29 June 2015

That was a wonderful evening with a wonderful friend!!

My run by the lake over, I said goodbye to Natasha and headed straight to meet somebody from the past. On the way, I located a La Fitness thru Google maps and headed there to take a shower and change. Drying up with paper towel (since I was not carrying a towel with me) was taking a lot more time than I was hoping. Or perhaps I was just getting impatient to meet Rajeev Saxena.

We used to live next door to each other in Bombay and we worked in the same company for about a year or so. I saw him last in 1993 when I left for US. Finally, I had traced him down to Chicago and got a couple of hours opened up before I had to drive up to Milwaukee.

It was a pity I had to drive up to Milwaukee because we could have easily spent another few hours talking. And this was already after overstaying my scheduled meeting by over an hour and a half. It is not often I come across people who have similar perspective towards life as I do. I am not saying the perspective is great or right – in fact, I routinely get called quirky by all and sundry – but it is always exciting to meet people with similar outlook as yours. What is more is that he has put into practice the philosophies we share much more than I have been able to.

A big chunk of our evening was spent discussing how to ensure you control money and not let money control you, the slipperiness of financial goals (they keep moving), the importance of time and relationships, the realization that the bank balance we will have when we die is the amount we did not have to work, that nobody has ever died regretting they should have worked a little more, the importance of taking “timeouts” from work life, the common fallacy in thinking that one cannot “afford” to do so and all that.

Speaking of time, we talked about a topic that has interested me for the last year. It is around minimalizing my life. Especially things I own. Somewhere a year back I started realizing that things have started owning me (maintenance was taking up a lot of my time). I started by drastically cutting down the number of clothes and shoes I wear. I was delighted to hear that Rajeev has had years of experience in this. I picked up a few valuable tips around how to simplify a few more things.

Eventually, we entered a little metaphysics zone and talked about how to create mindfulness within one self. We talked about meditation and the seemingly impossible task of constraining the mind to be in the present. We exchanged a few tips from our own past practices.

Like I said, I really wish I had a few more hours to spend with Rajeev. I loved his perspective towards life. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I think the same way too! So, I am biased πŸ™‚ But more importantly, he has put to practice lot more than I have and I need to learn from him.

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29 June 2015

Ranajoy Ganguli !!!

Last evening, Natasha and I arrived in Chicago and had the evening to ourselves since her summer camp check in was going to be today. I asked her if there was some friend she wanted to visit. She said, “not really”. I asked if she would want to visit the family of one of my friends. Surprisingly, she said “yes”. I was expecting her to say – “you go ahead, I will hang around in the hotel room”. After all, she had her phone and a free wifi connection πŸ™‚

In any case, half an hour later we found ourselves in front a nice house in Chicago suburbia. Moment the house owner opened the door, I had flashbacks of days over thirty years back. For that is the last time I saw Ranajoy. One year junior to me, we studied in the same middle and high school. I saw him last when I left high school – his junior year.

His dad also was my brother in law’s (Sharmila’s brother’s) teacher. And I missed him by the whisker. He left Chicago a few hours before I showed up πŸ™ I was aware that we lost Ranajoy’s mom a few months back. I still remember her evergreen smile. Unfortunately, I will not see her again πŸ™

One evening was too little to catch up on our days in between. We gave as best a shot as we could. And this was while I was also getting to know his wife (Madhumita) and his son and daughter. It was absolutely a magical evening. After a couple of drinks at his house, we all went out for dinner. On top of all the memories, I also was gifted a CD of Ranajoy’s songs. (He is somewhat of a professional singer).

On our drive back, I asked Natasha – “You were quiet most of the time. Were you bored?”

“No”, she said. “Actually I don’t know how you keep up with people you have not met for thirty years but it was cool hearing the old stories”.

This is Natasha. Dad is something to be embarrassed about. Not find something cool in.

I need to get me some more of these evenings… πŸ™‚

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29 June 2015

That’s close enough!!

I was driving down I-88 near Naperville, IL when I thought I saw an interesting license plate in a car on the leftmost lane. Maneuvered for the next few minutes to get as close to the minivan as I could safely get and took a snapshot. I realized whey the plate caught my attention. That almost looked like my name. Actually, it was RAJ 18. Close enough!!!

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28 June 2015

Run by Lake Michigan

Could not resist the beauty of the lake. As Natasha started unpacking her luggage and setting her dorm room up, I went back to the car, quickly changed and went for a run by the lake. After the run, came back to check on Tasha who had already set her room up neatly. With nothing much to add, I bid her goodbye hoping to put in another run when I come to pick her up…

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28 June 2015

The Leaning Tower of … Where????

This is not a picture I missed posting from Italy. This happened to us this morning. I was peacefully driving Natasha to her summer camp in Northwestern University. We were driving from the O’Hare area and was making a few stops in local small towns and villages – you know, picking up some last minute stuff for her five week dorm stay, chatting with a few locals – when, Bam! We came across this.

Of course, we had to take a detour. We turned around, parked nearby and checked out this 80 year old half size replica of the original Leaning Tower. In a small place called the “Village of Niles”.

That was an unique surprise!!

