That was a unique flying experience. First the pilot came on the PA system and apologized for starting 15 minutes late but the door was closed and he said we were good to go. At the same time, Delta sent a text message to all the passengers with the app basically saying – “No way, Mr. Pilot. You are going to wait for another hour after the fifteen minutes.” Not to be outdone, the pilot came back a few minutes later and told us that he was with the FAA agents on the phone and their basic message was “No way, Delta. You are going to wait for two hours after that fifteen minutes”. I turned around to my fellow passenger who had told the air hostess when she came around asking if anybody wanted drinks that he would wait till we get in the air and pointed out that he was being too optimistic!!
Anyways, we deplaned. And then replaned. “You again!”, I told the same nice gentleman who came and sat next to me. This time we started chatting about our jobs and all that. eventually, we got up in the air and we went back to our own things. Fifteen minutes later, I tried looking out of the window. He was sitting next to the window and luckily for me, he had it open. Not sure why – but all Delta passengers in the front keep their windows closed. I guess all that movie watching on their devices. I get mildly irritated that we are not able to see the clouds and the sky outside. Not so with American Airlines. Somehow their passengers always keep the windows open – at least every time I have taken American Airlines.
In any case, just as I looked out the window, my eyes glanced at the screen of the iPad my fellow passenger had. He was clearly listening to something intently thru his headphones. I recognized a person on the screen. I rudely interrupted him and asked
“How do you know this gentleman?”
“Oh! I do not know him. But he is a great guy. His name is Roger Whitney. He has this amazing podcast about retirement that I love to listen to”
“I know. I have known him for over 20 years.”
“Really? You know him? How do you know him?”
“Oh! We occasionally get drunk together at a bar and come up with plans to go to some crazy places in this world”, I replied nonchalantly.
I whipped up my iPad and showed some of our pictures from the Mongolia trip.
You could see that I had suitably impressed Mark Hensley (that being his name). I told him about Roger’s family history, his kids and his triathlon. Mark, who was already a super fan of Roger was starting to put him on the pedestal of a demi-god. Which Roger kind of is. But more importantly, Mark was starting to feel better and better about me due to the halo effect of the aforementioned demi-god!!
Mark wanted to know if he could talk to Roger some time. Apparently, he has been wanting to talk to Roger for a long time. So, I gave him Roger’s office number, admin name and email id. Again, with every such move, my stock was going up in Mark’s eyes.
I talked about how our families know each other … the great times we have had with Shauna, Spencer and Emma over the years.
Roger, dude! I gotta admit! You are a hero!! A hero who still cannot bend enough to enter a ger without hitting his head – but a hero nonetheless!!
As we were all getting to deplane, Mark asked me –
“So, you actually rode camels with Roger?”
“Yes, sir. And eaten camel meat too!”
“And drank alcohol made from horse’s milk together in a nomad’s camp.”
“Wow!!”, he finally exclaimed.
Roger P. Whitney! I won the admiration of a random fellow passenger not because of what I know. But because of who I know.
All I can say is … “You are a good man, Charlie Brown!!”
(Apologize for the bad quality of the picture – I am not a selfie guy and the airplane was dark. He did want to take a shot of the iPad screen with Roger’s picture on it)
Thank you so much, Neal, for making the time to meet me in the middle of some hectic wedding activities. Getting to see Avia and talking to her was mesmerizing. I think she is very funny – specially for her age! The last time I saw her, she was still struggling to open her eyes in this new world. That was way back when and you were on the other coast. You might remember that after visiting the new born – we did what all fathers of new borns do – we went for a run!!
I missed Kim and Veera though! Hopefully Sharmila will join us too.
It was great catching up about our Optiant days together and all those great folks that we got a chance to work with.
But the best part – at least for me – was talking about taking years off. Hopefully you will do it sometime. You are the one person I know in my entire network who is most likely to. You have always had a independent perspective towards life and have an innate sense of how to not fall in the trap of “never enough” when it comes to money.
I know you will give Avia and Veera some indelible moments in life when you do so.
I went back and searched up my photo database (which is now over 100,000 pictures) to find that moment I talked about that has stayed seared in my memory. It was one of those year offs for me. It was after a grueling 10 year near-nothing-to-$1B start up success (the success was in spite of me; but the effort was not for the weak of the heart). That robbed me from enjoying the first daughter (Natasha) in her early years. But the second one (Nikita) had not yet completed a year when I took the year off.
