It was going to be a late dinner for me but it was worth the wait. Pavan was going to be in town for business and the only time I had to meet her was that evening after 8. Eventually, she showed up after ploughing thru Atlanta traffic in the rains – and not a moment too soon! I was so hungry that I had already made a clean plate of chicken wings and some Old Fashioned.
We got to see each other after a long time. I think I had seen her once in California. But most of our memories are from the startup that we had worked over 20 years back (she was a consultant, I was an employee). Caught up with each other about our old friends, some of the Nusrat songs we used to listen to in those days and all the drama we used to have in office! And we talked about our old friend Al Blake a lot – not sure why – but I hope Al you are reading this. We also talked about the bar a few of us from our “SDG” team (that was the name of our team) used to visit after work late nights. I still remember that in those days, I would only drink Kendall Jackson’s Chardonnay in that bar called Humperdinks. (The bar, much later, I found out had burnt down and was replaced with something else).
We went next door from the hotel she was staying in to a restaurant called Bricktops to have dinner. We decided to sit at the bar and finish off dinner in an informal setting. At some point she went to take a bio-break. And I started chatting with the gentleman behind the bar. Come to find out that Tony Moody was his name. By the time Pavan was back, I had already learnt the history of Tony’s life; that he was a single dad and his 23 year old son is abroad and would soon be posted in Alaska. Even after Pavan came back, I continued chatting with him. And guess what? Found out that he used to work at the Four Seasons right behind where Sharmila and I used to live during the period when I worked with Pavan. Even crazier coincidence – his favorite spot to go for a drink with his friends was – Humperdinks!! We checked the years and turns out all three of us used to go to the same bar during the same time period!! For all you know that was not the first time we saw each other.
And I thought I was done for the evening. Came back to the hotel to drop Pavan and head back home. Pavan was actually meeting up somebody else after our dinner. She insisted that I said Hi to her friend before leaving. I thought it was going to be a quick introduction and off I would go. Nothing like that. I, of course, have to find some connection points with any new person I meet. Once I got to know a little about Jaideep Majumdar’s background – I asked “So, you know Ashok and Crissy Vasan?”. Sure enough, they were classmates!! Ashok and I were colleagues from the past and I remember visiting him and Crissy in their Singapore house around 2003 or so. And there was something else I knew about Ashok – India’s film superstar Shah Rukh Khan was his classmate. “So, you were Shah Rukh Khan’s classmate too?”. It took Jaideep a few seconds to figure out how I knew about it. As if that was not enough, we found out more connections at two other companies!!
That night, very late, I came back just trying to put the whole thing together. That was a lot of coincidences for one evening!!!
Can you guess the following? You can Google for the answers – you do not need to post them… But first try to guess
1. What is the oldest toy? If you think hard, you might be able to guess this.
2. What is the second oldest toy? For the life of me, I would not have guessed this right.
3. In England, it is against the law to not provide whom or what with toys? You are going to laugh your head off once you find the answer.
4. Speaking of which, in France it is a crime to sell dolls without this. Can you guess?
5. Which toy originated in gym classes in Australia, was banned in Indonesia, also banned by Japan from playing in public and the Russians deemed it to be “symbol of emptiness of American culture”?
6. Finally, can you guess who is the largest distributor of toys? You can get this if you think about it for a second.
Now check the internet for the answers…
Today is a Nusrat evening. Great words from Ghalib…
“Haathon ki lakeeron pe
Mat ja, ae Ghalib
Naseeb unke bhi hotey hain
Jinke haath nahin hotey”
Some references here – the lines on your palm is considered to state your future and fate, according to some… Here, Ghalib tells himself to pay no attention to it…
“Do not go by the lines of the palm
On your hand, hey Ghalib
‘Coz, luck is bestowed even upon those
Who do not have any hands”
This is why I like to reconnect with anybody who has ever crossed my path before – birthday day calls, dinners during business trips, going to villages in India to extract somebody I knew half a century back… And make some new connections on the way too… Because you never know if you will ever meet them again…
It was hardly a year back – in fact, March 2016 – that I found out that this gentleman – father of somebody I know in Atlanta – was in an old age home not too far away from where my parents live. Last May, I went in unannounced. He did not know me. But that was okay. It did not take me too much time to make friends with him… or the many other old folks who came by to talk to me (their moment of pride? – “my son/daughter is also in America like you” – the irony of they pushing their next generation to a better life in America while they get relegated to a distant old age home with total strangers weighed very heavy that afternoon on my drive back). [“The Gift of Time”] (top two pictures)
During my next trip last year – and that would be June 2016, I brought my sister with me – who is a far more compassionate person than I am – and we spent about three hours with the gentleman and more people of his age group at that old age home that time. I remember he mentioning that it would be great for him if I could drop by for two minutes every time I came to visit my parents. [Revisiting an old age home”] (bottom left picture)
In my next trip (last year end/this year beginning), I was running very short of time. On my way to the airport, I took one more detour – after some debate on whether I will miss my flight – to see him for about fifteen to twenty minutes. His last words? “Ok. Go now. But come back again. It feels good to talk like this”. An overwhelming sense of guilt had gnawed into me on the trip back – Why was I even thinking whether I had time to meet him? If I did not have time for old folks like him who have made folks like me stand up in life, aren’t all my priorities all messed up? [“One last unscheduled stop”] (bottom right picture)
What I did not know is the following – that meeting on Jan 4 was to be the last. A friendship of 10 months has come to an end. Mr. Lodh is no more. I will go past that old age home to visit my parents every year. And I will just be staring at the home as my brother speeds past it. That one human being I got to know a little is no more…
And I will be wishing that I had gotten to know him earlier… that I had visited him a few more times…. that I had stayed for a few more minutes….
He was, above all, … a human being!!! A kind and considerate one at that too!!
A few days back, while exchanging birthday greetings, Anastassia and I had agreed that she will help me finish my 100th mile for the month the next Saturday (which is today). That put some extra pressure on me to finish enough number of miles before that.
I had finished three and a half this morning when she showed up. And I was grateful that she did. She kept her word in spite of a sick kid at home. I needed another three and a half. She had us do four! It was a great feeling to finish the 100th mile with a teammate from a previous job. We had run a few times together but the last run was nearly two years back.
I was asking her a few questions – while running in the trail – about the recent tennis singles championship she won (in case you wanted to know, she was pacing us so hard that I was content with only asking small questions in short bursts and let her give all the answers thereby not betraying how hard of breathing I was getting trying to keep pace with her 🙂 ) when we heard somebody yell out my name.
I knew that voice. Sure enough it was Peter and his family running in the trail. Peter was a customer of mine long time back in Virginia. Then he and I worked in the same company for some time. And actually, Anastassia and he still does! Anyways, it was an extra gift to meet Peter’s family on my 100th mile of this month!!
Our traditional coffee together had to be skipped since Anastassia had to run back to take the kid to the doctor. And for me now, I am not going to even touch any running shoes till Mar 1st rolls in 🙂