14 February 2024

’14 Apr India

  1. One more time… Apr 18, 2014

    Started another of those quarterly pilgrimages to go see dad and mom in India. 36 hours of journey including 15 hours of layover in New York and Dubai. And then straight into 108 degrees cauldron called Kolkata!!!


  2. “Intersection points” getting popular Apr 18, 2014

    I was just wrapping up my call with Sharmila before jumping onto the flight to New York when I saw good old Shahid and his family walking past me. You may remember him from an old post and picture of the two of us sharing shayars and ghazals in a bar somewhere in Bombay after customer meetings.

    In any case, I finished out with Sharmila immediately and yelled out for Shahid. He saw me, brought his family to introduce to me and guess what his first words were? “Another Intersection Point”, he said!!!!

    I am like. “Yess!! I am going to start a cult”. πŸ™‚

    Anyways, it was great to meet Shahid, Munira and the kids!!!

  3. On the average, I will be fine πŸ™‚ Apr 18, 2014

    Wheels up from Atlanta. Wish I could bottle up some of this cold and damp weather and take it to boiling hot Kolkata.
    Or as a statistician would say , on the “average”, I will be fine!!!


  4. My chariot for tonight Apr 18, 2014

    There is my plane – A380 – for tonight. It is one humongous beast. Other planes look really puny next to it!

    The end of one wing to the other is nearly the length of a football field!! That Wright brother’s flight that got us into flying? They flew only half that distance!!!

    The plane has the height of a ten story building! (This one knocked me off)

    The plane weighs the same as … not ten, not twenty, not even hundred but 165 fully grown elephants!!!

    My daughter’s entire elementary school can get in and then they will have some more seats open!!

    It has space for 3000 suitcases!!!

    I am told fifteen hundred companies manufacture various parts of this plane!!

    If you took all the wires in this plane and laid them end to end, they would go over 500 kilometers!!!

    It is amazing that with all that, it flies for fifteen hours continuously at 43,000 feet!!!


  5. Snow capped Caucasian mountains!! Apr 19, 2014

    As seen from my window seat over 40,000 feet above ground


  6. Wings on fire!!! Apr 19, 2014

    Interesting angle of the rising sun rays!!!


  7. Reception party at Kolkata airport Apr 20, 2014

    The two indomitable cowboy nephews πŸ™‚


  8. Lucky intersection point!!!! Apr 20, 2014

    Had a great lucky break within a couple of hours of landing in Kolkata. Recently, had traced down a long lost friend of mine from elementary days – Sibapriya Dasgupta – in Midnapore(150 km from Kolkata). After landing at my brother’s place, I called him up to enquire after his parents (I was aware his parents were also ailing like my dad).

    To my great surprise, found out that he was in Kolkata today for another few hours and that too not very far from where I was. Decided to have a quick drink (although he is a teetotaler) together. And sure enough, soon, I was able to see him for an hour or so!

    Last time I saw Sibapriya was Mar 1983!!! Over 31 years back! He has still remained the nice, even keeled, very well balanced person. I was amazed by some of the details of myself that he could pull from three decades ago!!

    We talked about our parents, our teachers, friends from school and families. One interesting topic of discussion – and he is a doctor – was the possibility that medical science is dealing with our parents in a wrong way. Instead of focusing on extending their lives when they are clearly not enjoying life, should our medical sciences factor in the inevitability of death and focus on making the rest of the years very enjoyable, painless and peaceful?

    Great stimulating discussion. Hope I do not have to wait for another 31 years before I get to see good old Sibapriya again!!!


  9. United Colors of India!! Apr 20, 2014

    Street cricket game with brother and nephews … In sandals!!!


  10. Overburdened by education? Apr 21, 2014

    Nephews waiting for school bus


  11. He looks good!! Apr 21, 2014

    First time in two years of quarterly visits, the first impression of seeing my dad is very encouraging!! He is looking good, is in high spirits and am seeing him laugh after a long time….
    Now, if we can fix his knee, he might be truly get his life back…


  12. Five essential activities in a day in Kalyani Apr 21, 2014

    1. Got up very early and sat with dad in the balcony sipping tea without any words spoken? CHECK!
    2. Went for a run with brother and stopped multiple times to have streetside tea? CHECK!
    3. Went for a long walk in the evening with sister, brother-in-law and brother? CHECK!
    4. Had some potentially dysentery-inducing but out-of-the-world tasting golgappas (“fuchka”) from the streetside vendor? CHECK!
    5. Scaled the roof of the building so that I can have wine with brother away from parents’ prying eyes? CHECK!

