6 December 2019

Do these things happen only to me?

Last night, Natasha dropped some broad hints about her Christmas gift list. Something to the effect that she would not be particularly upset if she were to receive some Glossier stuff this year. After reassuring her that we would not take it personally if got upset :-), I had to ask myself the inevitable question any 53 year dad would legitimately ask – “What the heck is Glossier?”.

I know she is into Journalism and all that. Maybe she is looking for a Glossary??? That made no sense. So I Googled it up and had one of those “Okay boomer” moments. And then I remembered something else.

A few days back, I had seen a news item where somebody who I knew from my past had just joined as the CTO of a company called Glossier. I had been meaning to call Pawan up to congratulate her (and also find out what Glossier was). I had figured she would be too busy for me right now – so I noted it down as a new year action item.

I had a chance to work with Pawan way back in the mid 90s. A fresh graduate from UT Austin, she was an amazing professional. Over the years, she has built a sterling career spanning two different continents. Undoubtedly one of the smartest persons I know of (but not smart enough to avoid working in the same team as I 🙂 ) , she was fairly close to Sharmila and me when we worked together. Recently she has moved from being one of top executives in Amazon to Glossier.

I let Natasha know that I know the CTO of Glossier. Her text messages back opened up a sliver of a chance that she might have finally found something about her dad not to be embarrassed about.

“Actually, you know her too”, I texted her.
“NO WAY!! HOW COME NOBODY TELLS ME THESE THINGS?”, came the response in disbelief. All caps, no less!

I reminded her of a couple of times that she has met Pawan in the past (she was too young though). This morning I remembered something else. On my flight back home, I dug thru old pictures and managed to retrieve the picture below and sent it to her. With the message that..

“Believe it or not, Natasha, this picture is from when you were six months old. That dress you are wearing in this picture was gifted to you. By the same lady who is now the CTO of the company that you want your gift from this year!!”

What is the chance of that?

Life is such an incredible tapestry of rich memories and even richer relationships!!

29 November 2019

Mauricio Flores!!!

Mauricio and I worked long time back. I think I have met him twice – once in Buenos Aires and once probably in London during our office meetings. He was working in El Salvador (where he is from) and I was in our Atlanta office. He is one of those persons who I have kept up with after meeting once or twice thru birthdays and Facebook.

Last month, I had called him up to wish him for his birthday and realized that he now lives in Lisbon. (moved from El Salvador to Portugal via Peru). Turns out he was going to be in the Azores too. However, we missed each other there by a few days. On the other hand, we did meet up in Lisbon!

We went thru at least twenty of our old friends and updated each other on their thereabouts. Also, learnt a lot about El Salvador and a particular beach on the Pacific Ocean that might be a a great target for us to visit some day!

Thank you for taking the efforts, Maurcio! It was great seeing you!

21 November 2019

Thanksgiving came early this year!

For a road warrior like me, four days out of seven, home is where the hotel is and family is whoeever happens to be in the hotel lobby in the evening. For many months now, I have been sleeping during the workweek in a Courtyard near our office and the staff there has become my friends and family circle in the evening. In fact, I am on to my third manager of the hotel already but most of the staff has stayed the same. From political discussions with David to learning about tequila and mezcal from Eric to discussing kids and calculus with Lisa … there are way too many fond memories I have now.

Last night was my last stay for this month. I am scheduled to be out of the country with Sharmila and the kids like every year during Thanksgiving. So, last evening, I rounded up all the hotel staff and threw a Thanksgiving dinner. Now, I did not cook at all. And there was no turkey or cranberry sauce either. But the Americans were there and the Indian was there (ha! ha!).

We took the very old tradition and gave it a modern touch by GrubHubbing some yummy Indian dinner! There was Eric from the bar, Samantha from the kitchen, Tracey from the front desk and Alfredo who fixes just about anything in the hotel that breaks down. Had a great conversation with Alfredo about his background from Puerto Rico and his three kids here.

Thank you Eric, Samantha, Tracey and Alfredo! You all (and others in the hotel) make it a home away from home for me every week!! And I am thankful for that!

3 November 2019

One last surprise for this trip!

