4 February 2024

’22 Jun India

  1. One more journey to India… this time with a twist Jun 9, 2022

    Niki had a special request after graduating from high school. “I want to go see Didu“.
    Didu means grandmother (maternal) in Bengali.
    That started some desperate planning trying to squeeze some days between house moves and office work.

    Didu, herself was very worried about our trip. “How are they going to be here in this heat?”.
    The solution was that Didu offered to to travel to Kolkata where the four of us are going to be holed up in a hotel.
    That would be some quality time between the granddaughter and grandmother.

    The journey commenced an hour back.

  2. It is beastly hot!! Jun 9, 2022

    “It is beastly hot”
    “The weather is certainly oppressive, sir!”

    The PG Wodehouse aficionados amongst you will remember this exchange between Bertie and Jeeves from “The Sermon Handicap”

    Well, turns out Nikita does not only want to see Didu, but she wants to visit the small water tank Dadu (grandfather) had built with all the small fishes in it. Not sure how small things stick in early minds, but both the girls are totally taken in by the small fish in that water tank. Every time they visit, the fish in general tip the weighing scales way past their limits thanks to all the food that they feed them thru the day.

    So, the plan is after we are done getting holed up in a hotel with Didu, we will all go to Durgapur to get her back home.

    In case, you were wondering how hot Durgapur will be, the following might help.

    Some cold Thums Up, anyone?

  3. Flying over New York Jun 9, 2022

    Feels very strange to fly to India with family and not having Natasha with us. She is there somewhere in those bright light below that we can see. She cannot see me but I am waving at her.

  4. Woke up somewhere over the Sinai Peninsula Jun 10, 2022

    Pulled up the window and what a sight it was. You can see the dry barren desert. But look at the crazy crisscrossing of all the rivers and tributaries all over the landscape. Almost looks like magnified fingerprints. I need to study up the climate of this area. I assume they get rainfall sometime during the year when the rivers are full and then dry up for the rest of the year.

  5. The edge of Gulf of Aqaba Jun 10, 2022

    That is the port city of Aqaba When I went to Jordan, I did not get a chance to visit this southernmost city of Jordan. Next time, I have to make sure Mahmoud Al-Ramaneh (محمود الرمامنه) takes me there. You can see four countries from here – Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – all meeting near and about the city of Aqaba.

    The beaches must be beautiful. Look at the color of the waters in the magnified pictures.

  6. Fourteen hours of flight later… Jun 10, 2022

    … waiting for the second segment.

  7. Second leg about to begin Jun 10, 2022
  8. Boy, am I glad that I landed in Doha in the evening Jun 10, 2022

    It is a balmy 105 degrees. Earlier in the day, it was 118 degrees. That is a holy macro level hot!!

    Natasha Balseca​​, you folks are made of tougher stuff than I am.

  9. Dusk settles in on Doha Jun 10, 2022

    (the picture is a bit blurry since I took this from the airplane)

  10. Dubai – as seen from an airplane window Jun 10, 2022
  11. Nikita and Kaku* chatting away to glory by the poolside Jun 11, 2022

    *Kaku in Bengali means uncle (specifically uncle who is younger to dad; else it would be Jethu)

  12. The raison d’etre for this trip has arrived!! Jun 11, 2022

    Nikita and Sharmila ushering in my mother in law into the hotel where we will be together for the next five days.

  13. The keen observers among you must have noticed that… Jun 11, 2022

    … it was the mother in law who finished her mojito first!!

  14. The Ghose siblings with my mother in law Jun 11, 2022

    Sharmila’s brother and family came down from Kharagpur. As always, my nephew (or is that a nephew in law?) and I exchanged some math problems and logic puzzles!

    Today the Roy siblings will be coming over from Kalyani and Kolkata to visit all of us. I expect more math and logic puzzles from my nephews!

  15. Strolling the corridors of life Jun 11, 2022

    With her daughter and daughter in law.

  16. The plan to stay holed up in a hotel has worked out very well Jun 11, 2022

    She does not have to worry about arranging for food and all other hosting duties. Quality time with her daughter and her granddaughter.

  17. Life comes. Life goes. But it always stays beautiful. Jun 12, 2022

    I had wanted to do this for a long time. To see if I could put the women of four generations from Sharmila’s side together in a picture. I was sure time was running out fast on me. But when Nikita said that she wanted to see “Didu” (grandmother) and the said grandmother agreed to travel from home to Kolkata, that presented the best opportunity for me.

    After lunch, we headed out to Khardah to visit Nikita’s great grandmom. After a short one hour drive in reasonably crowded roads on a Sunday afternoon, we had that moment of Nikita, her mom (Sharmila), her grandmom (“Didu“) and her great-grandmom (do not know how you address great grandmoms in Bengali) together under the same roof.

