This is serendipity heaped upon more serendipity.
To begin with, I have no reason to meet Bidisha. The only reason I knew of her was that when we left Dallas, we referred our nanny to her. And that was all I knew till last summer when I brought my inlaws to visit us, while chatting with them, it came out that a Bidisha who lives in US is somehow related to them. A few probing questions later, turned out it was the same Bidisha! When I called her up, she made me promise her that I would visit her house next time I was in Dallas.
A year later, during this Thanksgiving, I did take my family to Dallas and Sharmila and I visited Bidisha and her family at her home and had a very nice evening. Speaking of serendipity, we were talking about how we landed in Atlanta eight years back and how Bidisha had landed in Georgia (in UGA in Athens) over twenty years back. Oh! Yeah! Forgot to mention – she lived in Georgia before we moved here. While talking about all the friends she had in Georgia, she talked about the first good friend she made in UGA – somebody called Preeti who had invited her to stay with her for a couple of weeks as she got herself familiarized with this country after leaving India.
Immediately, she turned to her husband and said “I am going to try and meet Preeti when I go to Minneapolis next week”.
Her husband, Neil’s response: “That would be cool. Tell them Hi”.
At this point I had no reason to butt in. But then again, that would so not be me 🙂 There is a Preeti Saini from my first grade that I have been trying to locate for a looooong time. If anybody every mentions about a Preeti our age group, they were guaranteed a question from me.. and that is what I asked:
Me: “What is her last name?”
Bidisha: “Preeti Ajmal”. And that is where the conversation should have ended. This once, I pestered on.
Me: “Not Preeti Saini?”
Bidisha (after a second): “You know, I think she is Preeti Saini Ajmal”. I got excited!!
Me: “From Durgapur?”. What is the chance I might have finally found her?
Bidisha: “No. Jamshedpur”. My hopes were dashed.
Just to hang on to some hope, I asked her – “Can you ask her if she was ever in Durgapur. And if so, did she go to Benachity Junior High School?”
And that was that. I had forgotten about that conversation altogether.
Last night, I had finished a business dinner and as I got into the car, I noticed that there was a Facebook notification. It said that Bidisha had tagged me in a picture. I assumed it was one more of those millions of pictures she posted in FB when we were in Dallas last week. Yes, if you ever wanted to meet somebody more active than me on FB, you should allow me to introduce you to Bidisha 🙂 I did not even open the post thinking I would do that later. Plus I needed to use my phone as a GPS.
Later, after I had checked into the hotel and finally retired in my bed, I went thru the post. It said “Tagging you because I did ask my friend Preeti if she ever lived in Durgapur before moving to Jamshedpur. Indeed, she did! So perhaps this is the same Preeti Saini you knew way back in Durgapur.”
The next half an hour was a blur. All I know was that I had jumped out of my bed. I had three streams of conversations going on at the same time. I had Bidisha on the phone. I was feverishly responding to FB messages from Preeti on Bidisha’s post. And I was at the same time keeping our WhatsApp group posted that I might have finally found out Preeti. Friends from Dubai, India were all popping up on WhatsApp asking me to get her to join the group.
Preeti, though was struggling to remember me. I was throwing classmates’ names after names to see if I could jog her memory. One of them stuck – Nishi Jain! I think she was starting to believe that I was not a weirdo. I was dying to talk to her but it was too late at night for her. Finally, I knew how to establish my credentials to somebody who could not remember me. I went to my iCloud picture library, downloaded my first grade picnic picture and sent it to her. And asked her “Are you not the third girl from the left in the front row?”.
That did it! Apparently,even she had difficulty recognizing herself but her husband looked at all the kids and immediately picked her out. Her kids were thrilled since they had never seen a picture of her from that era. Finally, I went to bed letting her know that I would call her the next day.
After finishing my work at Boulder, CO, on my drive to the Denver airport today, I finally talked to Preeti! Last time I did so in 1975 when she left us after third grade! 40 years back!!!
I can’t wait to visit Minneapolis now!
On my flight back to Atlanta now, I am just struck by the serendipity of it all. I have no idea how a simple discussion with my inlaws came up with the name Bidisha. There are so many Bidishas. Not sure why pushed them for more info. Not sure why it had to be the only Bidisha I know! Not sure why she mentioned to her husband in our presence last week that she would be visiting Preeti. Not sure why I kept pressing even after her first answer was “Ajmal”. Or why I did not give up when she told me she was from Jamshedpur? How come she remembered to ask although I had completely forgotten?
And yet for all that string of coincidences, apparently, I missed two easy leads. Preeti is very very close to the wife of a friend of mine from a prior company and we are in touch with each other very regularly!! Also, she is very close to another collegemate of mine. We are FB friends too! I had no idea!!
Who says life is not beautiful?