    Not too many things have changed in life! Life is good!!

  13. Back on the road… Apr 22, 2014

    Buoyed by seeing my dad in much better shape, this morning, I moved to the next goal of why I come to India – the continuous exercise of reminding myself who and what got me wherever it is that I got.

    Time to dig up some old friends, teachers, relatives that I have not seen in ages just to thank them for being part of my life long time back. And influencing me to be who I am today.

    Brother and I hit the road … now driving thru beautiful rural Bengal early morning to see how many more intersection points we can create!!

  14. “Ma, ami khokonder baari kheltey jachhi” Apr 22, 2014

    Meaning “mom, I am going over to Khokon’s place to play”. For years, early in my childhood, that used to be a sentence I would say at least once a day. I am sure you remember my 37 year search for that first friend of my life – Khokon – which ultimately ended when I met him 3 months back.

    Today, I visited him and his mom again. His mom and I chatted for almost an hour today – a perfect throwback to those days forty years back when she would be cooking in her kitchen and I would gather around her and chat endlessly….

    Here you can see her mom engrossed in our chat….


  15. My first friend Apr 22, 2014

    Sheikh Moniruddin alias Khokon! There was nearly a gap of 13,500 days before I met him in Dec. Today’s was after 135 days!!!


  16. Intersection points – Mitu Apr 22, 2014

    After three failed attempts in as many years, finally managed to find this very old friend of Khokon and mine. Last time I saw her was Dec 1979 – so that is about 35 years back.

    Although it was for a very short time, it was totally worth remembering some of the details of our early childhood. She reminded me if some of the childhood memories that I had almost forgotten!!!


  17. Luckiest intersection point Apr 22, 2014

    In my previous post, I talked about Mitu, my long lost friend of nearly four decades. What I did not tell you is what happened right before I met her.

    My brother and I were searching for her house, with some help from Google maps and a lot of help from asking people at the street corners. At some point, I was convinced we were at the right house. I asked my brother to stop.

    It was already dark. To be very sure, I decided to ask the couple of ladies walking under the streetlight.

    Now, what I should have asked is “Achha, Eta ki Mitu-r baari”? (Is this Mitu’s house?). Instead, what I said after rolling the window is “Achha, Eta ki….. ARRREY Khukudi naaki”? (Is this…. WAITAMINUTE … Is it Khukudi”? )

    That is when I realized that many times I create intersection points. Sometimes others create them for me. And sometimes they are too serendipitous for me to explain!

    Went to meet a neighborhood friend from the 70s. Landed up asking directions from another neighborhood friend from the late 80s!!! Khukudi was a few years senior to me and lived a few houses apart.

    She insisted on taking me and my brother to her house and introduce me to her husband Ranajit-da!

    I last met her when she got married to Ranajit-da in 1984!!

    Is this crazy or what? πŸ™‚


  18. Completing the Durgapur trip!!! Apr 22, 2014

    No trip to Durgapur is complete without visiting Baisakhi, Sagar or their car crazy son!!!


  19. Creating intersection points – one success… Apr 23, 2014

    One more frustrating search ends with a happy ending. Kanta-di and her brother Buro had eluded me for a long time. Not any more. Got couple of clues from my last trip to India. One challenge – the clues were too broad.

    Went searching the area this morning with little success. Then my brother hit upon a novel idea – we started asking all the shops nearby. One of the shopkeepers gave us the exact address!!!

    I don’t think Kanta-di or Buro could have successfully recognized her if their life depended on it!!! But it was awesome fun once we told them who we were!!

    Unfortunately, found out that my search took a little too long to see uncle and aunt (their parents) one last time…

    One more set of friends that I last saw in 1979 has been traced. Now I have their phone numbers too… Makes keeping up so much simpler….


  20. Creating another intersection point – disappointing end Apr 23, 2014

    After having found Mitu, Kanta-di and Buro, started the next search – Bablu-da. He was a couple of years elder to us and had two sisters younger to us.

    Again, started with the broad indications I had received in the past and after narrowing the area, started the block to block search. I described him to way too many people but nobody seemed to know. Some went out of their ways to help and called a few local people who have been around for some time.

