The vans picked us up from our hotel to take us to the winery an hour away where we were going to have our Corporate offsite. Anand, our local executive in Portland, had taken care of all the logistics.
I got to sit in the front next to the driver. The team knows I suffer from car sickness among other things – like fear of heights, fear of closed places and sometimes, sheer lunacy. Maybe I enjoy the last bit rather than suffer from it.
In any case, I sit next to the driver. A complete stranger. But then again, as Kelly had once described me “You know no stranger”
“What is your name?”, I asked the young, rather comely looking driver.
“Abraham”, replied the soft spoken gentleman without talking his eyes off the road.
“So, have you lived all your life in Portland?”
“No, sir! For fifteen years.”
“Where were you before this?”
“You know Kurdistan?”
“Of course, I know Kurdistan. I love your music.”
“Really?”, he asked looking at me, for the first time taking his eyes off the road for a split second.
“Wait. How is your name Abraham? Are you not a Muslim?”
“Yes. But there are a lot of Jewish people in Kurdistan.”
“I did not know that. Are you Jewish?”
“No. My mother’s best friend was. And when I was born, she had asked if my mom would name me Abraham (a Jewish name). And that was how I got my name.”
“But you said you love our music.”
“Yes, my favorite song from your place is Kamarey Kamarey. I have heard the one by the Rashtak group. Do you know that song?”
For the second time, he took his eyes off the road.
“You know Kamarey Kamarey?”
“Well, I know the tune. But I do not know the meaning.”
“Wow! I have never met anybody in this country who knows our country songs. How do you know songs from our country?”
I explained to him that when I had first learnt that the gypsies in Romania actually originated from Rajasthan, India, I had looked up their migration path. And studied what effect it had to the local music. As nomads, you do not show your culture thru paintings and artisanship. You will have too many things to carry a\round. So, music was the way. That time, I had listened to a lot of songs from places like Kurdistan, Azerbaijan etc.
I told him that in India, “Kamarey” can roughly mean a room or the waist in different languages. What was it in Kurdish? I learnt that the song lyrics were referring to the waist!! What a connection!
I got to know that my young friend Abraham went from Kurdistan to Turkey and then eventually left Turkey for the USA. I also found out that he knew Farsi.
Sticking to the theme of music, I asked him –
“You know Farsi? Here is another song you might know. Have you heard…” and then in my terrible Farsi pronunciation, I went on to sing “Man Ahmad-e Aam”.
He immediately took his eyes off the road and stared at me. “Oi, oi”?
“Oi,oi”, I confirmed.
We both knew the song!! But neither could remember the singer. We could describe how she looked but for the life of us, we could not remember her name.
By this time, we had reached our destination. Abraham and I took a picture together, became Facebook friends and parted.
That night, I had a FB message from him… “Googoosh, Mr. Roy”
Googoosh it was!! I suddenly remembered the Iranian singer’s name!!
I can’t wait to meet Abraham the next time I am in Portlandia!!
The furniture for the sound system has not arrived yet. I have so far just jammed it in my letter writing room. The first record played in this house is officially “Qurbani”. This 1980 Bollywood movie was known for its songs. I heard them first in my ninth grade and am still a big fan of the music and the instruments in every song. Very difficult to choose a favorite song from the Qawwali “Qurbani, Qurbani” by Kishore, the pop style “Aap Jaisa Koi” by Nazia Hasaan, the haunting “Hum Tumhein Chahte Hain” or the jivey “Laila ho laila laila”…
I cannot remember when I was introduced to Snowy – maybe 3 years back – but I remember I was introduced by her sister Ariel who used to work in the same hospice that I volunteered in at that time. Snowy was looking for a mentor and asked me if I would spend some time with her. (I know, I know, young people can have very low standards 🙂 ).
Over the last couple of years, we have talked about various topics – about her studies (she went back to college to study Accounting), her job, interviews, navigating company politics etc etc. But I never got a chance to sit with her face to face.
Today, over coffee, I got to know her a little more. What had struck me when I first talked to her was her unusual level of determination and the willingness to work hard for it. Today, she took me thru her family history and that made her determination even more impressive.
I have no doubt in my mind that Snowy is going to make a great professional of herself some day!