11 May 2017

Singapore. In Baltimore!

I reached the Marriott Baltimore lobby and immediately settled down on business stuff with my colleague – Kurt. An hour and a half later, I took a temporary break to get on to a call with our investors. I was on the call, pacing up and down the lobby when I thought I heard my name being called out. I looked around very quickly, still talking and generally ignored it. Till I heard my name being yelled out – this time more clearly and loudly.

I look around and what do you know? Good old Ajit was in the lobby meeting a customer. My history with Ajit goes back to the late 80s. He was a junior of mine in engineering college and we both lived in the same dorm (hall). Another connection I have with him is that he eventually married Soumya – who I got to know later in a completely different part of India as a friend of Srimathi. Srimathi, in her turn, was one of my closest friends in management school. Unfortunately, we lost her to cancer. The only solace I have is that I was literally one of the last persons she saw and talked to before passing away. I had taken a flight back to US after seeing her in Cancer Institute in Chennai. By the time I landed in Frankfurt, there was a message for me from her brother that she was no more.

Too many memories floated by my mind when I saw Ajit. Yet, I had to take care of the call and Ajit himself had to leave. So, we spent only a few minutes together – but promised to catch up for a longer time later…

BTW, in college, we used to call Ajit “Singapore”. Hence the title of the post. I do recognize that was a terrible stab at poetry 🙂

11 May 2017

The difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary? It is really in your efforts to find it out…

I hopped on to the Marriott Hotel pick up shuttle at Baltimore airport and a few seconds later, as the driver closed the door, I realized that I was gong to be the only passenger for him. That was as good an excuse as any to make a new friend…

Me: “Are you from this area?”
He: “Well, I was born in northern Minnesota but I have lived in Baltimore for over 60 years!”
Me: “Ah! You are a native for all practical purposes. How long have you worked with the Marriott group?”
He: “4 years”
Me: “How did you get in this job?”
He: “Well, my friend who worked in Marriott asked me if I would like to drive. I said that I could drive. He asked me if I could drive around in circles. I told him that I was 70 years old. I could drive around in circles”.

It was a good thing that there was nobody else in the bus because I laughed out too loud. It was that matter-of-fact way he put it that he could drive in circles.

He: “And that is what I do all day. Airport to Hotel and back again!!”
Me: (after I had gained composure): “What did you you do before that?”

The answer to that question was stunning. Over the next few minutes, I found out that Bob Meade – the gentleman who was driving me around – was World Ranked #2 bass drum player in his hey days (I believe the competition was for drum players that were part of bagpiper groups).

Turns out that in school, he wanted to play bagpipes. “I gave it up for humanity. I really sucked at it”. Again, I laughed out aloud at his way of putting things. But apparently, his group kept pleading him to come back. So, he gave it a shot in playing bass drums. And never looked back from there.

At some point, he realized that he liked teaching kids to play bass drums. That was what became his profession. Three of his students went on to become World Champions. He is taking his students this year too to Glasgow for the World Championships.

The story was so unbelievable that as I was going “Really, really?”, I quickly punched in this name in Google and sure enough!! His picture and his background came up!! Glancing at a line there, I asked “You have actually written a book?”

“Yes! It is called Keeping The Beat. I am working on a second one”.

I was so engrossed in the discussion that I had not realized till a cold whiff of air hit me that we had reached the hotel and he had opened the door for me. There were a few people waiting to get in.

Very quickly I asked him if he would be there when I would go back to the airport. Alas! he was going to finish his shift in an hour.

Me: “Can I take a picture with you?”
He: “Sure. Just make sure that my face does not break your phone”, he said, with his, by now common, self deprecating humor.

I again laughed out loud as I jumped from the bus and briskly walked passed the rather intrigued set of passengers waiting to get on.

Looking back at his picture now I am marveling at two things. First, how the seemingly ordinary thing (or person) in life can be the most extraordinary thing (or person). You just have to find it out. And second… man! I really suck at selfies. Almost as much as Bob at the bagpipes!!

11 May 2017

This is my 126th airport – and 11th in the series of “Which airport am I in”!

Yes, among various things in life, I do keep track of how many airports I have landed or taken off from!! And that was my 126th airport!!

Many times, when you get into the airport, you are forced to go thru the Duty Free zone hoping you will get distracted and buy something. This airport has taken it one level higher!

And I really mean one level higher. You clear security and such stuff and then you have to take an escalator. And that escalator spits you out straight into into the Duty Free shop. Your only escape route is to take the escalator down. At which point, the stern TSA agent will tell you to take the escalator up!!

Which airport am I in?