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27 June 2015

This is why I consider myself so lucky…

Like every other day, I called up my mom yesterday and was expecting to be the usual few minutes of chat before she went on with her household stuff. Instead, she was very excited to let me know that two of my friends had visited her and my dad in the afternoon.
“Friends? Who?”, I asked. I could not think of anybody immediately who would know their house in Kalyani to visit them.
“From St. Xavier’s School, Durgapur”
“Really?” That was even more confusing.
“One of them is called Happy”
In my mind, I could think of one Happy Ghosh who I have not met in 30 years and in any case he was not from that school. And the other Happy was the nickname of Gurdeep Singh. He is the highest level executive at Vizag Steel about 1500 kms away. What would he be doing in Kalyani? How would he know where my parents lived?

“Gurdeep?”
“Yes, Gurdeep”.
“Who was the other one?”, I asked.
“His name was…… ” and she had a senior moment for a second. But she quickly recovered – “He lives in Dubai”.
“Shirshendu”???? I asked.
“Yes, yes, Shirshendu was his name”.

At least that made a little more sense. Do you remember the story from http://www.rajibroy.com/?p=7598 ? If you recollect from that story, Shirshendu’s parents and sister live in Kalyani. I had met him for the first time in January of this year; in spite of having many many common friends, our paths had never crossed. The most inspiring part was to realize how he had gone to Dubai and used to sell books and fought his way to become a top executive in the construction business. It made sense that he was visiting his parents and decided to drop by my parents’ home. I am sure I had given him the rough location of my parents’ home.
But why Gurdeep?

In any case, for the next ten minutes my mom went on to wax eloquent on how she was so impressed with Shirshendu and Gurdeep. She could not say “Ki bhalo chheley duto” enough number of times. (“What wonderful boys” would be the rough translation). Then my dad took the phone – which is a rarity for him unless he has something specific to say.

“Your friend told me that moving to Kalyani from Durgapur was the right choice. I think he is right”. I was very tempted to say “Really? All those years the three (siblings) of us kept on impressing upon you to move and you would not agree – what was all that about? Even after moving, you still complain about leaving Durgapur. And now my friend says the same thing – and suddenly, you think that is the right decision. Okay, whatever.” πŸ™‚ What I really said is “I think he is a smart guy”.

After finishing the call, I was wondering how to get hold of Shirshendu. I was not sure his Dubai number would work in Kalyani. However, in these days of Facebook, these are are but minor problems. In a few minutes, I got a message from Shirshendu on FB saying he and Gurdeep visited my parents. A couple of messages later, I called him up in his local India number.

I could not thank him enough for visiting my parents and cheering them up. My sister was also there and she was very excited too. I told him that my parents and my sister could not say enough good things about the two of them. But especially my dad seemed to be very energized by their trip.

I also called Gurdeep up and gave him the same message. I let him know that being in his professional life where he is, I could not believe he took the time to visit my parents. My parents have not been this happy in a long time.

One of the stories that came up was how my parents chuckled at Shirshendu’s shaved head (see picture) and noted that their elder son also does the same and they think this is becoming a popular style now. Seeing as much fun as my parents were having, my two friends just laughed it off.
And never mentioned the fact that Shirshendu lost his dad a few days back. In our part of the world, as part of the last rites of a parent passing away, the sons shave off their head. That is why
Shirshendu was in Kalyani. Gurdeep had dropped everything and gone to be by his friend’s side in such trying times.

It took me quite a few minutes after the phone calls to come to terms with myself to understand what kind of grace it takes for somebody to cremate his dad and then decide to go spread not sorrow but pure happiness to other dads nearby. What kind of a friend you have to be to take leave from a high flying post and instead fly to be with your friend to give him company and then extend further to join him is spreading the goodness around.

And what sensitivity to not let my parents’ mood down by telling them the truth behind the shaving of head. (btw, my parents still do not know).

My deepest regret? In spite of going to Kalyani every three months, I never got a chance to meet Shirshendu’s dad. Well, at least I am going to meet his mom next time I am there. Maybe I will take a few tips on how to recite poetry!! (See the story mentioned above).

I have always considered myself to be an end product of the inspiration and influence of numerous people that have crossed my path throughout my life. Shirshendu and Gurdeep, you two are way up on that list.

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26 June 2015

Most hilarious spam I have gotten in some time…

Read the email I got. This is too funny!! This is the response I sent her. Read the spam email before reading the response.

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Dear Dolores,
First of all, I am really impressed with how smart you are. Not too many people with email ids janeczkadesrosiers@yahoo.com would make it easier for their readers by introducing themselves as Dolores. I come from a country of seemingly unendingly long names. We should have thought about that before.

I am glad that you liked my photos. And as you pointed out, there was a strong and reliable man in those pics. However, unlike your conclusion that he was behind the picture, I am pretty sure that he was in front of me – taking those photos, in fact. Although, I am a little confused how those new fangled selfies and selfie-sticks work these days. Maybe you are right.

You fell off the chair? You should have seen how I rolled off the floor!!

I have to say that I was most relieved when you referred to your errr… errr…. those “amazing” things. After the recent legalization of gay marriages, you can only imagine how worried I would have been if I had gotten this from somebody without those errr… errr… “amazing” things!!

I am also glad for you that your other “errr… errr… thing” is “something”. Personal experience has taught me that something is better than nothing.

Finally, regarding something interesting about myself… honestly, I am not that interesting. My first wife in fact called me “quirky”. I consider myself somewhat of a dumb guy. As an example, I cannot still figure out which one of the five guys in your “To” list were you talking to all this time.

Anyways, have a good day..

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BTW, all of you readers, who are worried at my reference of “first wife”, RELAX. I am still married to her. I just don’t have any empirical evidence to conclusively establish that she is the last one. πŸ™‚

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