I have two dreams — one is the sustainable community and the other is an autobiographical manual of TeX programming.
Ever since I got a job in the federal shipping ministry at Delhi in 1973, I have been aggressively campaigning for the formation of a commune (similar to a Kibbutz in Israel) among my friends, colleagues and resourceful people whom I happened to meet at different contexts. But nobody seemed to consider it even, maybe Indian context appeared unsuitable to them or none of them wanted to risk their lives in an allegedly inappropriate and apparently radical sociological experiment. Then I tried to apply this concept in the limited context of my own family which comprised of four brothers including me, their spouses, children, and my parents. I found the hardened concepts of feudal and tribal traditions of my family members posed a lot of huddles from the very beginning which prevented even a meaningful discussion. So I concluded, it was just an Utopian dream which won’t ever happen in my life time. However, after a long period of more than three decades, I’m now seeing potential signs of actualizing this dream.
Secondly, an irreverent autobiography is on the cards ever since I crossed the fiftieth year of my existence as I wanted to tell the world the kind of unusual human situations which I happened to pass through, many of them accidental and some of them intentional also. This is not for fame or money, indeed, I want to release the full version to the world only posthumously. However, my life for the last two decades has been intimately connected with TeX programming, free software movement and text processing industry. The challenges, accomplishments and joy of TeX programming coupled with non-conventional usage of TeX in many different ways which even Don Knuth would not have ever dreamt of when he developed TeX, demand me to tell the world all those in finer detail for further usage and development by future generations. As programming interludes also form an integral part of my autobiography, it raises many questions of how to accomplish the task of writing such a life story that has inseparable technical content, in a manner fit for human consumption without hassles.
Several weeks of contemplation has shown me a way out of the above problem. It is a two pronged approach — one is the story telling technique adopted by the famed Peruvian novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa, in his autobiographical novel, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter wherein odd and even chapters follow different story threads (which at one point, merge and transcend into hyper-reality); the other is the usage of literate programming methods invented by Don Knuth and adopted by Eitan Gurari for his wonderful TeX4ht system. In fact, my life is also more connected to TeX4ht than any other piece of TeX software.
I have four different threads — emotional, techno-political, business, programming — all these will cross-over each other at some points more than once. This is where literate programming techniques will help me to mix up the content in its natural or chronological sequence while writing, yet selectively suppress or output the content as I want or the reader wishes. I want the story of my emotional life to be kept back till my death while all the rest shall be released for public consumption. A reader is free to choose to see all the content in the natural order as I have intended or she can selectively choose the non-technical part alone or technical part alone or even about TeX4ht alone. The posthumous release will have all parts of the story with the same kind of options for the reader. My current task at the moment is to write a TeX package to do the job as listed above which I hope to accomplish in the near future.