In the beginning of 2020, due to the lockdown, I spent a lot of time scrolling through Instagram. Reels weren’t a thing back then, so I randomly stumbled upon Instagram pages sharing informational content about hacking and cyber security. This piqued my interest, and out of the blue, I read about the infamous “Kali Linux.” Honestly, it felt cool, and I wanted to use it. However, I ended up installing Linux Mint on a Dell Inspiron owned by my dad’s friend. It was a laptop without a battery. I remember the date and time vividly: it was on October 13, 2020, around 7:30 or 7:35 PM on a rainy day.
The idea that someone was offering their software for free, especially after spending 20+ years writing millions of lines of code, fascinated me. I delved into Linux, learned about FOSS (Free and Open Source Software), wrote some simple and not-so-clever programs, and learned how to upload them on Github. It was enjoyable, but I wasn’t a dedicated Free Software believer at that time. Most of my interactions were with internet friends on Telegram, and everything I learned, whether broken or seemingly useless, was because of the people around me. I’m someone who learns from inspiration, akin to the philosophy in the book “Steal Like an Artist.” FOSS seemed similar—nothing is entirely original (except maybe someone’s code), people examine your code, copy or modify it to suit their needs. Isn’t that how it goes?
More recently, after attending my first conference, MumbaiFOSS’23, I understood the essence of community and communal learning. The people in South India, where the FOSS culture is vibrant, became role models. I began volunteering for Mumbai meetups, which I continue to do. The community holds immense power.
Gradually, I learned about how governments and proprietary software infringe on our privacy and freedom. I distanced myself from non-free software, finding it unreliable.
Yet, I always feel a contradiction between the impossibility of completely avoiding non-free software and fully embracing free software. There always seems to be something left out. It takes a certain spirit within to navigate this and try making some change. If we don’t question back, things will likely continue as they have been.
Thanks for the question!