    The temperatures had already hit 100 F. Frustration was rising at the same rate. Even the curious street dogs who were following this strange, shaven head, shorts wearing guy from door to door went like “You are on your own now, dude” and sat under a tree with their tongues hanging out.

    That is when I decided to give up for now and try again during my next trip. Some more tenacity and resources…. and I will find him one way or the other.

    Now, the three hour drive back to dad and mom..

  21. Adventures on the way back Apr 23, 2014

    First we had a flat. Then we had the mandatory tea by the highway!!!


  22. Good deed of the day… Apr 23, 2014

    Dad had been mentioning for some time about a cousin of his who he had not seen for some time. Evidently, this cousin has been very helpful to him in the last. Unfortunately, due to a procedural error during a throat surgery, he has lost his voice almost entirely. And dad was hoping to see him sometime.

    A few calls to relatives, research on Google map and two hours later, dad, mom, brother and self headed out moment the sun set. And in an hour, we were knocking on the door of a much surprised uncle!!!

    You can see the two cousins chatting here. It is pretty entertaining to watch two cousins talking, one of which can’t speak much and the other desperately hard of hearing. Funny part – that is not bothering them at all. They are holding two independent conversations with great mutual satisfaction. πŸ™‚


  23. Amateur!! Apr 23, 2014

    Two of the cocktails I prepared this evening with watermelon and cucumber and he is flat!!! Amateur! I am depressed with my brother πŸ™‚

    In an unrelated story, my parents have no clue alcohol can be colorless. They know how wine looks and that is a no no. But they have no idea about the difference between watermelon and Sprite and the one that had the same with 60 ml Smirnoff. As long as I have one only with Sprite and carefully offer that when they ask to taste, I have absolutely no reasons to scale our building’s roof….

    I just have to figure out how to ensure that my brother does not collapse every time he drinks my cocktails…..


  24. Contortionist! Apr 23, 2014

    This is my niece. And those are her feet! And for the last half an hour, I have been unsuccessfully trying to keep my knees straight and my feet pointed differently, like her’
    God! This is difficult!!


  25. Couple of more attempts on good deeds… Apr 24, 2014

    For the last two years my dad could not get out of his bed. This time, he is in an absolutely great shape. It is like the difference between day and night.

    On our way back from his cousin last night, he could not thank me enough. Although it was my brother who did all the hard work, I got all the praise. Our family, that way, is very kind to me πŸ™‚

    If any case, my brother asked him what would be next in his wish list. He thought for some time and named a temple (a Kali temple) near Bagila that he had visited only once – in 1959! I was negative seven years in age!!!

    But my mom interjected saying that her wishes is next in line. My brother enquired if she had a list herself. She said she wanted to see her sister (the one immediately younger to her) that she has not seen in a long long time. I myself have seen her, I think, last in 1982 or so.

    Over drinks last night, we decided that my brother, sister and myself will take our parents to both the places. We need my brother to drive us all over. And we need my sister to keep our parents from fighting with each other. My responsibility was to find the places on the map.

    So far, I have found in my Google map a village that seems to match my aunt’s village name. They have no phones or anything for me to confirm. And regarding the temple of my dad, I got nothing!! Following my dad’s memories from 1959, I have so far found a high school on Google maps!

    Well, we will figure it out!! We are back on the road…


  26. I love this family Apr 24, 2014

    Brother driving. I am sitting next to him. Dad, mom and sister sitting behind. So far all the decibels has been provided by the back seat!

    It has been only 25 minutes on the road. Dad has so far given us a running commentary of all the railway stations we will cross. And my sister has called up her husband five times already to give instructions to the house help on what needs to be cooked. She would start saying something like “get five pieces of fish….” and then my mom would jump in arguing “no we need two more”. They would argue with each other for a few minutes while my brother in law, I am sure, waited patiently. My sister would then hang up, promising to call back with better instructions.

    My mom and she would argue, settle down on a decision, and then call him back. Then she would start “and take four cups of rice…”, promptly get interrupted by my mom and the whole cycle would start again!!

    So far, five phone calls later, we are down with five items on the menu!!!

  27. Made it!!! Apr 24, 2014

    Finally made it to my mom’s sister’s house! I saw her last in 1983!! The first cousin was barely three years old. And I just saw my other cousin for the first time! And she is already 29 years old!!!

    By the way, after some point Google maps had to be supplemented by grand old stopping-and-asking-people-for-directions!!


