The Calendar Project by Kalyan Varma

When you think of a conference, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Maybe you think about the talks, of meeting some friends, of the boring food — basically an escape from the monotonous routine of the office. Well, in the case of FOSS.IN that is far from the truth. FOSS.IN has had an impact on a lot of people –so let’s hear from one of them!

In 1999, a college boy sent a harmless message to a mailing list asking if he can attend the next LUG meeting. The response was a resounding “of course” you may attend, the more the merrier and thus started the journey which continues to this day. The college boy in question is none other than acclaimed naturalist and wildlife photographer Kalyan Varma in conversation with Team FOSS.IN.

KB: Kallu, how and when did you get involved with FOSS?
KV: I’m not certain of the date, but it was back in college and I came across the PCQ issue with Slackware on it. I was terribly excited and had been on the lookout for something like this. I promptly grabbed a copy and installed it on my server at the college.

KB: What happened next?
KV: In a nutshell, my life changed. I heard that there was a Linux Users Group in Bangalore and they were about to meet, I sheepishly wrote an email asking if I could attend and was happy to have attended. Next came IT.COM where there was a Linux pavilion  and there was no way I was staying away from that I volunteered to work with the community on that event. I had such a blast. Installing servers on all kinds of machines, showing stuff to people walking in and watching in amazement at how they were shocked and awed by what was happening.

KB: What were your feelings about this community?
KV: I just could not believe it, or get enough of it. I went back to college and started doing lectures, talks and demos on a regular basis. I loved the community and started contributing in any which way I could. It was like a religion.

KB: What about your college and studies?
KV: To be honest, while I was studying Mechanical Engineering  I spent most of time doing stuff with Linux and the community. I think my learning was far greater than what I got from classes and books. So in a sense, it really defined what I am today. College was not about classes it was about hanging out with this community that defined me.

KB: Did your FOSS experience help you in your career?
KV: As I left college, I interned with a FOSS solutions organisation. Soon after that Yahoo! hired me, purely because of my Linux and security skills. I learnt security the hard way, but it was a great lesson and I dived in completely. Early on I started sharing all my exploits and learnings with college students and at all FOSS events that happened. Exposure to both FOSS and the community most certainly helped me in my career.

KB: Let’s call that the geek phase of your life, what happened next?
KV: While at Yahoo! I was busy with work and kept as active as I possibly could with the community. Somewhere around that time I got the opportunity to explore nature. I quit my job and went into the jungles. By no means did I forget the FOSS community or the events. On the contrary, I decided to share my work with the world and started putting high-resolution images on various sites and blogs for anyone to download and use. People were amazed and shocked to find this kind of work available for free. I applied the FOSS model to sharing my work, and it paid off.

KB: In all of this how did you get around to making a calendar for FOSS.IN?
KV: I was back after a long stint at BR Hills when Atul and Swati cornered me and suggested that I share some of the work with the delegates of FOSS.IN. We were not clear as to how that would happen, but the timing was just right for a calendar. Given that FOSS.IN happens in the last week of November or the first week of December, a calendar made perfect sense. The rest as they say is history. I was able to put my work out so easily and share it with a special audience and community.

15 years on, I still do what I do and am happy to be part of FOSS.IN every year. Am looking forward to the event this year as well.

KB: Thanks Kallu for sharing that wonderful story with us .

Kalyan Varma is one of the few who made his journey with FOSS.IN a life experience, he started as a volunteer, came back as speaker initially on “security” and then eventually as a photographer. Was also the keynote speaker at one edition of FOSS.IN and is always there for the event. His calendar is truly remarkable and finds it’s place on many a desk around the world.

Special thanks to Sanisoft for making the calendar happen every year!