It used to be the case that the first sight of these two young gentlemen reminded me that I had alighted in Kolkata airport. That, and the oppressive heat and humidity.

These days, a far more oppressive thing called education with it daily tests, projects, private tutors and heavier-than-the-kid backpacks has taken away that luxury from my itinerary.

Met my nephews for a couple of hours before catching my flight back to Atlanta. They had no clue that I was in Kolkata!

And that would be the final surprise I had in store for this trip.

2 November 2019

Chef Rubai Ghosh!

As a family, we have grown to be a great fan of the Westin in Kolkata. The people there are the biggest reason. The facilities are great and we have gotten to know so many of the folks working there.

Chef Rubai is way up on that list of folks who know how to make your stay very enjoyable. She has cooked up some unbelievable specials for Sharmila, myself and our families over the last couple of years.

This trip was no exception either. It was great to catch up with her.

If you folks ever visit Westin in Kolkata, look her up. She will make some memorable dishes for you!

2 November 2019

Moments I wait for…

Every trip to India is all about my parents and inlaws. And then the siblings. And then all those intersection points with folks who I had crossed paths with long time back…their parents… their kids and so on.

One of the most rewarding moments for me is to relax with my brother over a glass of wine. My sister lives downstairs from my parents. She bears the brunt of the day to day challenges with my parents. My brother lives in the big city nearby. He does most of the heavy lifting on the medical and financial front. And in all those high risk situations my parents get into health wise every other year.

Folks like me who live very far can probably understand the sense of helplessness I have just because of the inability to do something. And realizing that the siblings are carrying more than their share of the duty.

I have found very few ways – if any – to say thanks to them for all this.

Sitting down with my brother over a bottle of wine on a roof top terrace of the Westin hotel for four hours just to talk to him without anybody else nearby was a great opportunity for me to to remind him of my gratitude.

We are very close. We talk every single day of our lives. Still, just being physically there – just the two of us… In fact, I mentioned the first day I saw him – brought back from the hospital fresh out of a bout of jaundice after being born and almost written off… we have come a long ways together!

2 November 2019

My incredibly talented friend Muktiram

I did my last two years of high school (eleventh and twelfth grade) in a residential school. I got a chance to meet Mukti there. He was in the same hostel (dorm) as I was. I remember him as the quiet and kind person around. Always very helpful.

I had lost touch with him for a very long time till I chanced upon one of his work of art. In my house, I am not the one who understands art – yet, even to me, his work of art that I saw was outstanding. (If any one of you want, you can check out his Facebook page “Muktiram Maiti Indian Artist). I have talked to him a few times over the lat few years once I got hold of his phone number (and needless to say, his birthday).

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to catch up with him in his office in West Bengal Bangla Academy. Surrounded by piles of paperwork stacked up on a couple of tables and the traditional Kolkata office style almirahs along the wall, I sat with him to get to know his life journey.

Drawing and painting was his passion. Is his passion. Will be his passion. He has given up everything in life to pursue his one love in life. Mukti explained to me how his teachers in Ramakrishna Mission encouraged him to pursue art and how he came under the influence of some of the most well known contemporary artists in Bengal. And then branched off on his own and created his unique style. (You will see the effect of the bright colors and then the bold lines – that he has created for himself). Mixed media is his choice of medium of expression.

My wife is an artist too. But I had to hear his story to understand how we have access to so many resources that Mukti does not. For us, to buy a canvas means a simple trip to the store – hopefully with a 50% off coupon. Mukti has to “cure” the raw canvas he buys for over four to five years to season them for painting.

I saw some of his paintings. Again, I am no expert. But this guy would have reached great heights if he was in a country like where I live.

For all that, he did not care all that. He said he does not want fame or money. He just wants to fulfill what he was born for.

We came out and had a cup of coffee from a nearby shop. I had a spirited discussion with him on why I thought exposure is important. For any profession. Particularly artists.

My sense of art is limited to “drawing” my salary. But a few years back, I had decided to build a website for Sharmila to display her gallery of paintings. Which is where she refers all the galleries to today.

I am so inspired by Mukti’s art, I am thinking of opening up a website gallery for him. What do you think?

(P.S. I have attached a couple of snippets from his paintings. But you can see in his Facebook page as referred above)