A GNU/Linux community at Madhyamgram
“The Internet has a curious paradox. At one end it breaks down barriers of geography and politics, on the other it takes away the vitality of personal interaction” says, Dipankar Das 
Madhyamgram is around 40 minutes by train from Kolkata, and is really not the archetypal suburban township. Elements of modernity and urban living tinge the area with an upwardly mobile character. In the midst of such surroundings flourishes a GNU/Linux Community - the GNU/Linux Thek 
The GLT-Madhyamgram  is an initiative of Dipankar Das, who stumbled onto the F/L OSS world by accident. Tired of being the victim of virus attacks on Microsoft platforms, he turned towards GNU/Linux and GLT-Madhyamgram (or GLT-Mad as they fondly call it) is his way of contributing to the community.
“The GLT-Mad is a physical helpdesk on matters regarding GNU/Linux”, says he. Asked to elaborate on the concept, he illustrates the need for people to interact on a personal level so as to learn and unlearn. “The Internet provides a wealth of material on F/L OSS, however it is best to provide a guiding path towards using the system optimally”. GLT-Mad is structured to meet such a demand. The concept of a ‘thek’ was a deliberate attempt to break down the formal structure of ‘prescribed learning’ and make it more interactive and participatory. This means that the teacher and the taught are able to explore new vistas and learn together at the same time.
GLT-Mad began with ’students’ who were known to Dipankar and could appreciate the immense opportunity of GNU/Linux. Pacing the course material over a period of time, GLT-Mad has managed to provide some self-confidence to the users/students. “Providing the confidence to undertake a venture is important, when the user can say ‘Yes I can do this’, GLT-Mad attains one of its objectives”.
Being the founder member and the inspiration has led to Dipankar feeling the need to provide a customised content for the effort. The GLT-Mad thus has a Compilation CD which can be used by other such efforts across the country. He is also working on a primer on GNU/Linux in Bengali crystallising in simple terms the lessons and experience of the first session of the ‘Thek’.
GLT-Mad does not charge any money from the students, but Dipankar has no objection if other GLTs develop a revenue model. The GLT-book on ‘GNU/Linux Iskool’  is almost complete and awaiting a publisher who would be willing to realise the publishing model of the Free Software World. Dipankar believes that this book will be of immense help to those who want to use GNU/Linux but are daunted by the aura of ‘magic’. GLT-Mad could also do with some of the information rich CDs like FreEduc and Customised Knoppix (like Gnoware) that help to demonstrate the power of GNU/Linux.
GLT-Mad is affiliated (if such a term could be used) to Indian GNU/Linux Users Group - Kolkata and Free Software Foundation of India - West Bengal Chapter. Regular interaction with such user groups ensure that a constant stream of ideas are exchanged.
Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay is a member of the Free Software Foundation of India - West Bengal Chapter.His blog ‘Random Thoughts’ contains his take on the human aspects of F/L OSS development. He can be reached at sankarshan at bengalinux dot org
Links and other notes:
1. Dipankar Das is actually Prof Dipankar Das and he teaches at a college in Central Kolkata. However, since he dislikes being called a ‘professor’, we avoid the term altogether.
2. ‘Thek’ is colloquial bengali for a place where free and informal discussions take place on varied topics.
3. GLT-Madhyamgram or GNU/Linux Thek - Madhyamgram is at www.geocities.com/ddipankardas/index.htm
4. Another colloquial twist on the word ’school’
5. The first chapter (actually chapter zero) of the primer is available for download and perusal from the URL mentioned above.
6. Dipankar Das can be reached at paagol at softhome dot net