The net is closing in…
Dec 3, 1979 : We had just moved homes that day. I was recovering from typhoid. I was a rising eighth trader. Was extremely weak of constitution as the recovery process had just set in. Came out of our new home to enjoy the winter sun. I was too dazed to remember most of the things. But I do remember a bunch of kids (later got to know them as my neighbors) playing our street version of cricket. And the eldest kid – Somu – came and introduced himself and he brought everybody to introduce themselves. I remember thinking that I am going to like these guys. One very young kid – could not have been more than a first or second grader – hung out with me the longest. Before he left, he told me that he lived in the house bang opposite mine.
As I became stronger and stronger, I joined in the street cricket games. Presently, got to know that I was the oldest in the crowd. There was an expectation from everybody that I would lead them in a lot of activities – not because I was an athletic player – but because I was the eldest. India, at least then, used to be very structured in social set ups.
That young kid – I was fascinated by how hard he was willing to work. Everybody wanted to be a batsman. Very few would want to be bowlers. Absolutely nobody wanted to be a fielder – unless they got to be the wicketkeeper. But this kid would never complain and cheerfully go In the middle of bushes (invariably the least popular spot) and wait there to stop any boundaries – should the ball come by.
Or in soccer – everybody wanted to be “forward”. Nobody wanted to play in defense. And goalkeeping was a no-no. But this kid would stand there the whole evening between two bricks (which were our imaginary goal posts) sometimes getting a chance to touch a ball.
I remember telling my mom once that he was one of the most likable kids in our neighborhood. What I did not appreciate then, was his willingness to put in the hard work in seemingly unpopular spots.
Three years later, I left home. (I have studied in residential schools since I was 16). I used to meet him during my subsequent trips home but they became rarer and rarer as he moved out of home and then my parents moved homes again!
I have tried multiple times to catch him – in Durgapur, Calcutta and even Chicago (which he visited for a few weeks) but he always managed to give me the slip. By the dint of the same hard work that he was willing to put in as a child, he managed to build an amazing career path – far more than his academic results in school would have predicted. As a result, he seemed to be always somewhere else for work when I tried to corner him.
I am closing in on him, though!
I had heard that he had moved to London recently. This morning, I called up my dear friend Antara in Durham (who also works in Cognizant) and got her to help me pinpoint his office in London from their office database. (Thank you Antara!).
For the really curious, I got to know Antara because her family moved into our home when my parents moved out of this home! And no! Durgapur is not a very small place 🙂
I will be in London for exactly 12 hours tomorrow. But I have carefully kept an hour and half of lunch time free of meetings.
My dream scenario: Grab a cab, show up at his office during lunch, surprise the heck out of him, grab him by the collar and yell “Bhoju!! You owe me a cambis ball”!! You see, one of those days, he did get a chance to bat and I was bowling with my new ball that dad had just bought me the previous night. And Bhoju had unceremoniously hit the ball hard into another neighbor’s backyard and we never recovered the ball.
Short of that, I will make him pay for lunch.
Wish me luck! Wish me luck!