22 November 2018

Thanksgiving – Roy Family Style

Usually, Thanksgiving in the Roy family means going abroad somewhere as a family. We do not have any kith or kin outside of India to speak of. And Sharmila’s birthday is usually a few days away (no more anniversary wishes please!!). That makes it a good excuse to bond together as a family as well as celebrate Sharmila’s birthday somewhere nice.

This Thanksgiving is a little different. We are spread all over the world spending time with an extended definition of family.

Sharmila is in India to spend some time with her mother (we lost my father in law a couple of months back).

Natasha is in Ghana spending time studying and looking after orphans in a school which has become her new family.

Jay Jay is with his friends in the USA.

Nikita and I are in the Dominican Republic spending time with each other and our closest family friends in Atlanta – the Mukherjees!

This year is a virtual Thanksgiving for us!!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!!

2 November 2018

Sharmila’s Art Show…

… or in other words, free wine for me.

I came straight from the airport and arrived earlier than her. It was funny hearing all the visitors talk about her and her paintings as I milled around incognito.

At one point I walked up to a couple staring at one of her works and asked “You like this painting?”. The old couple immediately touched the painting protectively and said “We have already bought this”. Like I was going to snatch it away from under their nose or something…

I just said “Oh” and shimmied on…

7 October 2018

Not sure which was better…

Over six hours of out in the mountains on the motorbike with two awesome friends or doing math with Nikita for over four hours. The good news is that it was a virtual tie! The bad news? I have done nothing else today!!
But can I show you how to graph complex trigonometric functions or what? 🙂

6 September 2018

Charlie from TVA

It was almost 8 PM by the time I sank into the empty chair in Delta’s Skyclub in Chicago, suitably tired after a whole day’s worth of meetings. My flight kept getting delayed and it was getting increasingly clear that I was not going to reach home before 2 am in the morning. Not having anything better to do, I shut off the laptop, tucked in my papers and pen and grabbed a glass of wine.

Turning towards the elderly gentleman sitting next to me, I asked: “You are headed to Atlanta too?”
He: “Yes, sir! You too, I presume?”
Me: “Indeed. It is going to be fun trying to get back home tonite”
He: “Atlanta is home for you?”
Me: “Yes. You too, I presume?”
He: “Not really. I have to get to Nashville from Atlanta. I am going to miss my flight. Probably will get a flight early in the morning”
Me: “Do you know the Atlanta area? Do you need help with hotels?”
He: “Thank you. My granddaughter has already booked me at a hotel next to the airport”.
Me: “Great! I am Rajib, by the way”.
He: “Charles. That name – you are from India, are you not?
Me: “Indeed! Have you ever visited India?”
He: “Visited? I used to work there.”

That was surprising. I have met elderly Americans who were in India during the world war but not too many who actually worked there.

Me: “You worked there? What were you doing?”
He: “I was in construction that time. We were doing projects for power stations”
Me: “Which parts of India?”
He: “Around the borders of West Bengal and Bihar. I do not remember the exact names but this was all around coal mines there”

That was exciting. I am from that area.

Me: “Asansol. Purulia. Raniganj. Chotta Nagpur. Do any of those names mean anything to you?”
He struggled to remember – “I think they are familiar. Something is coming back to me. We were about four hours of train journey from Calcutta. Calcutta had some great British clubs.”

By this time, I was excited enough to blurt out quickly – “Believe it or not, I am actually from the area where you used to work. A place called Durgapur – which is only a few miles from those places you remember”.

He seemed more surprised than me.

Charles… Nashville… Construction projects… West Bengal… really old person…I kept musing…

“Wait a minute. This was in the 50s. right?”, I asked.
“Yes. Sound about right”
“Were you with Tennessee Valley Authority?”
“That is the only company I have ever worked for. How do you know about that?”

“You are just not going to believe what I am going to tell you now. I actually know you. Or rather, I have heard about you.”
“Really? From who?”
“Do you remember a Rakhahari Ghosh when you worked in India?”
He drew a complete blank.

“You called him RG, I believe. Apparently, you had handpicked him and given him a double promotion”.
“Something seems to come back to me. A thin, short boy, if I remember correctly. He was very hard working. Most hard working of the lot”
“Yeah, that would be a good description.”

He seemed to be somewhat lost in thoughts..

“He left me, I think, after some time”
“Yes, against your wishes, he left the job”
“I think he wanted to join a government job”.
“Yes, again! He took a job with the Indian Railways”.

“So, how do you know him?”
“Rather well. I married his daughter. He is my father-in-law. And he will be thrilled to bits to hear your voice. Do you mind if I call him up right now?”
“Sure. I will be impressed if he remembers me still.”
“He does,” I assured him as I speed-dialed my father-in-law.

Just as he picked up the phone on the other side, the PA system came alive in the Skyclub drowning his voice.

Strangely, instead of the lady coming over the PA system with yet another announcement of delay, it was the sound of a dog growling loudly.

I woke up from my bed, startled.

Sitting up, on the verge of breaking into a sweat, I realized that I was dreaming all this time. I came in very late (actually very early this morning) and had gone off to bed immediately. Even the dog was too asleep to realize it. Now he had figured it out and was on my bed wanting attention.

Half sleepily, as I gave him a belly rub, my thoughts went back to that day in 2014, when my father in law and I were sitting around the kitchen and over a cup of coffee, he told me the story of his first job and how he had always regretted later going for a government job per his parents’ wishes. He wished he had stayed back with Charlie.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind that day, I had made a note… What if I found out Charlie some day? What if I ran into him? How cool would it be to put him and my father-in-law together again? That would just be an incredible chapter in my life.

