Tell Us Something About Yourself

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Read Time:4 Minute, 27 Second

The other day, I just got back from a 15-minute a.k.a short break during my ‘Communications Training’. My trainer had a wonderful activity in store for us. We had to introduce ourselves in a story or poetry form. No names to be disclosed. At first, it seemed a herculean task – but as I started writing, I figured it was worse. It just didn’t sit well with me. I had to do something different – something that helps me express myself. I didn’t want to cut a sorry figure mouthing lines like a parrot. That’s when I decided to go extempore (Show-off, did you say? Well… then, show-off it is). What came out of my mouth the other day was an excerpt. Here are the whole nine yards. Read on!!!

Several blue moons ago, in a dusty town, which by the way is also known as Orange City, landed a lanky yet handsome blue-eyed man with his lissom wife. No – they didn’t meet there, didn’t fall in love there (arranged marriage, you see), didn’t get married there (that happened in God’s Own Country) – they just reached there from yet another town, about 250KM East. This was the beginning of an epic journey called Marital Life that they embarked on, in the year MCMLXXVI AD, a leap year, the year in which Eagles released Hotel California.

It was not a bed of roses – far from it. While they could just make ends meet, I’m sure that’s not what every man/woman dream of after entering the sacrament of Holy matrimony (no – we’re not Catholics). One thing led to another and they brought their first offspring into this big bad world. Seven pounds and a half – a healthy baby – the firstborn – a SON. In a patriarchal world, this was good news. Now knowing any better – they named him after the erstwhile reigning superstar of what is now called Bollywood.

The day is special too – it was a pleasant winter afternoon-going-on-evening. 1620 IST if I could be precise. It was the very day, several millennia ago, a messiah was born in Bethlehem. I’d like to quote a few lines from the famous Boney M song – Mary’s Boy Child (released in 1978 – that’s not my Y.O.B.)

While shepherds watch their flocks by night

They see a bright new shining star

They hear a choir sing a song, the music seemed to come from afar

Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today

And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day

Wait a minute, my Christian brethren – I mean no disrespect. Just a coincidence, here. Peace?

Not a king – but the apple of their eye.

Not a manger – but a small hospital in the urban area of the largest city of North Malabar. The place has a sobriquet too – The land of looms and lore.

That’s where this skinny boy was born. 25th December. Don’t get funny ideas – the boy was far from what you’re already thinking. If you thought of the devil – we couldn’t agree any more than this. Good Job.

This family took the boy to his new home – back to Orange City. The house was a rented apartment in a pre-independence building. This is where he would go from crawling on all fours to riding on two wheels (driven by a moderately powerful 125cc engine). He spent the first 29 years of his life there. More on this here.

Moving On

In 2005, this boy – now a young man moved bag and baggage to what is also called the City of Seven Island, City of Dreams, Maximum City etc. this was where he knew what a five-figure salary feels like. He also got a taste of Adrenaline rush, some Ethanol derivates, some Cortisol, some serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins etc. This city looked like a nuthouse to him, in the beginning. He never knew he would settle down here and start a family one fine day.

More on the boy’s/young man’s migration diaries here.

The boy who once got into trouble for NOT SPEAKING to classmates – now instructs his students NOT TO SPEAK to classmates (only while he’s teaching). From ‘getting scared of teachers’ to ‘getting scared of the boss’ – life has come a full circle. The boy – hereinafter called ‘man’ who has lots to say – but only a few open minds to comprehend the contents, in toto. The man – who stands 6 ft. tall but stands humbled before his 5 ft. something queen. The man who reprimands students for not completing their assignments – but gets reprimanded for not cleaning the house (even after a seemingly arduous day at work. The man – who excels in Communication Skills – but still struggles to get a word in edgeways at home. the man who teaches students how to debate – but has never won a single debate with Her Majesty. the man with a face only his mother could love – now has an eight-year-old who calls him a Prince Charming (Kids!!!).

The man must now rest his tired fingers before Carpel-Tunnel syndrome sets in. I’ll be back soon – in a millennium maybe. Going back to my ‘hiding under the rock’ phase.

Bye for now.

About Post Author

Kottayi Amith

A teacher, a father, an agreeable (do I have a choice?) husband - I love to play with words. I spin the yarn - and she maintains the (cob)webs. As different as chalk and cheese - we get along very well on this one topic - My Website. Welcome to our world of words and ways of word-smithy. I hope you do not regret your visit here, to say the least.
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Extempore and Networking

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Read Time:4 Minute, 23 Second

Hello, all you lovely people.