  28. Turning point in his life Apr 24, 2014

    Fifty five years later, he revisited the temple. A dream fulfilled. While I am no judge of temples, it seemed nice but nothing imposing. But my dad was transfixed. He went in and stood there staring at Kali Ma for over ten minutes. Then he came out and sat down on the veranda.

    My sister and mom were visiting other parts of the compound. But my dad just sat there. I gently went up to ask him what was he thinking about. I was not prepared for the answer.

    In a low voice, he took me and my brother back to 1959 when he and his family (his mom and brother) struggled mightily due to bad weather. (They were farmers and tilled the land). He rebelled against his family and wanted to leave farming and seek employment somewhere. He had a big fight with his mom and brother. Evidently, that is when he had gone to that temple very frustrated with his inability to get a job and the fact that he had no support from his family.

    He narrated how he had heard about the temple from others and came to seek some direction. He went back resolved to fight for a better future. A few months later, he got his first break – as a teacher in Panchgorah school where he eventually became the principal. And from there he got another break to join the Steel Plant that the British were building in Durgapur. He never had to look back after that.

    I was aware of the school, his rebelling against family and the Durgapur job. For the first time, I got the chronology in order and details I was not aware of.

    He credits that visit to the temple for all his luck. After retirement, when he looked back on his life, one day, he remembered about that temple visit. Ever since, it has been his dream to revisit that temple.

    At that point, he went back into his trance thinking about the past.

    As you must have guessed, my brother and I immediately started searching for that school on Google maps, Wikipedia and so on.

    More adventures awaited us!!


  29. Principal? Present, Sir!! Apr 24, 2014

    As I narrated in my previous post, my brother and I were desperately searching the internet for Panchgorah school. Which is not an easy feat given that the internet access was dog slow and Panchgorah is not exactly a household name. So, I asked my dad if he remembered how he went to that school those days. He said he got down at Simlagarh station and walked along the station road to the other side of GT Road for about a kilometer.

    However, Google maps showed no such road on the other side of GT Road. Totally confused, we decided to go that station anyways. We figured it must be a very small road – too small for Google maps to show. When we reached there, we realized why Google maps did not show such a road. Because there is no such road!!!

    My dad was overjoyed that he might see his old school but he was equally adamant that he was sure about the directions. I got down from the car and started making some enquiries. One person seemed to know where Panchgorah was. He asked us to go to Tinna More and take a left turn. Not having anything else to do, that is exactly what we did.

    Now, as I was fiddling on my iPhone Google maps to see where that road at Tinna More led to, sure enough, I came across Panchgorah. And there was a landmark for Panchgorah school too!! No wonder we never found it. We were searching for it in the wrong place. By the way, later my dad claimed that he remembered that he used to take a bus from the station to Tinna More.

    The road from Tinna More to Panchgorah is hardly a road. It is basically a large collection of potholes held together by slim lines of bricks and asphalt. Have you ever opened up Google Maps on your iPhone and shaken the iPhone? You will notice a popup comes up asking for feedback and such. Well, the road was such that every half a minute Google started asking for feedback. And my dad, was completely convinced we were on the wrong path.

    But we did reach there eventually! My dad walked into the school and introduced himself as the principal from 1959-1961. He mentioned a few names of teachers from those days and a few of the staff indeed recognized those names!! He was an instant hero!! All the teachers and the principal came out and introduced themselves. He was ushered into the principal’s office and the two principals – separated by 55 years – chatted about the school endlessly. As you see in the picture, the current principal brought a notebook out and wrote down some of the school’s history as dad related them.

    Meanwhile, I had become a small time hero too as I took hundreds of pictures in my camera and iPhone to digitize the memories. All the students thronged around me and were giggling and chatting rapidly. They had never seen a camera that large (I had my 300mm zoom lens on), or such a grown up person wear shorts like them, or somebody who shaved his head. I overheard an older student explaining to a younger one as I snapped a few more shots on my iPhone – “eta notun dhoroner camera” (this is a new style of cameras). He obviously would have been stunned if he saw me making a phone call with that camera πŸ™‚

    Eventually, it was time to go. We bade goodbye, walked back to the road and once we reached the car, I asked for a few minutes. There was a beautifully pond and I wanted to take a few shots. I am glad I did. In about three minutes, an auto rickshaw came up, an elderly person jumped out and the following conversation took place:

