Ma L’amore No

Malena (2000)

For the clueless lot, this is the name of an eponymous track sung by Lina Termini, an Italian singer-actor. It was included in the 2000 Italian movie Malena. That is when I heard it for the first time. The movie is based on the WWII era (1939-45), especially when Italy entered WWII. Oh, WWII means 2nd World War (just in case you were still scratching your head). As IMDB succinctly describes the movie, “Amidst the war climate, a teenage boy discovering himself becomes love-stricken by Malena, a beautiful woman living in a small, narrow-minded Italian town.”

WWII

One thing that fascinated me was that this movie fulfils my near-psychotic nostalgia. Somehow, I love things from the past when things were (seemingly) easy and simple. At least, that’s what it looks like, to me. I sometimes yearn to get teleported to that ‘simple’ era. When reality slaps me hard in the face, I do wake up and smell the coffee. The other thing about the movie – regarding the title – Ma L’amore No (But Love No) is the haunting melody of that song.

Good old days

Since the first time I heard it, I’ve (almost) always been transported back to the ‘40s or even the ‘30s. in an eerie coincidence, my grandfather was a teenager then. Now, where did he come into the picture? All in good time. To know the reference to this emotion, one needs to read ‘Long time ago…The village Doctor’. His romance with his wife was legendary. No – not the mushy type portrayed in the movies. He was the ‘40s convent educated, yet Indian man with little to no regard for mushy romance. You read it right – romance, wife. What started with dating, ended only at his funeral (not even at her grave – she died a few years before he did).

Old Couple

In the twilight of their lives, the couple would sit at the veranda, looking into nothingness, speaking just a few words here and there, yet speaking volumes even with their silence. Now that’s what I call the ultimate romance – words not required. Wait a minute – what’s this blog about? Geriatric romance? Not quite. I’m getting to the point. By the way, I call it a geriatric romance because by the time I could realize their emotions, they were already septuagenarians and hence a geriatric couple.

Now let me join the dots – the hauntingly melodious song and the geriatric romance. Now, whenever I hear the song, I imagine them waltzing to that tune in the same era the movie depicts – the ‘40s. That is when they would have been in the prime of their youth. I know this sounds crazy – a quaint couple from Kerala would seem like a far cry from the erstwhile Italian lifestyle. There is still some logic to it – she was an Anglo-Indian and waltz or some form of ballroom dancing would not be new/strange to her. He went to a convent school and hence would not be ignorant about it too. It makes perfect sense to me. Even till their old age, as mentioned above – I imagine their ‘silent’ conversations with the song playing in the background on an imaginary record player. Well, ‘imagine’ would be an incorrect term – these are thoughts that flash across my mind whenever I hear the song with my eyes closed. Such was the influence the melody had on my psyche.

His old dispensary, his belongings, his romance – they all bear a trademark of a bygone era – something that sadly remains confined to the annals of history. I would be the last of my generation to have borne a silent testimony to it. The next generation is way too fast and lacks the attention span that I had as a kid. I know, this song, the melody, the romance, the nostalgia etc. will subside with me. I write this so the next generation (if they read it, that is) can understand what romance meant in the ‘40s and how it lost its glory somewhere down the timeline.

There is more I could say about that barely two-minute song and its immense impact on my psyche – but I doubt if the readers would have the energy left to endure it. So, given my readers’ well-being, I stop right here. You can thank me later.

Bye for now!!!

Reference:

Why I adopted Linuxfx

Linuxfx Installation

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.

We will survive…

Hello friends. It’s good to write once again, although this post comes a bit later – but like they always say – better late than never. The heading is aptly titled. We (humans) as a race are quite resilient. We have survived a lot – and we still move on undaunted. A few noteworthy mentions are earthquakes, famines, impact events, limnic eruptions, wildfires/bushfires, avalanches/landslides, blizzards, floods, heatwaves, tornadoes, tropical cyclones, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions etc.

