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miniDebConf Tamil Nadu 2023

Greetings from Viluppuram, Tamil Nadu, South India!

As a preparation and warm-up for DebConf in September, the Debian people in India have organized a miniDebConf. Well, I don’t want to be unfair to them — They have been regularly organizing miniDebConfs for over a decade, and while most of the attendees are students local to this state in South India (the very ``tip’’ of the country; Tamil Nadu is the Eastern side, and Kerala, where Kochi is and DebConf will be held, is the Western side), I have talked with attendees from very different regions of this country.

This miniDebConf is somewhat similar to similarly-scoped events I have attended in Latin America: It is mostly an outreach conference, but it’s also a great opportunity for DDs in India to meet in the famous hallway track.

India is incredibly multicultural. Today at the hotel, I was somewhat surprised to see people from Kerala trying to read a text written in Tamil: Not only the languages are different, but the writing systems also are. From what I read, Tamil script is a bit simpler to Kerala’s Mayalayam, although they come from similar roots.

Of course, my school of thought is that, whenever you visit a city, culture or country that differs from the place you were born, a fundamental component to explore and to remember is… Food! And one of the things I most looked forward for this trip was that precisely. I arrived to the Chennai Airport (MAA) 8:15 local time yesterday morning, so I am far from an expert — but I have been given (and most happily received) three times biryani (pictured in the photo by this paragraph).

It is delicious, although I cannot yet describe the borders of what should or should not be considered proper biryani): The base dish is rice, and you go mixing it with different sauces or foods. What managed to surprise us foreigners is, strangely, well known for us all: there is no spoon. No, the food is not pushed to your mouth using metal or wooden utensils. Not even using a tortilla as back home, or by breaking bits of the injera that serves also as a dish, as in Ethiopia. Sure, there is naan, but it is completely optional, and would be a bit too much for as big a big dish as what we have got. Biryani is eaten… With the tools natural to us primates: the fingers. We have learnt some differnt techniques but so far, I am still using the base technique (thumb-finger-middle).

I’m closing the report with the photo of the closing of the conference as it happens. And I will, of course, share our adventures as they unfold in the next couple of days. Because… Well, we finished with the conference-y part of the trip, but we have a full week of (pre-)DebConf work ahead of us!