The chapter in my life, unfortunately will remain incomplete forever.

We lost my father-in-law a few weeks back.

Instead of closing out the chapter, I choose to put a “…to be continued” in the end.

3 September 2018

Brickbats or Bouquets?

After 10 days of frustratingly scrambling thru the refrigerator searching for stuff, I finally gave in today and organized the whole dang thing by categories. While not exactly following a Dewey decimal system, the post-its at least spell out the categories. In the process, I managed to come up with an empty shelf too. I was so pleased with myself that I called Nikita to show off my organization powers.

“Do you like how I have organized everything?”
“You know what she will say, right?”
“What?”
“I CAN’T FIND ANYTHING, ANYWHERE”
Somewhat deflated, I asked “You do not know that.”
“I should know, dad”
“How?”
“Because that is what I do to her when she tries to organize my bedroom”.

Oh! Boy!!

I did not even take a picture of the “before” situation to undo everything!!

29 August 2018

My family in India is so predictable…

About 9:30 am last morning
Me (on the phone): “Rajib here”
Mom: “How are you?”
Me: “Good. Today is dad’s birthday, right?”

I go thru the next part of the movie pretty much every single year the same way.

Mom (incredulously): “It is your dad’s birthday, today?”
And then I could hear her informing dad – “Did you know it is your birthday today?”
Dad, like every year, gave a hollow laugh and pronounced that nobody his age actually celebrates their birthday.

It is then that I pointed out to my mom over the phone that this was a big birthday for him. His 80th, in fact!
That got mom excited even more. “Did you know you turned eighty today?”
I could not hear any response from him. I was pretty sure he was doing the math in his head.
As anticipated, after a few seconds, I could hear him “Of course!”

Then I could hear him say “Dyakh! Merey ketey aasir ghorey dhukey porlam”. Not sure how to translate this but it would roughly mean he managed to drag and scream himself into his eighties.

After a few more minutes, I kept the phone down.

Next call. My sister.
The phone was switched off. Dang!
Tried a second number. She picked up!
Me: “What happened to your main mobile?”
She: “I have it switched off”
Me: “Why?”
She: “It is a touch mobile”. (meaning smartphone in our lingo here)
Me: “So?”
She: “No, Rima plays with the apps and gets distracted from her studies”
Me: “What?”
She: “Yes”
Me: “Ok. Did you know it is dad’s birthday today?”
She: “It is not his birthday today”
Me: “When is his birthday?”
She: “Aug 28th”
Me: “And?”
She: “Oh!”
Me: “It is a big one for him. He turns 80 today”
She: “No. he does not”.
You will be surprised that for somebody who did not even realize what date it was how confident my sister can be that I am wrong!
Me: “He was born in 1938. He is 80 today.”
She: “Ok. I need to keep the phone down”
Me: “Why? I just started talking…”
She: “I need to call Ashok to get a cake”. (Ashok being my brother in law)
Me: “Why don’t you use your other phone… Oh! Never mind”! I had a quick flashback of smartphone… internet… apps… niece… etc etc etc. I get it.

About an hour later, this picture showed up on my WhatsApp. I can only imagine what must have happened. First, my sister would have commandeered my brother in law to get a cake. Armed with that cake for her granddad, my niece must have walked into my dad’s place and shaken him out of his bed. You can see the general reluctance written all over my dad’s face.

It sure looks like he had been waiting with that knife in his hand for a few minutes as my niece tried to take a picture. Only to realize that the “touch mobile” was off 🙂

I even got a video of everybody singing Happy Birthday to him!! The video showed him cutting the cake.

What is the big deal?, you may ask. Actually I myself did not realize it. It was Nikita who pointed something out. “He is using his right arm to cut the cake”, she had observed!

It was his right side that had gotten paralyzed after the brain stroke exactly a year back. He had absolutely no functional capability on the right side of the body. In fact, his hand used to dangle like a dead limb and he would not even realize when he rolled over his hand in awkward positions while sleeping (thereby potentially running the risk of breaking bones).

That has been a story of a remarkable recovery.

——
Epilogue:
This morning I called my mom and asked how were the surprise birthday celebrations.

Forget the celebrations. She could not say enough about the ingenuity of human kind that instead of putting eighty candles on the cake (and wasting a lot of stuff), we had simply figured out how to make a candle in the shape of a “8” and another one in the shape of “0”.

I think I need to get myself to Kalyani soon again! Missing out on too much fun!

28 August 2018

I wanted to have a word with her. She had a few paragraphs with me :-)

Every year, the local Bengali community asks me to write something for their annual publication. Usually, I pick something from my blog and then send it to them. This year, they asked me to put together a few blogs and write out a longer piece.

Which I did. With a lot of effort. After finishing it, I waited a day and then did a read over. Corrected a lot of mistakes that I had and changed a few of the constructs.

Then I had a brainwave. Since we have a budding journalist in our house, I sent it to Natasha and asked her if she could edit it for me.

I think she paid me back for all her workbook corrections I did when she was younger! Not only did she make a lot of edits, she put a 10-bullet point note in the beginning – on common mistakes I make that I should avoid. The last one was 5 sentences long in bold and beautiful font!!! And now I know what a “em dash” is!!

That said, she did give it a very polished look. After looking at what she has done to my initial script, I am tempted – a wee bit – to actually write a book about my life journey – provided Natasha agrees to edit it.

I can visualize the title page already…

“History of my Future. First Draft.”
Written by: Rajib Roy
(Liberally) Edited by: Natasha Roy

🙂

Learnt the difference between a professional and an amateur today!