3 January 2019

Dealing with the famed Indian Bureacracy…

Running from pillar to post – or rather LIC office to Post office to straighten out some paperwork for our parents. To be fair, we are not making it easy on them. My dad is living but cannot physically be present or even sign any paperwork. My mom’s fingerprints never come out well (for whatever reason, Sharmila has the same issue) to match identity and none of the iris systems work in Kalyani.

All that said, we were able to get everything squared away after quite some
patience and running around..

2 January 2019

And you thought I am not interesting? :-)

Last time I was in Pune, I came tantalizingly close to meeting my classmate from fifth grade (thru tenth) – Ranjan Ghosh. In fact, I was close to his house meeting somebody else but his office schedule could not match up with my flight schedule. He was therefore very high on my list this time to meet.

Thanks to his and his family’s graciousness – they decided to visit me in my hotel since I was dog tired after all the road travel from Mumbai and then in the Pune traffic – I had an outstanding time with the Ghosh family last evening. In a somewhat of a coincidence, his younger brother has moved to Atlanta recently and I managed to go check on him when his parents were visiting him from Durgapur a couple of months back!

The last time I saw Ranjan was in 1983 – more than three and a half decades back. Funny part is that he has remained pretty much the same. The same athletic build, head full of hair, mustache and all that. I could have picked him up from a crowd any day. It was great to meet his wife Munmun. She is from Rourkela. I rattled off the names of all my friends from Rourkela hoping she would recognize somebody. Unfortunately, she is too young to know my friends.

But I persisted in finding some intersection point and eventually it paid off. Turns out her younger sister is married to an ex-student of my mom. We, in fact, called up her brother-in-law Samar Sarkar and I chatted with him for some time. Sure enough, the network got thicker and thicker. He is a good friend of none other than my good old runny buddy in Atlanta – Samaresh!!!

That was not the only connection. Remember Mrs. Biswas – my tenth grade English teacher? I had made my last trip to Pune to meet her. Well, a little poking and prodding and we found out that Mrs. Biswas was Ankita’s (that would be Ranjan’s daughter) English teacher and Vice Principal in school (St. Mary’s, I believe). You should have seen the look on Ranjan’s face as he realized that all these days he was oblivious to the fact that his English teacher from St. Xavier’s, Durgapur is the exact same person as his daughter’s English teacher from St. Mary’s, Pune!! How cool was that?

Ranjan’s son – Ani – took a great liking to me. (Young kids can easily jump to wrong conclusions that way!) We exchanged some puzzles and riddles. Before we said goodbye, he walked up to me and said “Tumi khub interesting uncle”. (he accused me of being an interesting uncle). Now, that is something that should some strutting rights!!

It was great seeing the Ghosh family from Pune!

2 January 2019

The original entrepreneur in my friend circle

Maneesh and I met each other for the first time when we found ourselves in the same project in our very first job way back in 1991 in Mumbai (then referred to as Bombay). He was one of those very sincere, very sharp in software coding and a very shy kind of person. (As an aside, he is still very sincere and super sharp in technology – maybe not as shy; but hey! two out of three counts!!)

We came to US together – again, for a common project. Citibank had shipped us to Florida in the same flight. Eventually, both of us were shipped to Dallas together. And at some point of time, I left Citi but he continued. Over the years, we have some contacts (after all, who can escape my birthday calls 🙂 ) . The thing I knew about him was that he had started a company – Sena – which was into online security. As online banking took off, Maneesh and Sena did extremely well. Eventually he sold the company. By then he had moved back to India.

Ever since, he has focused his time and effort in social entrepreneurship (something he has grown a deep liking for after getting his MBA from Stern) and investing in start up companies.

I missed Maneesh last time I was in Pune. Not this time!! In fact, he was waiting downstairs at my Bengali teacher’s building to pick me up and settle down at a coffee shop. I obviously had a lot of questions for him. I am not an entrepreneur. That bug never bit me. Ergo, I am always intrigued by people who do that. I am curious about how their brains compute the risk-return curve.

Learnt a lot from Maneesh last afternoon during our meeting for a couple of hours – specially, the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

“What have been the key learnings in the last few years, Maneesh?”, I asked.
After a few thoughtful moments, Maneesh offered – “Probably two”.

“First,” he explained “is the important of sticking to something. You may be good at something. You may not be. You may have early successes. Or you may not. Regardless, if you continue to persevere – eventually, you are going to succeed. May not be exactly the way you thought – but you will definitely succeed”.

He even suggested that not having early success might be a boon since that tends to wean out the competitive field quickly.

“And second learning?”
“The importance of networking. Whatever it is that one tries to do in life, one cannot do by oneself alone. You always need people who can give you that extra push or get you that all-important break. You need to cultivate your network assiduously. Conversely, you should help out people who reach out to network with you. Most people start networking when they need help not before. That is a mistake”.

In other words, your network can be your net worth.

It was not all work. We wasted no time picking on our great buddies over funny incidents from the past. No point taking names – but let’s say Srini, for example 🙂 🙂

Maneesh, thank you for making time for me. I have always admired you for building your own path. But I am even more in awe of you realizing how you are spending your time today helping others!

Till next time!

2 January 2019

The flight just got more interesting!!