    For somebody of unknown age (she has no idea when she was born, but I think it would be safe to assume she is a nonagenarian given my mother in law is pushing 80) who can barely get up from bed, let alone move around by herself, she has incredible cognitive power, memory and verbal capacity. Not only did she remember the names of Nikita and Natasha, she recollected incredible details from the only other time I had visited her – 30 years back!!!

    That was a beautiful moment.

    I wonder if this can be repeated with Natasha too some time!

  18. All the Khardah relatives that could fit in a frame! Jun 12, 2022

    Apart from my mother in law’s mother, we have, in this picture, the families of her (mother in law’s) two brothers. They all live in the same house with the great grandmom of Nikita. I met most of them for the first time in my life!!! That was a lot of fun.

  19. A personal creation from Satyabrata Jun 12, 2022

    Cocktail for the evening – “City of Joy”. This has pineapple juice, Ampana juice (local raw mango juice), gin, dash of mustard sauce topped with “chaat masala” (local yummy seasonings) and a slice of lime.

  20. The spirits were rather “high” in this family get together Jun 12, 2022

    This evening’s family get together was starting to wind up. I was looking for a good spot to take a picture of Sharmila’s cousins (and their kids) when one of the folks helping us with the food and drinks offered to help. He took my phone, took the elevator to the second floor and took a shot of us from the balcony! The picture has come out real well!!

  21. What a difference 14 years makes! Jun 13, 2022

    I still remember Nikita going around my brother’s living room floor flanked by her cousins on their kid trikes. The Bengali band “Bhoomi”’s song “Gaari signal maaney na” was blaring. (Means – this vehicle does not stop at signals). Later, back in US, I had made a video of the cousins with that song in the background.

    The vehicle of time, I realize today, indeed does not stop at any signal.

    14 years later they are again chatting away to glory. Just that they have grown up so much!!

  22. This evening was with the Roy siblings Jun 13, 2022

    My mother in law surrounded by my side family (brother, sister and their families). The only person missing is my niece who is in a college in Bangalore.

    The surprise for the evening was another Roy – our closest friend of 25 years from Dallas – Anannya showed up!!! She is visiting her parents in Kolkata.

    There was way too much laughter for one evening!!

  23. Early morning relaxation by the pool Jun 14, 2022

    With my sister and brother in law.

  24. Nikita braved the Kolkata heat to go see the Victoria Memorial Jun 14, 2022

    Enroute back to the hotel yesterday, Nikita had seen the Victoria Memorial and then read up on it. Today, she asked if she could visit it. I have never been there personally. But Kaku immediately jumped in to take her there. The younger cousin – Rishu finished his school for the day and then accompanied her there. Even though it was beastly hot and humid and they went there in the peak of the afternoon heat, both reported having a great time there.

  25. That was not the way it was when we were kids Jun 14, 2022

    This evening, I made a foray into College Street to check out College Pen Forum. Wanted to see if there were some interesting new or old fountain pens. The trip itself was a bust since the the gentleman there thought that showing me various pens would be a waste of time and waas focusing his time on selling those inexpensive ball points and gel pens that were flying off the shelf.

    Interestingly, amongst all those bulk pens, he had a winner of a fountain pen – the Pilot Justus 95. It has a very interesting mechanism that can turn the nib from hard to soft (and various settlings in between). Basically you turn the edge of the pen and as you do so, a metal plate comes out on top of the nib split. By controlling that fulcrum point, you control how much the nib will “give”. Very unique mechanism. That would set you back by over $320 in the USA or about Rs 25,000 in India.

    However the most interesting experience was noticing that sign you see in the middle of the picture. You probably remember from your school days how you bought your notebooks (to write on). They were priced per notebook or might be by the dozen. That is how we grew up. That sign says you can buy by the kilogram – meaning the weight of the notebooks you buy. So, you pay by the weight instead of the count! I checked with my brother. And he confirmed that is how he buys notebooks for the nephews!

    Never knew this!

  26. Juhi’s Elder Jun 14, 2022

    “Hey, that cocktail matches your name!”
    “That is because I created it!”

    Last couple of trips to India, I had gotten to know Juhi. This time, I had not noticed her initially – those masks still make facial recognition tricky for me – but one of the nephews pointed out “Juhi didi na?“.

    As I was talking to her, I noticed that the advertised cocktail at the bar of the Executive Lounge carried her name.

    “Looks like a summer drink to me”, I said as I read the ingredients.
    “Yes sir, best on a hot day.

