7 July 2023

Mr. and Mrs. Sampath!!

Back in 1986, one May morning I woke up in Durgapur with a tremendous sense of getting bored and that I was really whiling away my time. It had been a week already that I was back from college for summer vacation. Not knowing anything better, I took a train to Kolkata and walked up to a friend’s dad who had opened a computer company. I figured he would give me a job. Which he did.

For a princely sum of Rs 500 per month (about $6), I started my first job at a company called Artintel. My job was to learn Cobol and start programming in it. Which kept me very happy. I had something to do at least. Every Monday morning I would go to Kolkata and come back Friday evening.

During the weekdays, after work, I had again pretty much nothing to do. That is when I used to often take refuge in my friend – Ranga’s house! Ranga’s family had just moved from Delhi to Kolkata for his dad’s job. I used to simply show up at their place.

There are a lot of memories from those days. First, although they had arrived, their stuff had not!! In fact Indian Railways could not trace the “container” for a long time. I think it took over a month for the stuff find its way back. Mr. and Mrs. Sampath would cook food in some basic kitchen ware for us and that would taste heavenly to me. (I have had a weakness for South Indian food all my life). Uncle and Aunt were gracious enough to even insist that I stay back with them. We would simply sleep on some sheets on the floor! After a bout of playing cards. Those were some real fun times!!

The second thing I remember was Uncle’s incredible mastery of the Bengali language. He is, of course, a Tamizhian. But he would speak Bengali without a shred of an accent. He would pun and play with Bengali words effortlessly. Best part – he would do Bengali crosswords!! That is after he had finished the English crossword from the Telegraph every morning over a cup of South Indian coffee!! Sometimes, Ranga and I would join in with him too!

That summer’s kindness and grace they showed had made a deep impact with me and I never forgot the memories I had with them. For the longest time, I wanted to meet them one more time just to say thank you. However, they had moved back to Chennai and my trips to India were razor focused on my parents.

Now that the situation has changed, I took the first chance to fly into Chennai on my trip to India.

I cannot possibly describe in words how much fun I had with Uncle and Aunt again. We talked so much about those days that Aunt finally concluded – “This felt like one of those days in Dover Lane!” What I had not realized as well is that she has taken over the mantle of crosswords from Uncle these days. And she has extended it to sudoku now!!

It felt real blissful to see them in such great spirits (Uncle donned a special Indonesian batik shirt for us!!) and even better health. I wish Ranga was here too. In one of the pictures you will see a picture of uncle and aunt with Ranga and Meera (his sister) from those days.

But the story would not be complete if I did not talk about Shridhar! He was kind enough to pick me up from the hotel and drop me at the airport. Got a chance to get some great perspective from him about some of the NGOs he works with and his perspective overall of Indian affairs. I had met Shridhar for a brief moment in May 1989 when he was visiting Ranga!

You will see his wife Geetha and daughter Vasudha in today’s picture too. Now look at Ranga’s sister Meera in the original picture. Do you see the similarity?

Thank you Sampath family for your incredible grace and kindness that summer of 1986 and on this day too!

Posted July 7, 2023 by Rajib Roy in category "Intersection Points", "Vacations


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