Sat 04 August 2012 by Thejaswi Puthraya

Yesterday, I heard the shocking news of the passing away of my mentor and India's prolific Python and django evangelist, Kenneth Gonsalves, KG to friends or lawgon by his IRC nick. I had the pleasure of knowing KG for 7 years and working with him on a variety of projects.

KG was a regular (until a couple of days back) on a host of free software mailing lists and IRC channels and always had an opinion on every topic. I contacted him as a naive undergrad student in my third year eliciting suggestions on how to become a better programmer. He asked me to apply for the Google Summer of Code 2007 through the django project. I was reluctant because I had just heard of this web framework and had no idea about Python. He reassured me that if I worked hard, was sincere and wouldn't expect any spoon feeding, I could succeed. It was with his idea that I applied to the Summer of Code and he kept following up throughout the summer on my progress. After the Summer of Code, I fell in love with django and python and today that's what earns my bread and butter. Not just that, KG was also very instrumental in me landing my first job and I will be forever indebted to him.

I met him in person for the first time in 2008 (in the less than half a dozen times I have met him) after having interacted with him for 2 years by email. He was a down to earth person with dry humour which contrasted his arrogant online persona. It was during this encounter that I learnt that he was a heavy smoker. I asked him if no one in his family objected but he curtly replied that "No one argues with a lawyer"!

KG and I worked on a couple of django projects (in my spare time) and he was the ideal project manager (apart from the programmer). He always took the pressure off me and negotiated with clients to practice the code-release-repeat (fancifully called 'agile' in corporate jargon) software development methodology. He also worked as a consultant for numerous companies, migrated them to python and django and also helped in recruiting for them.

But his biggest contribution was as a 'teacher'. He travelled all over India to colleges training thousands of students on free software, Python, Django, OSM and most importantly using IRC and mailing lists to request help.

During my last meeting with him in April, I asked him why he started using a new IRC nick. He answered that 'lawgon' (his famous nome de guerre) was his nick at work and 'lawgoff' at home. I didn't even expect that it would be my last meeting with him and he would 'lawgoff' from the world leaving thousands of free software enthusiasts and budding college students mourning.

My condolences are with the family and hope they take comfort in the fact that he made a huge difference to the causes he dedicated his life to. RIP KG, you will be missed.