    “Let’s make two of them. And then I will take a picture of the drink with you.”

    Sharmila and I both tried the drink.

    It tasted great. The elderflower left very fragrant notes and the vodka was mild enough. Probably better suited for being by the pool in heat rather than in an air conditioned room though.

  27. One last gathering in Kolkata for this trip Jun 14, 2022

    This evening we got to see the only other cousin of Sharmila (and his wife) we had not met during this trip. I am fairy sure that other than a family wedding event, this is the only time my mother in law got to see pretty much all her family in one place (over four days though).

  28. You will be surprised how much leverage some fish might have Jun 14, 2022

    Nikita wanted to see Didu. So, Didu came from Durgapur to stay in the hotel in Kolkata with us to spend some quality time. And after that, we are all going to Durgapur today. For a very brief stay.

    I needed to go anyways to drop my mother in law. But Nikita said she wanted to see the “fishes”.

    The story behind this goes like this – My late father in law had built a small concrete open top water storage outside the house in his yard (see the picture). Growing up, we called such a structure “choubaccha“. And in that, he put some water lilies. And then, for good measure threw in some fish. Who quickly multiplied.

    Those fish were the prime attraction for the two granddaughters every time they visited my inlaws. Nikita and Natasha would stand outside that structure for long periods of time. And grandfather would supply them with small cookies one at a time. And they would crush the cookies in their palms and throw the small bits to the fish and watch all the fish run around jostling for those tiny morsels.

    It is one of the lasting memories they have of their grandfather’s house and actually of grandfather himself.

    To relive those memories for a few minutes, we are going to make the trek to Durgapur today for a day or two. Fortunately, the skies are overcast and hopefully the heat won’t kill us!

  29. How he would have loved to see this Jun 15, 2022

    We reached Durgapur at a fairly fast clip. Door to door in 3 hours. Nikita made a beeline to Didu’s kitchen, grabbed a biscuit and ran out to feed the fishes. I took her pictures and stood there watching her. My father in law would have loved to see this. Unfortunately, we lost him nearly four years back!

    Second goal for this trip accomplished. (First one was to see Didu). One last one left. But first I will take her to some of my old spots in Durgapur.

  30. One solo picture with the popular lady of this trip Jun 15, 2022
  31. Walking to Didu’s house Jun 16, 2022

    Usually, I am the one that gets up in the morning and starts walking – sometimes running – from hotel to my mother in law’s house. It is a 15-20 minute walk. That is usually followed by a continuous loop of “Do you want to eat this? Do you want to eat that?”and me just simply saying “No” every time. Finally, I would leave and as long as I stay within her earshot, I can hear her complaining that I did not eat anything.

    This morning Sharmila and Nikita joined me in the walk.

  32. Nikita poring thru old pictures of her grandparents Jun 16, 2022
  33. An olden goldie from the past Jun 16, 2022

    This is about half a century old picture. Niki recognized Didu right away. And concluded by reason that the other two had to be Sharmila and her brother. (which is true).

  34. Terrace top pool in Durgapur Jun 16, 2022

    I still do not understand the need to mention the depth to second decimal place. That second decimal place represents less than one tenth of an inch!! Surely nobody is going to drown for missing that much depth.

  35. Another crazy intersection point Jun 16, 2022

    “Can you help me locate somebody from Durgapur?” asked Surojit – my friend from Atlanta.
    This was about 3 years or so back.
    “Who is it?”
    “Well, his name is Bappi.”
    “How do you know him?”
    “He used to play the keyboards with us when we sang.”

    A few minutes later, I had sorted it out. Surojit and his (now) wife Apala went to RE College (now NIT) Durgapur. Both of them were into music. Apala sang. So did Surojit – and played the tabla. And they still do. Bappi was somebody who lived in REC campus and was an excellent keyboard player. Bappi’s father was a REC staff member. Bappi himself is my age – which means much older to Surojit and Apala.

    “He was a great player and an even greater person. But I have lost all contacts with him. I thought since you are from Durgapur and know so many people, you might be able to track him down”.
    “Well, I will try”

    My initial attempts came a cropper. And then in one of my India trips, I met Indranil Sengupta. And discussed this hitherto unknown person to me – Bappi. By the time I was on my flight back, I had a phone number from Indranil.

    I did not pass it on to Surojit immediately. I needed to make sure I had the right person.

    So, from a transit airport (I forget which one it was), I called up that number.

