how computers should be used, I realized. We’ve been using computers wrong! We’ve been doing computers and ourselves a great injustice!

Age of Enlightenment Redefined

A couple of months rolled by, and it was February 2012. A wandering wizard from the West visited India, and he traveled all the way down south to Chennai. It was someone called Richard Stallman, a name hitherto unheard of in these parts. He gave a speech to a packed auditorium of 3000 students at IIT Madras. On the next day’s newspaper, I read about him and his entire speech. It was mind-blowing. Never in my life has any speech altered my mind so quickly and deeply. It was a call to war. Here was a man of such greatness, here was a man of such courage, here was a man of great character, will power, and self-discipline. If the science of computers is a religion, then Richard Stallman is certainly one of its Gods. Suddenly, people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs appeared as little children in front of his greatness. We are looking at the wrong people for inspiration, I realized. As I started learning more and more about Stallman and his principles, I started loving him more and more. When I learnt about the pain and hardships that he had undergone, I could deeply connect and empathize with him. Richard Stallman is an American software activist, creator of the GNU operating system, which along with the Linux kernel, is now called as Linux, the Founder and President of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and he is the giant upon whose shoulders the entire Open Source movement stands.

OKAY, what exactly are Mr.Stallman’s principles that I am praising so much?

It is Stallman’s grand vision that has made me one of his biggest fans. Being a fan of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs is like being a fan of Alexander the Great or Napoleon Bonaparte. Yes, of course, Alexander and Napoleon were great leaders and geniuses and they both wanted to conquer the known world and did succeed to a certain extent, just like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have. The similarities between Alexander and Bill Gates, and Napoleon and Steve Jobs makes for an interesting study. Alexander conquered more countries than Napoleon, but Napoleon was a better tactician and even during his time, he was that rare person who understood what “being cool” meant and he made sure how the general public perceived him. But in spite of all their brilliance and bravery on the battlefield, who are these people? Men who wanted power, men who wanted money, men who wanted more. And who are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs? Ruthless businessmen who have destroyed competition, even illegally,  that came in their way. Both of them even have a dark side, but that is beyond the scope of this article. But if you’d like a taste of it, then read this New York Times article on Jobs: Steve Jobs Defied Convention, and Perhaps the Law. Here’s an interview of Steve Wozniak, the guy who co-founded Apple along with Jobs, and the guy who actually built the first Apple computer explaining how Steve Jobs cheated him of his money: Steve Wozniak: I Cried When Steve Jobs Kept Atari Bonus to Himself.

Remember Netscape Navigator? That friendly browser that we all used more than 10 years ago? Well, Bill Gates played an active role in the illegal destruction of the Netscape company so that Internet Explorer could be a success. Read all about it here. Microsoft was taken to court, but let off the hook and later Microsoft funded George W Bush’s election campaign.

How could these people be our role model?

The thing that I love about Richard Stallman is that he’s above all these politics and this mad rush for money. He sees everything from a God’s standpoint. That’s right, I said God’s standpoint.

Stallman’s Point of View

We have come to a point in time where software is everything. Software runs this world. We need software to travel, software for handling money, software in life saving medical equipment, software to make medicine, to process food, to wash our clothes, to refrigerate our food, and so on. The amount of money in our bank accounts, our life and medical insurances are all regulated by software. Think about it. Our entire destiny is intertwined with software. So why should we allow certain private companies to dictate terms for the usage of software?

Stallman asks: Why is it illegal to share my Windows 7 DVD with my best friend? After all, it’s my best friend and the DVD is mine. I paid money for it! Don’t you think that something is wrong here?

He says that we have every right to get the source code of the software that we buy, to modify the software, and to share it with others. Such software is called FREE software and Dr.Richard Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to spread this truth. Free software means software that respects the users’ freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. So the “Free” here doesn’t refer to cost. It means Freedom to users and software developers.

But doesn’t Free software sound like Open source?

In many cases Free software can be Open source and Open source software can be Free software, but not in all cases. The Open source model came into existence later and it focuses more on software — it is a software development model. But the Free software movement focuses not on the software, but on the users; it is ethics.

When Human Beings collaborate, rather than fight against each other over patents, great things happen

To prove this point let me give you an example. More than 10 years ago, when a group of people decided to create an Operating System for mobile phones, they thought that instead of reinventing the wheel and wasting time and money, they could use the Linux kernel as the Operating System’s kernel. Today, we call this Operating System Android. Linus Torvalds created the Linux kernel in 1991,  and until Android came into existence, the kernel was primarily used in personal computers, servers, and supercomputers. But now, Linux is more widespread, thanks to Android.

You see what happens when people share? Nobody can use the Windows NT kernel because it belongs to Microsoft. But anyone can use the Linux kernel because it’s a Free software. Richard Stallman started this revolution by creating the GNU system and giving it away for free (free as in freedom and also free of cost). Linus Torvalds created the Linux kernel and did the same. Why do you think there are hundreds of Linux operating systems out there? Since it is free, many software developers, without fear of someone accusing them of theft, take the source code, modify it and create their own versions of Linux. This is why there are so many Linux operating systems out there.

It has been more than two years since I stopped using Windows for my personal computing altogether. So far, I have used at least seven or eight Linux distributions and I will be trying out more in the future. So what are you waiting for? Get that external hard disk, backup all your data, and give Linux a try.

If you would like to explore more about this, please follow the links below.

One Man’s Fight for Free Software — a New York Times article that came out in the year 1989.

http://www.gnu.org/ — The GNU website that explains everything about Free Software.

richard stallman

Important Note: When I say Linux, I mean GNU/Linux. Linux is the name of the kernel used in the GNU Operating system. The proper way of calling this system is GNU/Linux (pronounced “Gnoo-slash-Linux” — the G is not silent). For the sake of brevity, people commonly refer to this system as Linux.

How Big are you?

A friend of mine forwarded me a mail that asked me a simple question at the end. Maybe you’ve read this before, but it’s completely worth rereading.

DEAR   FRIEND SOMETHING VERY FUN’TASTIC

It’s rather dazzling to see it presented this way.

I CERTAINLY THOUGHT THIS WAS ENLIGHTENING. BEYOND OUR SUN … IT’S A BIG UNIVERSE.


ANTARES IS THE 15TH BRIGHTEST STAR IN THE SKY.
IT IS MORE THAN 1000 LIGHT YEARS AWAY.

NOWHOW BIG ARE YOU?
AND HOW BIG ARE THE THINGS THAT UPSET YOU TODAY?

KEEP LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE.


KEEP SMILING!!!!!!!

AND DON’T LET THE

SMALL THINGS WORRY YOU…..

……IT’S ALL UNDER CONTROL….

 

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2012!!!

Steve Jobs’ words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.

“That’s a very limited life,” Jobs says. “Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is, everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

“Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”