Weird title? No – it isn’t.

I’m glad I could find some time to pen a few lines. This time it was almost like an epiphany. Like all other epiphanies I’ve had before, this one proved an eye-opener once again. What’s the title got to do with this, you ask? Hold on – all good things come to the man/woman who waits.

Extempore is not just an activity you engaged in, in school or college. It’s a real-life situation and could prove a nightmare if you do not handle it with care. Let us tear this apart. Let us begin with defining the word.

Before that, here’s how to pronounce ‘extempore’ – a word that’s widely mispronounced.

Cambridge Dictionary:

Chambers dictionary:

Google dictionary:

Now that we have got the definition out of the way, let us take a look at its implications. As mentioned earlier, this is not just a word to be defined, it is a situation we may have to live and thereby overcome sometimes. Or should I say many a time? I guess the latter is more befitting.

This is not a new concept or situation. We all have been through this many times – just that we may not have known what it is called. The only reason we need to talk about it is that this will help you recover from such situations easily if not majestically. The problem gets compounded if one also suffers from stage fright a.k.a. Glossophobia.

Glossophobia + Extempore = Catastrophe

While people smartly take care of Glossophobia, an extempore situation may sometimes be shoved down our throats, making it difficult to recover unhurt. However, from my experience, I can vouch for the fact that Glossophobia can be cured. I suffered from it once, as a schoolboy. Today, I teach an entire class of sophomores and have a reasonable (if not magnanimous) following. I would shudder even at the thought or reading from a textbook (from my desk), let alone speaking extempore taking the centre stage. I’ve come a long way – is all I can say for now. However, the journey was not at all easy. On the contrary, I have suffered many a fiasco. The bottom line is – now I’m at peace.

Now let us move on to the next word in the title – Networking.

In my honest opinion, rarely is anyone born with guts of steel and the resultant mind-blowing confidence. We are all born the same – scared of many things. Situations change us – some make us, some break us. However, one of the many things that help overcome an extempore speaking situation is general knowledge. A little knowledge of various topics never hurt. In such critical situations, it can prove a life-saver. They say, birds of a feather flock together. This is not an automatic process – even the birds need to FIND other birds of similar plumage for flocking. In the same way, find people with similar interests and network with them regularly.

Similar interests don’t matter. It depends on the kind of information or knowledge you seek. E.g. if I need to need to sharpen my knowledge of legal terms, I would try to be in the company of lawyers. If photography interests me (and I’ve just discovered that), I would hang out with photographers. If I don’t know any, I would get somebody to introduce me to one so that I can network with them. There’s a biblical phrase I strongly believe in – “Ask, and thou shall receive”. Although I do not subscribe to the theosophical context of the phrase, I do, to the social context.

I maintain – not all knowledge is gleaned from books. Some can be achieved through social networking too. There is a fine line that one needs to watch out when gaining knowledge through social networking. Gone are the days of virtue, days when speaking the truth was important, days when lying was a sin. Since lies, falsehood, treachery etc. are rampant – choose your network wisely. It’s not that books can’t go wrong – after all, it’s people like us that wrote those books too. There’s a difference though, the older the books – the closer to the truth they are.

All in all, read, discuss intelligent topics, watch meaningful videos (and not trashy newspapers or channels that boast of nation-building while secretly abiding by the diktats of their political masters), network with people who matter. All this only goes a long way in alleviating the problem (of monstrous proportions to some) of Glossophobia, thereby helping you with extempore speech.

Start preparing early and when the situation presents itself, just grab it by the… err (clearing my throat) … collar. The next time someone hands over the mic to you, just do what Nike has been asking you to do since I don’t know when … JUST DO IT.

Bye for now.

About Post Author

Kottayi Amith

A teacher, a father, an agreeable (do I have a choice?) husband - I love to play with words. I spin the yarn - and she maintains the (cob)webs. As different as chalk and cheese - we get along very well on this one topic - My Website. Welcome to our world of words and ways of word-smithy. I hope you do not regret your visit here, to say the least.
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Why I adopted Linuxfx

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Read Time:5 Minute, 44 Second

I make no bones about the fact that I’m a Linux-o-phile (I’ve just made that word up, don’t look up the internet). I’m that child with a fascination for the moon. Well, this is not the first time I’ve dabbled in the Linux waters – it’s the first time I’m penning down my experience though. The best part about all this ‘dabbling’ business is that Linux offers a LIVE CD option – where you can test/experience the OS without installing it. If you’re not impressed, reboot your computer – you’re back to Windows.

