31 December 2017

The three girls in Kolkata Maidan

There is a mildly embarrassing story that dates back to 1989 when I had picked up Sharmila from her college and we had gone out to Maidan and Victoria Memorial. I will save that story for the future. My point is, yesterday, we took the girls to some of those spots in the Maidan.

Folks from Kolkata probably can recognize the ever present cricket games going on during winter in the background (and soccer during summer) and the Shahid Minar behind.

31 December 2017

Hilarious moment with my mother in law…

Here I am sitting at the breakfast table early in the morning trying to get a few of the blogposts away. Sharmila and the kids are sleeping. The in-laws are awake. I just finished serving the first cup of tea and sat down with them…

My mother in law, who has been keenly observing my laptop that I was using to post my blogs suddenly asked…

“Apple-er eto naam aachhey to apple-ta ordhek khaoa keno?
Oboshyo ordhek noy – ekta kamor deoa”

Basically, after watching the logo of Apple, she wants to know if Apple is such a big company, why is their logo half eaten?


31 December 2017

As with every year, I wish you 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!

31 December 2017

Sharing a lighter moment after 40 years!!

Once in a while, I pick up some mild compliments about my writing style. Mostly undeserved, I must hasten to add. That said, if there are two teachers I lay most of the credit for my writing style, it would be Mrs. Debjani Biswas (ninth and tenth grade English teacher) and Sir Kelvin Donegan (my fifth grade English teacher). I was lucky enough to meet Mrs. Biswas this year in Pune.

The search for Sir Donegan was much tougher. Most of the teachers in school – in fact all of them, I would say – did not have the faintest idea about his whereabouts. Worse, I had heard rumors that Sir Donegan was no more. Because of that rumor, my intensity to search for him had reduced too.

Earlier this year, I found somebody who said that she goes to the same church as Mrs. Donegan every Sunday. And she confirmed that the news about his death was largely exaggerated. A few weeks later, I had a phone number in my hand.

As is my wont, I opened with the breaker-of-all-ices “You won’t know me sir….”.
He duly confirmed that!!

I quickly established my credentials by giving him some of the details from 1977.
If his words were to be believed, he was beyond delight to hear from one of his old students. Apparently, I am the only student from yesteryears that he has had a chance to talk to in over 30 years.

Turned out Sir Donegan left school and embarked on a completely different career in the merchant navy. Which meant, he was always out of the country. Eventually, he went back to his first passion in life – growing plants! He is into hydroponics and lives near the farm in Himachal Pradesh (1250 miles / 2000 km away from our school).

The most encouraging news I had from him that day was that he still visited his old house in Durgapur every year during Christmas / New Years time. You can do the math now… went to pick up my in-laws… thoroughly delayed on the highways… there was still some time to be squeezed out to see Sir Donegan!! Last time I talked to him? 1977! 40 years back!!

To say I had a great time would be a gross underestimation of the exhilaration I had upon seeing him. He had a great influence on me and most of the students. (I had written about him on a blogpost dated Oct 30 this year while discussing the controversy around the word “stoppage” – in case you wanted to look it up in my blog).

I updated him on all the teachers from school, learnt a lot about hydroponics and also the adventures he had in his life while traveling the world with the merchant navy.

The facial expressions should give you a good idea about the fun that was had!!

31 December 2017

Another moment created for the kids!!

Most who have been lucky enough to grow up with grandparents around them will vouch for their undeniable influence – especially in the early stages of childhood. While the advent of modern economic growth started breaking up joint families in India, kids – in most of the cases – maintained reasonable access to their grandparents.

I was lucky to see mine every year. I had only three of them. My dad lost his dad at his tender age of two and a half. My recollection of my grandparents is still of their incredible kindness and generosity towards us. It was as if, as grandchildren, there was no demand too steep and there was no infraction that were punishable in the least bit.

They were our alibi when we were in trouble with our parents, our go-to when we got scared of our parents, our source for funding when our parents won’t buy us a knick knack and our never ending well of stories.

Nikita and Natasha, having been born in the USA do not have that easy an access to their grandparents in India. There was a time we used to come every year to maintain the routine I had with my grandparents. Then that stopped as they grew up and their life got taken over by…. well, life!

You can only imagine how excited I was that this time when both of them expressed the desire to visit their grandparents. One of the moments I was hoping to create – and that is something that had happened only once in my life time for myself – was to see if I can put both them with both side grandparents together under a roof for a day.

That explains the tiring trip to Durgapur and back (a total of 12 hours of driving – we got stuck in a couple of nasty traffic gnarls on the highway) to get Sharmila’s parents. And then after staying over in Kolkata for the night, we were all in Kalyani at my parents’ place!

The smile on the faces pretty much captures it all!

I hope the kids will retain some spotty memories of this day somewhere in their subconscious long after many of us are gone…

P.S. My dad was thrilled to talk to somebody who is from his old city Durgapur and he had a lot of questions around how the city has fared ever since he left!

29 December 2017

This could be injurious to his brain!!

I was half expecting this.

My dad, trying to fight back his brains getting scrambled after the stroke, had a hard jolt trying to understand what happened to Natasha’s hair. Tasha, had dyed her hair blonde some time back. Over the last few months as the hair has grown, her strands are natural dark (from the root side) and then after about half length starts becoming blonde.

My dad’s relatively low exposure of dyeing hair entirely comprises of making the hair look dark again (from grey) but never from dark to any thing else.

As you see in the picture, he held her hair in his fingers for quite some time trying to investigate what was going on. He asked quite a few questions – much to Tasha’s merriment – and then gave up trying to understand it!!

28 December 2017

The great uniter!

Usually, at least in our house, the iPhone is a constant source of irritation when it comes to interpersonal interactions. “Get your nose off the screen”, “Keep your phone down while eating”, “Stop posting those unflattering pictures of mine” 🙂 are part of the day to day vernacular when the four of us are around.

That same mighty piece of electronics has been a hero, bar none, to my parents, the last couple of days.

Natasha has kept up with her word to be with the grandparents. Every day, in Kalyani, she has been quietly sitting around my dad or mom. When everybody else is around, she has been watching all the interactions and when others leave, she has been trying to interact with my parents.

The big challenge is of course, language. As was famously said before, her grandparents and she has been separated by a common language. They speak their own versions of English. If my parents speak at a struggled pace, Natasha’s speeds thru sentences like there is not going to be a tomorrow.

But I have to say, I was superbly impressed how she and the grandparents persisted thru their communication challenges. The lowest common denominator has been the iPhone. My dad has always been a biggest fan of Natasha’s written English. He makes me bring her newspaper publications every time. But he has never understood what an online newspaper is. Once, he came dangerously close to concluding that the newspaper man delivers a computer to every home each morning in America!

Unknowingly though, he experienced it yesterday. Trying to figure out how to keep him engaged, Natasha had an idea! She took her iPhone out, weaved thru the slow speed data connections in Kalyani and made him read some of her online publications. Then she held the phone up for him patiently, as he read each line!

At that point, to give them some time, I left the room. When I came back, Natasha was holding court with her grandmom. My mother is not into written articles. From what I could overhear, Natasha was taking her thru all the pictures in her phone and introducing all her friends!

“This is Avery”, she was explaining.
“O Eta aay-bh-aari”, my mom acknowledged butchering the name’s pronunciation.
“Yes”, Natasha accepted.

I left the room again! The girl has truly grown up!!

The iPhone, unwittingly, was the great uniter yesterday!