    “Apnar naam Abhay Roy” (“Are you Abhay Roy”?)
    “Hnah. Apni ke bolun to?” (“Yes. Who are you?”)
    “Haripada, sir. Chintey paarlen?” (“Haripada, sir. Do you recognize me now?”)
    “Na to. Apni ki teacher chhilen?” (“Nope. Were you a teacher then?”)
    “Na sir. Ami Apnar chhatro!!” (“No, no. I was your student”)

    Saying so, he touched my dad’s feet. You can see in the picture my dad putting his hand on his shoulder and wishing him the very best!! Evidently, the news had spread in the village that an old principal called Abhay Roy had come. and this student of my dad happened to still live in the same village. He heard about it and came running along!!

    Imagine that! Fifty five years later a student meets his teacher. Outside the same school!!! For a guy like me who focuses on creating intersection points for himself, this was a mega intersection point!!!

    My dad was just unbelievably happy at the turn of events! He came back all the way reciting from his memory “Chhatrodol” (“The Students”) by Kalidas Roy. I had never heard this poem before but it seems very well written. I need to look it up.


  30. Sad news!! Apr 24, 2014

    Remember a post from June 3, 2012 how after multiple decades, I had gone back to the hut I was born in? And then revisited in 2013?

    We just heard that the straw on the thatched roof caught fire and got gutted!

    So sad that one of those resources in life that had changed not a bit in 48 years of my life and was always supposed to remind me not to forget to keep my feet firmly to the ground, is no more.

    I am certainly glad though that I was able to see it a couple of times (and took my sister in the last trip too) before it ceased to exist and create a lot of digital imprints of those memories!!!

  31. Random shot – overcrowding.. Apr 24, 2014

    It is 108 degrees outside!!


  32. Oh! come on! Life is too short Apr 24, 2014

    You folks remember a recent cartoon picture of mine that I got done? The one that, as the venerable Narayan thought, the artist put the bulb inside my head instead of outside? I am attaching a small version of it here.

    Well, I carefully packed that picture in a tube and got it to India. I wanted to give it to my parents. I was hoping they will slide it under that big glass top they have on the study table along with all sorts of other memorabilia – including pictures of me from news paper clippings and other felicitations. You know, I thought it would put a smile on their face every time they saw it. It is a funny picture. And if they cared to think a little more deeply, they should take great satisfaction from the fact that they have raised a son that has no qualms about making fun of himself.

    Ah! That is where I went wrong. The wrath of Bengali parents towards anybody who makes fun of their son is writ large in their personas. Even if it means it is their own son making fun of himself!

    First I asked my mom if she could recognize the person. Confidently, she replied “Pronob Mukhujje”. I am like “What? For starters, he has hair. Second, why would I carry a Bengali politician’s picture in my suitcase?”. Finally, when I told her, she said that there is nothing funny about how I look and stormed off to the kitchen.

    Somewhat deflated, I went to my dad and showed it to him. He kept on thinking for a few minutes but could not come up with anything. So, I told him it is a caricature of my face. His response was “artist-er hathta ekhono paaka hoi ni” (“the artist has not matured yet in his skills”). And by the way, he would have nothing to do with putting that picture anywhere in his house.

    Now this poor picture is going to make a long haul back to America with me. I thought about giving it to my sister or sister-in-law. I am sure they will reject it outright out of fear of my parents.

    But fret not!! I have my revenge planned out already. You see, every December, I make one of those large photo calendars and send one each to all my relatives – parents, in laws, siblings, brother-in-law etc. Every page has multiple pictures of Sharmila and the daughters and myself. The idea is to remind them about the family far away. I also put every family member’s birthdays and wedding anniversaries – there are about 25 entries or so. The idea is the family members should not forget to wish each other on those special dates.

    Well, this time, I am first going to get a few more cartoon pictures of mine drawn. And then, in every page, along with some nice pictures of Sharmila and the kids, I will insert one small cartoon picture of myself. I want to see if they will I put it up on the wall. They will be torn between showing off their family in America to all guests who come by and having to admit that their son looks funny πŸ™‚

    Devious enough, huh? Muahahahahah!!!! πŸ™‚


  33. Winding down.. Apr 25, 2014

    After a couple of very memorable days with our parents in Kalyani, my brother and I are back in Kolkata. Chilling at Z Tapas Bar over a couple of glasses of limoncello margarita. It is 108 F outside. I think we will stay here for some time πŸ™‚


  34. Another intersection point! Apr 25, 2014

    I had promised this old friend from college days – Hena – that I would visit her when I am in India. I missed my promise last couple of times. Not this time! Met her after 1988. (It was at her home. Her mom had made omelettes for Debotosh and me). Also had the good fortune of meeting her husband Kallol!