My first brush with Linux was when I was a newbie netsurfer (if you know what that means) in 1997-98. I’ve forgotten the name of the distro – but all I remember is that it came with KDE (K Desktop Environment). It was love-at-first-sight. But my issues had just started. I’d fallen in love with an OS I didn’t fully understand (familiar territory?). Then, I didn’t realize that the internet can be used for ‘learning’ too 😉. Good luck with wondering (and judging me for) what I did with the internet, if not for learning.

My first brush passed off like a girl I saw once, somewhere and then never again, for a long time. But my then-dormant flames for Linux were rekindled when I worked as a showroom salesman in Nagpur. My boss entrusted the sales for some Compaq computers that came pre-loaded with Linux (Ubuntu, I guess). While he asked me to install a pirated copy of Windows 98, I stuck to Linux. That’s where I learnt about XMMS. XMMS was to Linux what Winamp was (and still is) to Windows.

Cut to 2011 – when I got married and discovered that my wife is a ‘Linux-only’ person. When I gifted her a laptop for the first time – it came pre-loaded with Ubuntu (an extremely popular Linux distro) – I offered to clean-install Windows. To my utter surprise, she refused. That’s when I realized that she’s totally into Linux and calls out Windows for all its inconsistencies. I’ve never looked back since.

Linuxfx:

For starters, Linuxfx is distro (short for ‘distribution’ a.k.a. flavour) of Linux aimed at all those who want to test the waters with Linux. This distro makes the Windows users feel at home with the oh-so-familiar look and feel (almost) of Windows 8 or 10. The developers have gone to great lengths to provide first-time users, a near-Windows experience. One look at the screens (I’ve posted them too) and you’ll be amazed at how much the developers are bending it like Beckham – just to make you comfortable and your experience, a memorable one.

Linuxfx Desktop

They’ve retained the Windows desktop screen. This isn’t where the similarities begin, though. It starts at the welcome/login screen (where you need to login to your account).

Login/Lock screen
Login/Lock screen

Just imagine seeing this screen when Linuxfx boots up. Nothing new to a seasoned Windows user. Right? Right!!!

Here are a few other examples to drive my point home.

Now, the journey was not so smooth – I’ll be honest. Firstly, I learnt I need to use ETCHER to create the boot disk. Now that never worked for me. I learnt that RUFUS (what I always use) would not work. On the contrary – it did – a tweak was in order. I had to change the boot type from UEFI (used to boot Windows 8 onwards) to Legacy (for Windows 7 or older). Once that stage crossed, the rest of the installation was a walk in the park.

Just like other popular Linux distros with a Cinnamon (full-feature) desktop environment, Linuxfx comes pre-loaded with a host of commonly used programs:

  • WINE (a compatibility layer that lets you run Windows programs in Linux)
  • Only Office
  • WX Desktop
  • Windows® 10 theme
  • AnyDesk (remote desktop administration tool)

Some tech specs for the Linux fraternity:

Base operating system Ubuntu 20.04 LTS / Linuxfx 10 LTS
Graphical interface (DM) Cinnamon 4.6 + Linuxfx WX Desktop
Kernel 5.7.15
Office Suite OnlyOffice 5.6
Workgroup networks SAMBA
Active Directory PowerBroker (PBIS) / CID
.Exe / .msi compatibility Wine 5 (Linuxfx Version)
Theme for Windows® 10 b00merang GPL Windows® 10 Theme pack
Windows® 10 Tools Linuxfx WX Desktop system tools

Here’s something from the horse’s mouth (https://Windowsfx.org):

Here are some advantages of using Windowsfx on your computer:

  • Fast, very fast: Windowsfx can work very well on computers with only two cores (dual-core processors) and only 2GB of RAM.
  • Safe and stable: The base of Windowsfx is Linux, which by definition already tends to be stabler. Viruses and Malware developed for Windows® will not be a problem for Windowsfx, as they are different platforms, these malicious programs cannot run on Windowsfx.
  • Applications for Windows® and Linux: Windowsfx will give you access to a vast collection of applications. In addition to the apps you are used to, you will have access to a new store, with thousands of free apps, just a click away.

I could go on (and you would be clueless about what I am trying to say). Long story short – it comes to you as a complete package. Unless you are persnickety about your choice of apps, you are good to go with what Linuxfx offers you. I doubt if a regular user would need anything more (I mean installing programs).

