PyCon India 2023

The last time I thought about going to PyCon India was in 2018, before the pandemic, however, it didn’t happen. A few years passed and I was very honoured to be invited to give a keynote at PyCon India this year at 2023. I have heard numeric things at PyCon India in the past and I have not been to this country before. So all is a little concerning and exciting for me at the same time.

Arriving Hyderabad, India

The first hurdle I have to jump through is getting a visa. I did some research when I received the invitation and thought I could get an e-visa easily. It turned out to not be true and I had to rush to get a paper visa, it was tricky and I had to change my travel plan but luckily I ended up getting the visa in time for PyCon India.

It was a long journey, I was flying throughout the night. When I arrived at the airport in Hyderabad on the workshop day of the conference, one of the organisers, Snehith and another keynote speaker Jessica came to pick me up. It was a relief to see them as I know that I will be taken care of at the time. They drive me to the hotel where I can check in and have some rest.

I spent the day at the hotel to work and prepare my keynote. There is a swimming pool and spa at the hotel, I also use this opportunity to get myself refreshed before the conference the next day. In the evening, I had dinner at the hotel with Jessica, Marcelo and Vaibhavi. The restaurant has servers that are hearing impaired and they have some simple guides on the menu to teach customers how to sign to the servers. Jessica arrived early and spent almost a week at the hotel so she was a professional at sign language by then. The food is good, I have heard biriyani is the famous local food there so we tried some.

The conference - day 1

When you think of India, you may have an image that it is packed with people and traffic. This also reflects a bit at the conference. We got picked up by Snehith again and we arrived at the conference. There are huge queues at the registration desk. Since we are keynote speakers they just guide us to the main auditorium where Jessica will be presenting her keynote soon. While Jessica was focusing on technical checking, I got a chance to check out the venue (there’s breakfast being served outside) and talk to some other folks at the conference. Some organisers come and say hi to me even though they are super busy with preparation. I feel their warm welcome.

The conference started with a lamp ceremony where a beautifully decorated oil lamp was set on stage. The honorary guests, including representatives from the university and Sanchit the chair of the organising team went on stage. Some of the ladies were wearing beautiful sari and I was very excited about the ceremony. The honorary guests gathered and lit the oil lamp and I took some videos and pictures. This is like the “lighting ceremony” that I saw on TV when I was a key for the opening of some ceremony and I was very happy to get a bit of the local culture there.

Jessica gave an amazing keynote about the community. It is very thoughtful and personal as she talks about her journey transitioning to the tech industry. After that many folks gather around and talk to her. I walked around the check out the sponsor booths, they are super busy. I also got an opportunity to take an e-Tuktuk that was organised by the organiser to travel between the two university buildings used for the conference. It is my first time riding on a Tuktuk and it is fun to be zooming around the campus.

After sitting through a few talks, it is PyLadies Lunch, there is a room arranged for us and a separate catering for us as well. There is also a gorgeous cake for us. It is very cute and great to see so many women participate in the PyLadies Lunch. Participants are very passionate about the discussion and there is much interest in starting new PyLadies chapters in various Indian cities. In the end, we form groups depending on the location and hopefully, there will be more active PyLadies chapters in India soon.

We didn’t stay for very long after lunch. I went for a few talks (and missed Marcelo’s keynote), and then I felt very tired (maybe because of the heat), so we took an Uber and went back to the hotel and got some rest before the speaker’s dinner. We got picked up again at the hotel for the speaker dinner and it was a function room at a hotel. I liked the atmosphere of it and I got to chat with a lot of folks, including my friend from EuroPython, Sangarshanan, who is also a speaker. By the time I was back, I was very tired and fell asleep immediately.

The conference - day 2

My keynote is the second day, there is no lamp ceremony so the day started with my keynote. It is a bit nervous as I have not given a keynote in person for a long time. But I was glad that it was well received and so many folks came and had a discussion with me. I was a bit overwhelmed. I have an onward travel later that day so I didn’t have much time. I am also gutted that I will be missing the PyCafe.

But I got an opportunity to talk to Rumanu, my roommate at PyCon Italy, she is a bright and bubbly girl, and it is so happy to be meeting her again. I also attended a very touching talk by Bowrna, which inspired many women in the audience.

I also got the chance to visit the Young Learners Workshop. It is always great to see young people at a Python conference. I hope they will be the future of the Python community.

At lunch, I set with Niharika and we talked about travelling to Japan as she is a frequent traveller like myself. I am so glad to be able to connect with so many amazing women at the conference.

Final thoughts

When I was heading to the airport, I thought to myself, I was glad that I didn’t miss the conference due to my visa issue, I was glad that I attended PyCon India. Before going to India, I didn’t know what to expect, I have heard some issues in the past about PyCon India regarding diversity and inclusion, especially towards women. Being there in person myself, I am so happy to see the team is working so hard to drive the community in the right direction. There are a lot of amazing women I met at the conference, and I am sure the Indian community do not want to lose them. I am also glad to see many female speakers at the conference and panel sessions. Maybe next time we will see a local female keynote speaker, that’s my hope.

Before coming to the conference, their Code of Conduct (CoC) sought advice on how to improve their CoC process, I have communicated with them and had a brief idea exchange with them. At the conference, I saw that they have put reminders of CoC everywhere and at the opening session every. You may doubt the effectiveness of it but I think at least it shows that the organisers of this conference care and it’s a big step forward.

I have to thank the organisers again for this opportunity to open my eyes to a community in a part of the world that I have not been to and it was great to meet with old friends and make some new ones.

After having a career as a Data Scientist and Developer Advocate, Cheuk dedicated her work to the open-source community. She has co-founded Humble Data, a beginner Python workshop that has been happening around the world. She has served the EuroPython Society board for two years and is now a fellow and director of the Python Software Foundation.