As I was telling you – for the first time, I subscribed to a newspaper – Wall Street Journal, no less! I guess I was trying to catch up with the world in a hurry. But some of the best mornings were sitting outside by the pool reading the newspaper and then Nikita – who would have just woken up – would come up to me – with the dog in tow and shimmy up the chair to sit next to me. She was barely a year, as I said. So, the conversations were fairly unintelligible. The dog never seemed to mind though.
It is moments like that you are going to be very proud of when you reflect back on life when you realize the end is nigh. You will remember very little of what work you did at office.
So, here is to you taking a year off and creating some life memories. Perhaps that boat in Barcelona that we talked about? 🙂
It felt good to start early for the Saturday run. The sky was completely covered in clouds, the temperatures were low and there was a light breeze in the air.
Picked up my pace to sub-10 to finish a 10K under an hour. Was feeling really good about my pace till a couple with a dog raced past me. I have obviously seen a lot of fast runners. But what deflated me was the dog looking back as it passed me from my left and giving that “You call that running?” look with a smirk as big as a grin…
Ran into the good old Chalupa group towards the end.
For the first time did motorbiking on the highways in the dark. Reached Stone Mountain way before sunrise and hiked it to the top with Ashish! After climbing down, he suggested we do it one more time – and we did! Went back to the top of the mountain for another round. I am glad we had started early. It had started becoming real hot when we got done…
“Yes. Is that Rajib?”
“Of course! I should have guessed it!”
“Happy birthday, Nancy. How are you?”
A week back, that is how one of my daily birthday calls started. After a few mutual updates, it took an interesting turn.
“I know you started working again. Where are you?”, she asked
“I work in Chicago. I still live in Atlanta though.”
“Oh! Cool. We have an office in Chicago and I come there once every couple of months.”
“Nice. Would love to catch up next time you are in Chicago.”
“Well, to be fair, I say Chicago. But we are not really near Chicago. We are in one of the suburbs way out of Chicago. It is further away from even the airport.”
“Where is it?”, I asked curiously.
“Oh! It is a small place called Itasca.”
“Where in Itasca?”, I persisted.
“Wait. You know Itasca?”
“I might have a working knowledge.”
“It is a building called 2 Pierce Place.”
“Do you have a chair nearby?”, I casually asked.
“Do you have a chair nearby?”
“Yeah! Why?”. She was justifiably befuddled.
“I work in 1 Pierce Place!!!”
“No way”, she said in disbelief.
“Well, when are you going to be there next?”
“Next Wednesday, in fact”.
“You know the Westin behind your building?”
“Yes. That is where I will be staying.”
“Meet me at the bar there at 6:30. When you get there, tell Chante or Tara that you are Raj’s guest. They will take care of you”.
And that is how, a week later, I got to see Nancy who I had worked in the same industry with many moons back. We tried our two companies to establish a partnership which eventually did not come thru. But our friendship has, over these years!!
I am starting to believe that it may be true that these kind of incredible intersection points happen only to me!
More than a year back I switched up from drinking coffee to drinking tea. None of the Indian style tea leaves soaked in boiling milk or boiling water in a sauce pan style. Just the “dip dip” style (which is what we called them when tea-bags made their entry into India in my early life). Ever since my switch up, it has been one confusion in mind after another.
I thought there was only one type of tea – you know the one that kind that comes from errrr… a tea plant. (If you have not guessed it that is why it is called “tea”). Then I learnt there is something called green tea. I always thought tea was black. Sure enough, there is something called black tea. Of course finding out that there is something called Earl Grey tea did not help matters.
But I really hit the roof when I found out there is something called “herbal tea”. That is where my biggest peeve lies. You CANNOT call whatever it is that you drink “herbal tea”. There is no tea in it. Call it by the name of the dried flower it is made of or whatever herbal leaves it has. It can have a lot of those esoteric stuff – but tea leaves it has none. By definition it is not tea. Calling dried flowers herbal “tea” is like calling chicken herbal “mutton”.
And this morning, early in the Skyclub, as I was looking for some tea, I was jolted out of my stupor when I saw something called “Chai Tea”. Chai Tea??? Chai is the original name of the plant where it comes from in China/India area. The English word for it is Tea. What do you mean Chai Tea? There is no Chai Tea. Chai IS Tea.
Can’t quite decide whether I like it or like like it, I guess!