(Power users – excuse my ignorance. I could learn a thing or two from you, sir/ma’am)

The trial phase went on fine; that is when I decided to go all the way in – I installed Linuxfx. The rest is history. Any regular Windows user could easily mistake my laptop for a Windows 8 or 10 based laptop.

There is something the developers did to make Windows users all the more comfortable – they retained the legendary Windows lag. If the OS went any faster, Windows users could easily find out it is not Windows OS.

If anyone of you out there would like to taste this already tasty flavour of Linux, contact me. I have been there, done that and would be glad to assist you.

Till then, Ciao!!!

Disclaimer:

The author is not a Certified Linux Professional. The information provided and view expressed here are solely based on the author’s own experiece. The screenshots were taken on the author’s Acer E5-575G laptop. Try/use Linuxfx or any other Linux distro at your discretion. The author disclaims all responsibity toward the consequences of your actions.

About Post Author

Kottayi Amith

A teacher, a father, an agreeable (do I have a choice?) husband - I love to play with words. I spin the yarn - and she maintains the (cob)webs. As different as chalk and cheese - we get along very well on this one topic - My Website. Welcome to our world of words and ways of word-smithy. I hope you do not regret your visit here, to say the least.
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An ACCIDENTAL trek to Karnala Fort

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Read Time:7 Minute, 42 Second

After a long time (and yearning for several years) I accomplished what I call ‘the challenging’. While I’m sure some of you (who are avid trekkers) may dismiss this is as not-so-challenging; I maintain my stance. At the other side of 40, with my level of fitness (read sluggishness/lethargy) – it was indeed a challenge to me. Well… so it was, for the other two too, who I accompanied. It was a cool Sunday morning (just like today) on the 27th of January – just one day after my Home Minister’s birthday. She wanted to do this for quite a while – just that domestic chores kept us tethered to Mira Road. We finally managed to break that tether. While our goal was to see birds in the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, we missed the bus by a few minutes. We ended up scaling the Karnala fort instead.

Magnificent view of the fort
Magnificent view of the fort

For anyone interested in the trek – here’s how you can get there. Karnala bird sanctuary is located in Panvel. It is 75 km from my place, as the crow flies. Anyone who drives a car can take the Western Express Highway (and then the Mumbai-Bangalore highway) if you can manage a 2-hour drive to Panvel. A suburban commuter can take a Harbour Line train to Panvel.

Once you disembark at Panvel, you need to take a bus to Karnala which is just a 5-10 minute ride from there. For this you have 2 options from the station:

  • Get fleeced by the trike (rickshaw) drivers
  • Walk for just 6-7 minutes and reach the municipal bus stand

I chose option b much to the chagrin of my wife. We boarded the omnipresent RED BUS (not from redbus.in) a.k.a. ESHTEE that promptly dropped us at our destination in 10 minutes. For the first timers (like me) it was shocking to alight at an apparently desolate place. It took me a few minutes to realise that it was not all that desolate. There was an eatery just a few feet away from the highway where one can refuel one’s tummy before even reaching the sanctuary. While the eatery is on the right, the Sanctuary was to our left. We couldn’t see clearly due to the road maintenance works.

At the entrance, you will be greeted (not so politely) my men in jungle fatigues (presumably forest officers/guards). You need to declare any plastic bottles that you may have in your bags. In the wake of ‘Zero-plastic-tolerance’ move, they mark your bottles and you need to pay Rs. 100 as a deposit – needless to say, which you can collect on your way back. If you lose that bottle during your trek – you lose the deposit too. Just a few paces after the check post, you have a few eateries to satiate your appetite. After packing a few carbs, proteins, and calories, we marched ahead.

WARNING: The birds in the sanctuary do an early morning shift. So, if you wanna see them, be there before 8 am. They presumably take the 8 am flight to their destinations (Damn!!!).

Thanks to my ignorance about ‘bird timings’ – I had to face some cold-shoulder from you-know-who. Man! It did take a while for all that ‘ice’ to melt. Those who don’t get my drift – get married. Once we knew for a fact that the birds are gone – we chose to look around. We had a few options left. One of them was a walk along a nature trail. The other was to see the caged birds (that hurt). The third and the most spectacular one was the TREK to KARNALA FORT.