I saved the best for last – epidemics and pandemics. We hear these terms being used interchangeably and thrown around a lot, these days. One that everybody’s talking about these days is coronavirus and COVID19. YES – these two, although related – are different terms. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was discovered only in December 2019 while coronaviruses were discovered way back in the 1930s (almost 90 years ago).

I will not beat around the bush or even bother describing the two terms mentioned above. I’m sure you (readers) know a lot about them already. How correct your information is – is a matter of debate though. Now let’s look at the title once again. The reason this post is titled that way is that we have ‘been there, done that’ several times before.

To begin with I’d like to focus on the part where an epidemic is different from a pandemic. An epidemic is a disease that spreads faster than expected and affects more individuals over a widespread area. A pandemic is more like the big brother of ‘epidemic’ in the sense that the reach of a pandemic spans several countries simultaneously. But, as I said before – COVID19 isn’t the first or the deadliest of epidemics/pandemics. We have seen worse. Here’s a lowdown on some pandemic/epidemic humans have survived.

Ref.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_epidemics


In the late 19th to early 20th century, there was smallpox. It raged for almost 100 years across several countries and killed as many as 500 million (50 crores). The 15th century gave us another dreaded killer – plague a.k.a. Black Death that raged across most of Europe, Asia and North Africa. It wiped clean as much as 60% of the European population in 22 long years. Its death toll was almost 200 million (20 crores). The 20th century threw another pandemic on us – Spanish flu or H1N1 or what’s technically called Influenza A virus sub-type H1N1. It killed almost 100 million people in just two years. 1855 to 1860 saw the demonic rage of the Bubonic plague that last for five years. In that time, 12 million perished in just India and China alone. The global numbers would definitely have been way more than that. This brings us to the recent scenario of COVID19 – it has claimed 60,000 (as on 3rd April 2020) or even more, globally.


The point I’m trying to make is that COVID19 is just a baby compared to the monstrosities the whole world has seen since we started recording medical history. The pandemic or epidemic should teach us a valuable lesson – we are vulnerable. We’re not the strongest beings on earth – but we are the most resilient. The dinosaurs perished, so did several other species (where human greed was not involved) – but we kept evolving. We won’t go down in history so easily. But to do that we need to understand our limitations as human beings. There are several diseases – we have no cure for. Our immunity and value for life are our strongest weapons in this perennial fight for survival. So, to see another day, in such critical times, let’s follow simple rules of hygiene, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, eat, sleep and wake on time, read a lot, try to learn new skills, list to music, meditate, cleanse our mind and body – in short – let’s stay home – and SAFE.

Live today to fight tomorrow.

Till we meet again, may the better sense prevail!!!

Magnificent Jaipur

Hawa Mahal

Hola mi amigos. Recently I’d been to Jaipur on an official trip. At first, I was not sure if I wanted to go. I’m a family man and I prefer visiting such places with my family. Well – when duty calls, the employed have to go – and so I went. The date: 12th July 2019. The weather was a far cry from Mumbai’s rainy weather. I went prepared – with a raincoat and an umbrella – things I never removed from my bag. It was hot and dry in Jaipur – so I was relieved (an ex-Nagpurkar that I am).

We had 93 hours to spend in Jaipur and I wanted to make the most out of it. Now, let me remind you that we were on an official trip and had ‘work’ to be done. So, these escapades that I’m going to describe later were managed in the ‘in-between’ times. We made two trips whilst in Jaipur.

  • Day 1: Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal and Rajasthali

How to get there: Take a metro train to Chand Pol and then an e-Rickshaw to your Badi Chaupad (big market)

The metro ride was nothing to write home about – just run-of-the-mill. Once we alighted and got off the station, we were accosted by rick drivers. We had to manage to steer clear of them and walk ahead to an e-rick driver who readily agreed to take us to Hawa Mahal (he added the other two destinations by himself – for a price though).