    Caught up with her parents, siblings, common friends and such. The best part of our discussion was exchanging data on a null hypothesis I have: students who did well in studies in our old Indian education style (the one I grew up with) and students who later met with success in professional life are by and large negatively correlated!


  35. A really unique intersection point! Apr 25, 2014

    In the annals of my intersection points, this would go down as one of the most unique ones. For a simple reason. For the first time, I actually met Kanta!! We have known each other for the last nearly 30 years, written letters to each other but never actually physically met.

    Till today!!

    Let me see if I can piece this together. I have attempted at a graph too…

    Line 1: I had a friend during my school days called Shukla. She had a room mate in college called Kanta Lahiri. I had become pen-pals with her thru an introduction from Shukla

    Line 2: My best friend from school days was Avijit. He was also a common friend with Shukla. He later worked in Apollo hospital in Kolkata. He moved on later to Perth, Australia.

    Line 3: My dad had his knee surgery done a couple of years back at Apollo hospital by a surgeon named Dr. Chatterjee

    Line 4: Last year, I traced Kanta down in Facebook. Avijit Bose noticed my new friend.

    Line 5. And he put all this together to create the mega coincidence. Kanta is married to Dr. Chatterjee!!! Because, Kanta also had worked in Apollo for some time!!!

    The simple equation is: my pen pal is married to my dad’s surgeon. But I needed a few more people in the equation to get the tenuous chain together!!

    It was a perfect meeting!! I wish I had some more time to talk to her. Our discussions covered every point in our chain (some more than others πŸ™‚ ), our professional lives (she is a very accomplished executive), health deterioration of our parents/in laws (we had similar experiences with depression in family members) and then my inevitable question – “What life lessons have you learnt that I can benefit from?”


  36. And I love this family too!! Apr 26, 2014

    Returning from India. Together with father in law and mother in law. Reached Dubai. Sitting in Business Lounge. Watching the two in laws argue.

    I got myself a glass of wine. My MIL immediately jumped on me – Did you not have one in the plane? I confirmed that and reminded her that I had one before getting on the plane too πŸ™‚

    Then my FIL joined in complaining that MIL did not allow him to drink a glass of white wine in the plane. MIL is claiming that she stopped him from drinking the second glass. FIL is insisting that he did not have any. MIL is pointing out that she saw the lady come and pour. FIL is retorting that initially she put an empty glass down πŸ™‚

    All this, without Sharmila being anywhere near to join in the fray. This is going to be an awesome summer for me!!!


  37. I know that stool!! Apr 27, 2014

    I had gone inside mom’s kitchen for something, I cannot even recollect for what. But under a pile of stuff, I thought I recognized something. I saw the broken footrest (that narrow wooden piece between two adjacent legs of a stool that you put your foot on. Is there a proper word for it?). That looked familiar but something was different.

    So I put all the pile of stuff down and immediately recognized the stool. It obviously had been repainted but I distinctly remembered that broken footrest… and therefore the stool. Pulled the stool out in sunlight, cleaned it and took a few pictures.

    This is the stool that, in its prime, had seen great many speeches given by some great orators (okay, mostly me) to a rapt and attentive audience (okay, mostly my brother and sister, but we are quibbling over details now). This stool was one of our favorite props for many a game we used to play – over 40 years back. This was what we used to climb up some trees and on the roof of the cowshed. And this is what I used to give my speeches to my siblings. This was also used as the “winner’s stand”.

    I particularly remember that last part because there was this one day when – and the details of the exact game that we were playing escapes me now – we decided that all three of us had won the first prize. So, all three of us were going to get on the stool. Which was not a big deal for a stool made of “segun kaath” (see next para), but I do not think it was built for all three of us to step on the same footrest together in an attempt to climb to the top of the stool simultaneously. One snap and three bitten tongues later, we got a sound talking to by my dad which rapidly and unceremoniously got us down from the winner’s elation πŸ˜‰

    This time I asked my mom about how old the stool was. Found out that when my dad and mom got married, my mom’s dad had gotten a carpenter to make a few pieces of furniture from “segun kaath” (I am not sure what the English word for this tree is but it is a very hardy and durable wood) and gifted my dad. That stool was one of them. So, apparently it was born in 1965. Seems to be still in very good shape nearly fifty years later. Except for that one broken limb πŸ™‚ What a great witness to our family’s history of 50 years!!!