Resting at 1440 ft ASL, the fort offered a magnificent feast unto the eyes. The pinnacle protruded high into the skies, a-la the thumbs-up sign. Here’s another word of caution: Please avoid going there with kids under the age of 10 (personal suggestion). My 6-year old was exhausted beyond recall after the trek. It took her an entire day to recover from the exhaustion. If your kid has a medical condition, then this trip is not for him/her – at least till they grow up.

Now for the nitty-gritty. The trek – I must admit – is not the easiest. There are 2 approach routes – we started with the ‘road-less-travelled’ but after walking a few paces – we had to cancel the idea. We had no clue where we were headed and there was nobody there to ask for directions. Plus… no signals on our phones too. We retraced our steps to the start of that trail. From there we took the beaten track. This time though, we had company. Some of them were locals who were frequent visitors too. All they did was mislead us about the duration – while they said ‘a little over 1 hour’ we needed 2 hours to reach the highest point.

A road less traveled
A road less traveled

A road less travelled

The trek reminded us of how precious WATER is. Although Wikipedia claims there is potable water atop the fort – we couldn’t find any that I could even wash my ass with. So, if you’re there – carry as many gallons of water as you can. Do not forget to pack some ready-to-eat stuff too e.g. biscuits, chips, cookies, or anything else that not too heavy to carry. Try to keep your backpack as light as possible. Carry a stick if possible. That will help you to prod around, if in doubt. Given that it’s also a reserve forest – you can expect some unwelcome critters and reptiles too. I cannot completely rule out the presence of apex predators – just that I didn’t encounter any.

Sneak-peek at the peak

Sneak-peek at the peak

The trek becomes more and more treacherous as once climbs higher and higher. There wasn’t a single well-paved/constructed/cemented step. We had to climb large rocks and boulders. Be sure to wear closed shoes that have an excellent grip. You won’t necessarily die if you slip and fall – just that you will be immobilized (incapacitated, at worst) for a good period of time. I cannot rule out the possibility of a fatal fall. CAUTION needs to be exercised at each point of the climb – especially if you’re new to the terrain.

Overhanging trees
Overhanging trees

All the skill I had at my disposal was my sense of (not-so) keen judgement. The rest just fell in place and before we knew, we stood face-off with the lofty fort – too bad, it’s in ruins now. Just so you know, the pinnacle is practically un-scalable. One needs to be a trained rock climber/mountaineer to do that. The highest point that the less agile ones can reach is the fort. The pinnacle juts out of the fort like a gigantic thumb and rises up to another 300-500 ft. there’s a flag atop the pinnacle – which is a proof that humans have been there – just that we were neither trained nor were quipped to scale that last bit.

The plateau

The plateau

We somehow managed to reach the fort. Now reaching the fort was nothing less of a challenge. From the miniature plateau atop the hill, one needs to climb the steps that lead to the fort. Sounds easy – NO. those steps can scare the daylights out of first-timers. If it were not for the steel railings – I would never reach the fort. At some instances, we had to climb like babies – on all fours. Just one look down could make an acrophobic dizzy. I must admit – I’m borderline acrophobic. But that did not daunt me in any way. I not only reached the fort – but also managed to capture the pristine beauty the landscape had to offer.

This is not all, the downward trek is all the more difficult. While climbing, you know how much strength one needs to use to climb. Also, you’re going against gravity. On the way, gravity keeps pulling you down. Each boulder you climb down weighs you down heavily. Knees start to ache. We were already exhausted with the climb. The harsh sun did not let us rest in the fort. We had to trek down – and now we were trying our best not to slip – thanks to the monstrous gravitational pull. All the time, we trekked down – we just had the base camp (the eatery) in mind. The trek seemed interminable. The path seemed unending. It was as good as free-falling for a plane – just that we wouldn’t crack our skulls open at the end of it all.

While it took me a good night’s sleep to shake off the hangover (of the trek) – it wasn’t so easy for the girls. While the 6-year old recovered in 24 hours – the bigger, meaner one (who always taunted me about my lethargy and lack of fitness) took all of 4 days to completely recover from the ACCIDENTAL trek. For a good measure – she’s open to more such treks in future. I’m waiting for the next long weekend. While I do that – let me sign off for now.

About Post Author

Kottayi Amith

A teacher, a father, an agreeable (do I have a choice?) husband - I love to play with words. I spin the yarn - and she maintains the (cob)webs. As different as chalk and cheese - we get along very well on this one topic - My Website. Welcome to our world of words and ways of word-smithy. I hope you do not regret your visit here, to say the least.
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