Hawa Mahal
Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal:

For the uninitiated, Jaipur was founded in 1727 by Jai Singh II (a.k.a. Sawai Jai Singh, who became a ruler at the tender age of 11 (I was learning to ride a bicycle and fly kites then). His grandson, Sawai Pratap Singh built the Hawa Mahal in 1799, at the age of 35 (I just got married at that age was learning the ropes of accepting dominion by a queen). A dominating feature of Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind/Breeze) is the façade that includes 900+ jharokhas (protruding balcony). These jharokhas are neatly stacked in a 5-storey near-pyramidal structure about 50 ft high. It’s said that the design of Hawa Mahal was inspired from Khetri Mahal in Jhunjhunu).

The unique architecture of Hawa Mahal is what makes it so beautiful. This reddish-pink sandstone monument is located close to City Palace and Jantar Mantar. All these 3 (Hawa Mahal, Jantar and City Palace) are within a stone’s throw from each other – if you could throw a stone 900m away, that is.

Note: the trio is located in what’s called the pink city.

Jal Mahal
Jal Mahal

Jal Mahal:

Made somewhere in the 18th century, this is a quaint palace located right in the middle of Man Sagar Lake off Amer Road. This palace was also the handiwork of Jai Singh II. A striking peculiarity of this place is that this palace is a 5-storeyed structure of which four remain submerged during monsoons when the lake is full. Only one storey is visible in that case.

Rajasthali Textile Development Corporation:

Another attraction (maybe not for everyone) along the same road is this fantastic place where one can shop for genuine Rajasthani garments and handicrafts. Some of the popular shopper’s items sold here are the ultra-lightweight Jaipuri Razai (quilt). It’s so light that if packed nice and tight, it could fit a lady’s handbag. The fillings in these quilts include angora wool, mohair, cashmere/pashmina etc. I bought one filled with Angora wool. Another peculiarity of these quilts is that they keep you warm in winter and cosy in summer. In addition to this, they have usual inclusions like dress material, saris, wood carvings, lac bangles etc. Now that’s something I’m no expert of – hence I had to leave it alone.

Note: I completed my target of 10,000 steps for the first time.

Amber fort
Amber fort
  • Day 2: Amer Fort

How to get there: Take bus 3B (from Badi Chaupad), AC1, AC5 (from Man Sarovar metro station). I’d say getting to Chand Pol is your best bet.

This was the most spectacular of sights that I saw in Jaipur (not that I’ve seen it all). All one needs to do to get here is get to Chand Pol metro station, disembark and take a bus to Amer fort. Now, this fort is a part of another trio: Nahar Garh, Jai Garh and Amer and all three are close (just a cannonball’s throw away). Unfortunately, we had time only to see Amer fort.

Maota lake
Maota lake

While the place is spelt Amber – it’s pronounced with the ‘b’ silent. So, don’t correct when google maps suggest Amber when you typed Amer. Constructed in 967 AD, this fort is a little over a millennium old. It started with the settlement of the Amer town (actually a hamlet) in 967 AD. The palace and the fortifications were built later. The bastions (perimeter wall) enclose an impressive 12sq. km area. Jodha Bai (of Jodha-Akbar fame) a.k.a. Mariam-uz-Zamani a.k.a. Harkha Bai was born in Amber in 1542. Her ancestral home is in ruins today – but who cares. At least the concerned authorities don’t.

Jodhabai's home
Jodhabai’s home

The moment our bus neared Amber bus stop, we were greeted by this magnificent marble and sandstone monument that has stood the test of time and braved the apathy of the governing bodies. In 2013, UNESCO labelled it a World Heritage Site. Every square inch of this place reeks of history and it’s past glory. One just needs to see it from a perspective different from that of tourists. I did – and I could FEEL history unfold itself unto me as I paced slowly and steadily along the winding passages that finally led to the giant castle gates. At a distance, one can see the lofty Jaigarh fort too with a Pachrang flag fluttering atop an imposing tower.

