Out on the lake with the Bandyopadhyays
Heart warming sight
After one and a half days of journey, finally reached home. Freshened up, had some snacks and then headed out to Alpharetta downtown with Sharmila and Jay Jay. Chatted up with our old friends in Chiringa, grabbed a couple of drinks and then settled down by the Green to watch all the cornhole games going on.
It was a very pleasant evening to just sit out and watch the crowds over a glass of wine. The best sight happened late in the evening. An elderly gentleman started practicing some throws. There is nothing uncommon about that. Except that he waas carrying a baby in his other hand.
I could not help myself but go up and introduce myself. I told him that this is the best thing I have seen in some time. Turns out the baby is his grand child who just turned 12 weeks. He lives in Johns Creek and his daughter lives in Roswell. They meet at the Alpharetta Green regularly for evenings out. I told him I will take a picture of him and the grandchild when he is playing.
The baby was too cute!! Again, best thing I have seen in some time. Loving this downtown living!
My reception committee
How these folks became my friends to begin with
This time I met a dozen of my St. Xavier’s School (SXS) classmates in three different settings. All that within the 2 days that I was in India!! There is an interesting story about how they almost never became my friends to begin with. This involves Father Wautier – the best principal I have ever had in my life, my own dad and my brother.
In 1971 December, SXS had admission test scheduled on one Friday, Saturday and Sunday over a weekend. My father, having figured that all kids will be interviewed first before results would be declared, went to visit his mom in Debipur village on Friday. Came back on Saturday and took me for tests on Sunday. Only to be told that all seats had been filled up.
My dad was terribly crestfallen. It was his dream that I would go to SXS. I do not think he ever forgave himself for that.
I went to Benachity Junior High School (next door to SXS on Mirabai road) instead. Every December thereafter, my dad would take my report card to Fr. Wautier and plead “e bochhoro first hoyecche. ebaar-e niye nin”. (This year too he has stood first – you have to take him now). But Fr. Wautier always sent him back.
Fast forward to 1976 December. My brother now had to go to school. Dad took him to interview in SXS. No points for guessing which day he took him there of the three day options. I remember being in the room with the whole family when Fr. Wautier interviewed my brother. I distinctly remember he asking him to narrate a poem.
For some reason, my brother froze up. Fr. Wautier was incredibly warm and comforting and gave him some encouragement. And like summer tempest came out “Baa Baa Black Sheep” from my brother’s mouth like he was waiting to throw those words up all his life.
On Monday, results were out. My brother was in.
Dec 12, my results came out.
Dec 13, my dad went on his annual pilgrimage to Fr Wautier.
Same old “e bochhoro first hoyecche. ebaar-e niye nin”
Fr. Wautier: “Congratulations, Mr. Roy. But there is no vacancy”.
To hear my dad say it, he pleaded a couple of times. With no result. And then he put down his trump card…
“But his brother got thru this time”
Fr. Wautier was nonplussed. “His brother? What is his name?”
“Chiradeep. Chiradeep Roy.”
Fr. Wautier went to those metal folder racks, fished out some paperwork and asked my dad if that kid whose papers he was holding was my brother.
“Yes, father. They are five years apart”
“Bring Rajib’s report card tomorrow. He will be in our school from January”.
My father, well prepared as he was, promptly fished out my report card from his pocket.
A few signatures and some admission money later, I became part of these guys!!!
Never got a chance to say good bye to my friends in Benachity Junior High School 🙁
Had it not been for my brother…
Oh! And this happened
Since I had over 4 hours of wait time in Delhi airport, I started checking out the stores before going to the Lounge. Well, checking out is an overstatement. Since most of them were selling clothes or jewelry or suitcases and all that, I browsed them from a fairly safe distance. Till I came to the book shop. Which had a pen section!!
Ten minutes later, these two old style Parker pens were mine! Some of you might remember these from our childhood as the pens with the short nibs. Made of stainless steel, they are less flexible and therefore “give” very little even under pressure. If you like fine tip nibs, you will like these. Found out that Luxor is the company that markets Parker pens in India.
The ink pot was part of the package. I could not convince the shopkeeper to open the package (these require those scissors and all that to open up) and throw away the ink.
My school friends agree on one thing about me
Abhik had made me promise that the next time I would be in Delhi, I would have to let him know. He would round up our school friends from elementary days and have a gathering. I had about 3 hours between flights to spare. And Abhik came thru with his promise. The last time I had seen Abhik was in 1986 May!
Some of the folks I had last seen even earlier (like Chinmoy). While I am not big into group meetings, the school friends have always been an exception. Perhaps because we have a lot in common – in terms of experiences we went thru together in the early, formative stages of our lives. Each one of them – Kushal, Sushil, Chinmoy, Abhik, Aniruddha, Mithun, Deepak and Jay had to fight a lot of Delhi traffic snarls to get to our meeting spot near the airport. Sanjay was in fact visiting from Bombay and he rearranged his schedule to meet us too!
Those young boys in grey shorts and white shirts have now prospered is so many different ways – from doctors to engineers to managing directors to NGO … you name it… and yet when the folks get together, it is almost like the conversations pick up from where we left off during school. Down to even discussing the crushes from those days!!
The Delhi folks made it very special for me by getting the restaurant to even put in a name plate for me. Those guys really know how to get my ego up.
For all that never-changed-spirits of friendship, everybody agreed on one thing. There is one thing that has changed a lot. And that is me. By general consensus (including my own vote), I was an awkward, thin-as-a-rail nerd toting thick black framed glasses. Nothing really stood out about me other than that I used to get good grades. (Which today I have concluded counts for next to nothing).
Apparently, nobody would have ever predicted the person I am today if they had seen the kid then. Which, upon reflection, could not be truer.
It would be an interesting exercise for me to reflect on whether my traits today are learned traits that I made myself learn or were those traits always there and they just happened to come out as my life context and environments changed around me. As an example, how different would I be today, if I had never come to the USA?
I was fortunate that the group did not deliberate on whether this me is better or that me was better. I was fairly sure that they would demand the old guy back!!
My best friend from elementary school days!!
Our houses are antipodal today. I am in Atlanta, Avijit is in Perth. We share the hemispheres neither on the north south divide nor on the east west divide. And yet we used to live stone’s throw away (well maybe a few throws away if you could lay them down longitudinally) and were a constant feature in each other’s houses some forty years back.
We happened to be both in Kokata this week to sell our parents’ houses. He lost his mom literally a few days before I lost mine. And coincidentally, our stay in India overlapped by a few hours this time. We made the most of the opportunity and spent an hour together over breakfast before he had to run to the court and I had to run to the airport.
The Kolkata Roys
After quite some time I had two relaxed evenings with my brother’s family. The last eighteen months, the elder nephew was busy with his high school exams and before that of course, there was the Covid thingy.
We focused most of our time on what the nephews like best – eating at different restaurants and of course math puzzles!! They had their first experience of hibachi. I think their stomachs were ready to burst at the end of it. But they enjoyed it thoroughly.
By the way the Victoria Memorial you see in the background – that is actually a wall mural!