17 May 2019

If not for the star button in that elevator panel…

I dropped my bags in the office in San Francisco where I was to have some meetings and rushed out to find a Fed Ex drop location to send Natasha some paperwork. At the elevator bank, after pressing “1” on the panel, I waited patiently for the elevator to show up. The elevator panel was pretty interesting. It looked almost like a big telephone keypad – complete with a “*” sign and a “#” sign! There was a large printed notice above it saying “Press 1 to go to the ground floor”. Which, I had duly followed.

A second before the elevator showed up, a young gentleman arrived in the bank and then proceeded to press the * button. The elevator showed up and soon I realized that we two were the only ones taking the ride.

“Which floor are you going to?”, I asked without any other fair warning to the gentleman.
“Ground floor”.
Now that piqued my interest. Why did he not follow instructions?
“Why did you press the * key?”
“That takes you to the ground floor”
“But there is a clear sign there saying you are supposed to press 1”
“Yeah, I just try to put some variations in life”

That was an interesting take!!

“I am Rajib, by the way”.
“From Riverside?”
“Yes. And you are….?”
“Lakshay. People call me Lucky”
“What is your full name?”
“Lakshay Gilja”
“Where is that last name from?”
“Punjab, India”.

I have to admit that for somebody who should know most last names from India, I had not heard that one before.

We were enjoying the conversation – so he decided to accompany me to the FedEx stop and I offered to walk with him to grab his lunch and then we would both walk back to office.

“So, where did you grow up?” (No points for guessing that I was trying to find some common connections)
“Atlanta area”.
“Really? Where in Atlanta?”
“Alpharetta area.”
“Where in Alpharetta?”

He looked funny at me – “Do you know Alpharetta?”
“Yeah, I have some working knowledge”
“Milton area”
“Where in Milton?”

He was not sure how to answer. So, I asked “Which road?”
“It is called New Providence”
“How far from that funky intersection with Birmingham Hwy?”
“Well, they have made a round about there now. WAIT A MINUTE. How do you know that much detail?”
“You are not going to believe this – but I live a stone’s throw away from that intersection”
“No way. So do my parents”.
“I figured!”.
“This is unbelievable”

There is some truth to that. I live in a very rural setting – dirt road, water from well, septic tank, dense forests, internet over phone line and all that. You are more likely to know a horse from around my area than any human beings!! It was just incredible luck that I had run into a young person in an elevator in down town San Francisco from my area.

“So, you went to Milton High?”
“Yes, I did!”
“Well, then I have another surprise for you.”
“What?” Lucky was still trying to get over the fact that I was not trying to pull wool over his eyes. He was even more intrigued that our motorbike team rides every weekend right in front of his dad’s place.
“Wait. I need to introduce you to somebody”

Eventually, we went back to the office. Took Lucky straight to the room where I had dropped my bag. Graham – my friend and the CFO of our company – was there too giving finishing touches to our Board presentation.

“Graham, this is Lucky. Lucky, this is Graham”.
A few pleasantries later….
“Graham, you remember that high school your wife Emily went to?”
“Milton High. Why?”
“Well, Lucky went to the same high school”
“No Way!”
“Yes Way”
“No”
“Yes”

You can only imagine the confusion Lucky was going thru. I explained to him – “See Lucky, a few months back, I was in Atlanta and Graham was in Philadelphia. I was trying to convince him to join a company in Chicago that was bought by your firm in San Francisco. During that conversation, I had found out that his wife went to – of all possible places in this country – to the high school down the road from me. Turns out that is where you went too!!”

This was certainly getting overwhelming for Lucky. I would not blame him. Again, we live in a very rural setting.

“So, which year did your wife go to Milton High?”
Turns out she was a couple of years senior to Lucky.
Then Graham had a thought – “Do you know Ben Jackson”?
“You mean this guy?” – Lucky asked after fishing out his phone from his pocket and pulling up a picture on Facebook.
“Yes. That is my brother in law!”
“He is my classmate, for crying out loud!!!”

The circle was complete, by now.
Here was a guy who lived in Philly that moved to Chicago to join the company I was joining from Alanta – and we were put in touch by the investor firm in San Francisco – realizing that I had run into his brother-in-law’s classmate in high school in the elevator!

All because of that * sign!!

As they say…. when the stars align….. 🙂

16 May 2019

Revisiting an old friend

It was nearly one and a half years back, I had met Rachel. I remember being very hungry after some office meetings and finding the one place nearby that was still open. Except, their kitchen was closed. But Rachel – who was working at the bar – was able to go inside and arrange for some onion rings and fries. Anand, remember?

I also remember about the advise she had for my daughters – “do not marry early” and her life aspirations about being a psychiatrist.

Last week, during my trip to Wisconsin, found out where she works now and then was able to catch up with her. She remains as energetic and reflective on life as ever. I think her aspiration to be a psychiatrist has worn off a bit – given how much fun she is having in her job now. Which is a pity – in my current job, we hire psychiatrists!!

This time, our topic was discussion was about bringing up kids. And also about her cousin that I found on Facebook (because she left a comment on my previous post) who is married to a Bengali!!! Further, found out that her boy friend is into Honda motorbikes like me!!

It was good seeing you again Rachel !

12 May 2019

Sunday morning puzzle

Here is a puzzle we were solving this morning.

Each letter stands for a digit. Those digits are 0,1,2,3,4,5

One twist – The letters below the line do NOT match the letters above the line in terms of the digits they represent. In fact, the digit represented by a letter above the line is separated from the digit represented by the same letter below the line by 1. So if C below the line is 2, then C above the line has to be either 1 or 3.

Can you solve the following subtraction? Send me a message with the answer.

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12 May 2019

Finally, finished this book

A professor friend of mine had once asked me to read this book when I had expressed my interest in understanding how did our brain development wean away from the rest of the primates during evolution. This book by Suzana (Brazilian scientist from Argentina who now lives in Nashville, I believe) is filled with some very interesting findings and conclusions from her research. And a lot of data and graphs.

Although I have to admit that sometimes the writing is a little repetitive and at least personally, I thought the data could have been presented in a shorter and perhaps more impactful way, the end results presented are very insightful, nonetheless.

That said, it is a book where you are bound to learn some really interesting things. Including the fact that we are not the animals with the biggest brains. Actually, nowhere even close.

Or that we have as many glial cells as neurons in our brain (it was believed to be 10X). Those “trillions” of neurons we guessed our brains have? Turns out it is only 86 Billion.

The two most important events in our evolution that made us the most intelligent animals? Using fire to cook was the biggest enabler. And before that learning how to stand up!!

If you get a chance and are inclined to understand a little more about how our brains became different – this would be a book I would recommend…

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