Jaipur Flag (Pachrang)
Jaipur Flag (Pachrang)

Another sight that welcomes you even before you reach Amer palace is the (now dry) मावठा झील (Maota lake). I’m sure this lake doubled as a moat back in the days. Attached to the lake is Kesar Kyari. The garden gets its name from the Kesar plant (saffron) which the king tried to cultivate – but failed. Geography and botany bow to no kings/queens, you see?

Haveli
Haveli

Before we entered the castle – we took a small detour along a cobblestone-lined road that leads to the village downstairs. The village was not our goal – an old Haveli was. This haveli is said to be built the same time as the fort itself – meaning it was also a millennium old. Unlike the palace, this haveli was completely derelict. What a pity. One monument deserves all the care and another gets nothing. I guess the authorities do not fully understand their job. With just a home guard on duty, the place reeked of human and animal excrement. One could also see some empty beer bottles lying around – speaking volumes about its upkeep.

Path to the palace
Path to the palace

After we’ve had enough of the haveli, we walked back into the fort, towards the palace. The palace we entered (also the main entrance) is called Suraj Pol or the Sun Gate (called so because it faced east – the rising sun). we could walk freely across a sprawling courtyard after which we had to buy tickets (@ Rs. 50 per adult) to enter the private sections of the palace. Our tickets were checked twice along the way. The first time – at Ganesh Pol (Ganesha gate) where we could see a Ganesh temple – still owned by the royals. The statue of Lord Ganesha is made of coral and hence, is red.

There are a few distinct sections of the Amer palace – the Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khaas, Sheesh Mahal, Zenana (ladies’ section), 27 Kachehri (27 courts), Hot and Cold-water Turkish baths, latticed garden etc.

It is said that Raja Man Singh I had 12 wives (ranis/queens) and he had made 12 (deodhi) apartments for them. He could freely visit any queen of his choice without letting the other 11 know who the king is with. He had individual stairs/passages to each such apartment from his ‘Man Singh Palace’ (now closed to tourists). The deodhis were cleverly designed to get proper ventilation but poor visibility. It is alleged that Raja Man Singh I had 12 wives since he was a strong believer in astronomy and believed in the 12 nakshatras.

27 Kachehri
27 Kachehri

27 Kachehri was a place where Diwans from 27 villages managed their day-to-day administrative duties.

Darbar-i-Aam
Darbar-i-Aam

Diwan-i-Aam or the house of the commons is a place where the king held court where he listened to public grievances.

Diwan-i-Khas is akin to the house of the lords where the king held high-level ministerial meetings, entertained royal/political guests.

Sheesh-mahal is an intricately carved section of the palace that houses thousands of convex pieces of Belgian glass mirrors. These pieces formed a beautiful and elaborate mosaic of mirrors which would glitter when as much as a small candle was lit below it.

Amongst other attractions is Sukh Mahal, the entrance to which is managed by Sandalwood doors with carvings that are a copy of the garden on the opposite side. Most of the door carvings were plundered – and now there’s a glass case that seals this door. The water for this garden was fed to overhead tanks and this water flowed down a carved marble ramp – cooling it as it flowed down and back to the garden. The result – an air-conditioned chamber appropriately called Sukh Mahal.

With a heavy heart and tired feet, we crawled our way to the Amer town, down the hillock and boarded the next bus to Jaipur station. No, we were not leaving yet – that’s where our hotel was. I wanted more – to see more, to feel more, to dig deeper into those magical times when kings ruled, to feel in unison with every story I heard about this breathtaking monument… the wanderlust and the archaeology-lover in me were still not satisfied.

I could go on and on and never tire – that’s how much my mind holds in terms of memories from that visit. Alas! My hands hurt from all the typing and backspacing. So, I’ll let you enjoy the imagery I have attempted to create for you. I strongly recommend visiting this castle trio – Amber, Jaigarh and Nahargarh

Till we meet again – hasta luego!!!