Woke up at 3am this morning to catch a very flight back to Kolkata to re-visit my parents. Sat down in my seat and was patiently waiting for us the pull out of the gate when this lady boarded the plane, sat caddy corner from me and then put her bag down near her feet. The stewardess came by to remind her that she is in an exit row and the bag needs to go in the overhead bin.
The lady promptly gave the bag to the stewardess (to put it in the bin) but not before she took out a whole bunch of freshly made paratha (kind of Indian bread) and put it right in the seat pocket in front of her!
First time in my long life of flying, I have seen this happen. Can’t wait to see what will happen once are air borne. I am sure the “achar” is still sitting in her purse in the overhead bin!!! 🙂

2 January 2019

How often do you get to meet your first grade teacher?

That too 46 years later!!
I recollect it was 1973. Somewhere in the middle of the academic year, I suppose. Our favorite Bengali teacher – Mrs. Dhar – had given a class test. One of those words was “Aam” (meaning “mango” in Bengali). In my infinite wisdom, I had forgotten to put a small vertical line – thereby making it “Am” – which has no meaning in Bengali. Even I knew that! However, that ill fated missing vertical line cost me a mark and I scored 9 out of 10. I distinctly remember coming back home and facing my dad; it was – well, let’s just say an extremely unpleasant experience! I am sure I started putting extra vertical lines all over my Bengali answer sheets thereafter – because, you know, who wants to get thrashed by their dad? 🙂

Well, that spelling mistake is my first living recollection of Mrs. Dhar. I vividly remembered her visage and I also knew that she had triplets – Rinku, Minku and Tinku. (triplets were pretty uncommon in Durgapur).

I had come dangerously close to finding her a couple of years back when I had traced Rinku-di in California. I had even sent her a Facebook request explaining that I was trying to get hold of her mom. Not sure if she ever saw that but I hit a wall on that trail. Eventually, last year I found out Mrs. Dhar’s phone number. Which led to one of those awkward – “You won’t remember me – but I was your student in 1973” phone calls. I was afraid that she would take it to be a crank call. So, before she could slam the phone down on me, I threw the kitchen sink of my memories from those days at her including naming all my other teachers and exactly how the classroom roof looked (it was a crazy semicircular roof).

Having thus established by bona fide purpose, I had the chance to talk to her a couple of times more – all the time looking for a chance to go to Pune. By the way, in a complete twist of fate, I was in Pune a little over a year back to meet Mrs. Biswas – my English classroom teacher from tenth grade – from a different school. I had no idea that Mrs. Dhar was in the same city. Better yet, I never realized Mrs. Biswas was related to Mrs. Dhar. All I had to do is ask!! Go figure!!!

Well, what do you know? A flight to Bombay and an exhausting drive to Pune later, I was there ringing the bell at Mrs. Dhar’s door last morning. For a near-nonagenarian, she looked great and seemed to be in even better spirits. Very active socially and physically, she is an example to me on what I should be when I grow up.

We caught up on a million things – our old school, her daughters, my daughters, our old teachers, some of my batch mates and what not.

I am not sure I will get a chance to see her again (I sure hope I will). But I am just tickled pink that I was able to see her again after those Bengali class days of first grade – a full 46 years back!!

Like you have heard me say before – I am not sure I have ever made something of myself. Or, for that matter, ever will. But whatever it is that I am, a big part of it is the cumulative effect of some incredible influences of elders, teachers and friends around me from my formative years. I hope Mrs. Dhar will accept my visit to see her as a sincere form of saying “Thank You” for that influence.

1 January 2019

“I wish you enough”

Keeping up with my tradition of starting the year by “wishing you enough”. A message worth repeating every year. Also acknowledging Larry Mason who had originally wished me enough…

It would never be the start of a new year for me if I did not send my “I wish you enough” message like every year. Again, credits are to Larry who had “wished me enough” for the first time many years back.

“I wish you enough!”
By Bob Perks
I never really thought that I’d spend as much time in airports as I do. I don’t know why. I always wanted to be famous and that would mean lots of travel. But I’m not famous, yet I do see more than my share of airports.

I love them and I hate them. I love them because of the people I get to watch. But they are also the same reason why I hate airports. It all comes down to “hello” and “goodbye.”I must have mentioned this a few times while writing my stories for you.

I have great difficulties with saying goodbye. Even as I write this I am experiencing that pounding sensation in my heart. If I am watching such a scene in a movie I am affected so much that I need to sit up and take a few deep breaths. So when faced with a challenge in my life I have been known to go to our local airport and watch people say goodbye. I figure nothing that is happening to me at the time could be as bad as having to say goodbye.

Watching people cling to each other, crying, and holding each other in that last embrace makes me appreciate what I have even more. Seeing them finally pull apart, extending their arms until the tips of their fingers are the last to let go, is an image that stays forefront in my mind throughout the day.

On one of my recent business trips, when I arrived at the counter to check in, the woman said, “How are you today?” I replied, “I am missing my wife already and I haven’t even said goodbye.”
She then looked at my ticket and began to ask, “How long will you…Oh, my God. You will only be gone three days!” We all laughed. My problem was I still had to say goodbye.

But I learn from goodbye moments, too.

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you. I wish you enough.” She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.”

They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.

So I knew what this man experiencing.

“Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?” I asked.
“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral,” he said.

“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”
He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.”When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”
He then began to sob and walked away.

My friends, I wish you enough!

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