  38. Profile of a Rajib Apr 27, 2014

    There is this young guy – you can see him in the picture – who I see at times downstairs in the building that my dad lives in Kalyani. My sister had mentioned that he is the security guy during night time. His shift starts from 11 PM to 6 AM. Which is why I do not see him that often when I am at my dad’s place.

    But in the past, he has helped me a couple of times. Most of the times, he took pictures of my brother and myself after the early morning run as we stretched in front of the building. This time, my curiosity got the better of me. He is a very young and very likable person. I wanted to hear his story.

    So, on Friday, I went down early – around 5am. Dad was still sleeping. And we were not going to run since we were to head out to Kolkata in the morning. My brother and I offered him a cup of tea and started getting to know him.

    We hit it off very well straightway for two reasons. His name is also Rajib and his hair has been thinning out rapidly at a very early age too πŸ™‚ The rest of the story was pretty humbling. I do not think the story is any different from millions of other families in India or for that matter in America. But getting to know somebody who lives that life is always a setter of perspective. I wish my daughters were around that day just to appreciate how blessed we have been.

    My first question was why was he working as a guard instead of studying. We got to know that he is indeed doing both. He is doing his undergraduate in Arts (that would be English, History and Political Science in India). He is preparing for his first year exams. So, that would make him around 19-20 years, as I reckoned. Fortunately, in India, basic education can be much cheaper (even on a relative basis) than America. So, he is not working to put himself thru school. He has to do it to support his family.

    Found out that his dad sells fish in the market. His mom is the maid servant in the flat (apartment) right opposite to my dad’s. He is the eldest of four siblings. And to support the family, as an eldest son, he is working during night to make some money.

    I asked him about how did he manage his sleep what with college and working at night. Found out that while there are some days he gets no sleep, most days he can will himself to sleep for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours late evening regardless of the weather and sound level. And then he often utilizes the boredom of sitting in a place at night to finish off his studies.

    So, I asked him, what would he like to do when he grew up. “Be a teacher”, he was very sure. I asked him why? That is not necessarily the most high paying job that he can go after. He talked about a few teachers in his school that had inspired him and he apparently always wanted to be like them. And then he said something that my brother and I later discussed at length on our drive back to Kolkata. He said “More than money, I want respect”. I could not think of a better tribute to teachers worldwide.

    Such a nice, soft spoken person. So determined to make something out of himself. I have little doubt someday he will be a great teacher.

    In a reversal of roles, my brother then took a picture of him with myself!


  39. My mom!! Apr 27, 2014

    Waiting at DC airport, I called up mom to let her know we have reached US safely. I was expecting her to talk about all the fun we had while I was there – all the trips – or maybe give an update about my dad or might be even ask about my flights.

    But no!

    The first thing she said in a remorseful voice moment I said “Hello”, was “Issshhh! chholar daal khaona holo na ebar”. (She forgot to cook a particular dish for me!!!)

    Not sure of all moms – certainly all Bengali moms think that way!!

    There is a snippet from an old Bengali poem which is very appropriate..

    “….. hey mugdho jononi
    Rekhecho Bangali korey; manush koroni” !!!!

    But I am sure I speak for all Bengalis when I say we will not have it any other way!!!

  40. Shots from India – Gram Chhara Oi Ranga Mateer Path Apr 28, 2014
  41. Shots from India – Morning Ablution Apr 28, 2014
  42. Shots from India – “Jora Aam” Apr 28, 2014
  43. Shots from India – Grass is greener on this side Apr 28, 2014
  44. Shots from India – Daydreaming Apr 28, 2014
  45. Shots from India – Dancing with the Dogs Apr 29, 2014

    This is the MBA student’s fourth quadrant version of Dancing with the Stars πŸ™‚

    My siblings are such great fans of dogs (and kids, btw) that they will buy street dogs biscuits (cookies) every time we have tea at the roadside stalls. Here you can see my sister playing with a street dog near the temple that we took our dad to.

    The dog seems to be getting its groove on and enjoying the dance with my sister as another dog waits for its turn πŸ™‚