    “Are you Bappi?”
    “Who is this?”
    “You will not know me. I am a friend of an old friend of yours – Surojit”
    “Which Surojit?”. That is an understandable question since Surojit is not an exactly uncommon name in Bengal.
    “Well, this is going to be tricky. But let me try. You play the keyboards, right?”
    “Well, you played with Surojit and Apala. They used to study in REC.”
    “Oh! Apala-Surojit? Where are they?”
    “Atlanta, US”
    “Where are you?”
    “Also Atlanta”
    “Are you calling from Atlanta?”
    “No, I am on my way back from India. But I will pass on your number to Surojit – so he can call you directly.”
    And that is how I was able to put the two (well, three) old friends together.

    And started a new friendship myself. I kept up with Bappi from that day. He went thru a fairly lean time during Covid – work wise and health wise – and we stayed in touch. I always promised to make some time for him during my trips and finally, I was able to do so this time.

    It was great to know about his life history. His successes, his rough patches and then his bounce backs.

    But the greatest surprise was yet to come. I was talking about his family and then the topic of his wife came up…

    “Is your wife from Durgapur too?”
    “No. Monimala is from Burdwan.”
    “Where in Burdwan?”
    “Oh! Not Burdwan city. Burdwan District.”
    “Gram Debipur”?
    “Which para?”
    “Which house?”
    “ I do not know how to exactly locate it”
    “Can I talk to your wife?”

    “Monimala? This is Rajib”
    “Oh! Bappi has told me about you”
    “Are you from Debipur?”
    “Which house”
    “Kundu bari”
    “Wait, Kundu bari? Where is that?”
    “Near Buro Shib tala”
    That took me a few moments to remember exactly where that was.

    “Hmmm, that is near the school, right?”
    “Do you know the Panjas?”
    “Sure. Nobokumar”
    “Yes. And Tarapada?”
    “He is my grandmother’s brother”
    “Yes. Do you know Pnachu Roy’s house?”
    “Yes. They are in the other para”
    “Yes. Do you know the two huts next to his house?”
    “That was our house. One hut was my uncle’s and the other one my dad’s. I was born in the smaller hut myself”

    You can only imagine the excitement! I am fairly sure – given the age group – I must have seen Monimala in one of the two Durga Pujas in the village when we visited every year. There were not too many places for young kids to hang around in a small village. Just never knew that I would be talking to her some 40-50 years later.

    It did not end there.

    “So, how did you come to Durgapur? Thru marriage?”
    “No, my dad moved us to Durgapur”. That sounded just like what had happened to me.
    “Where did you live?”
    “Where in Rahimpath?”
    “Quarter number 10/10”
    “Hmm… two streets over, my uncle used to live. I used to go there 3–4 times a week. It was 14/28”
    “What was his name?”
    “Prasanta Pan”
    “Dola Pan’s dad?”
    “YES!! Dola is my cousin”
    “And she was my classmate. We went to school together. I used to go to her house too!!
    Wow! What is the chance of that? Looks like I must have met her in Durgapur too!!

    That is one great sequence of intersection points. And it all started with somebody looking to create his own intersection point!!!

    Next time, I have to meet Bappi’s whole family. I am sure there are some great stories from Debipur and Rahimpath we can go over.

  36. My family tree! Jun 16, 2022

    Took Nikita and Sharmila to the relative I have always been closest to and admired the most – my “mama” (mom’s brother). My earliest recollections of him is a guy who would visit us and then go upside down on his head. At the age of six, of course, I had no idea what “yoga” was all about.

    I took Nikita around his garden showing her the various trees – a guava tree here, a sugarcane clump there, a lime tree here, a gourd tree there and so on. Nikita marveled at all the guavas in the guava tree. I believe she tried a guava for the first time during this trip.

    Before I could cry “Uncle”, my uncle had made short shrift of climbing up the tree. In a jiffy he was up there, picking up some ripe guavas for Nikita. And we were like… “Wait, how did you get there?”

    This – for a 75 year old. Who beat back cancer before he could turn 50 and then proceeded to lose one kidney later, I believe.

    If there is one thing that defines this gentleman, it is self discipline. Over the years, I have never seen him ever overeat, oversleep or miss his daily exercises. Amongst all my relatives, I also consider him the most rational thinker and seldom talks negatively about others.

    I am so blessed that I count him in my family tree!

  37. That is crazy!!! Jun 16, 2022

    If my uncle is the exemplar of industriousness, this dog is a veritable picture of lazy relaxation. Which dog, you ask? Focus your attention at the centre of the picture.

    This dog is sitting there – up on the window sill – with no clear way of getting there to the naked eye – with his paws hanging out like a royal being surveying over his kingdom!!

    How he got there – I have no clue. My uncle explained to me that the dog literally jumps from the top of the red brick wall to land in a spot three feet away and three feet higher. The spot itself cannot be more than a foot by a couple. That is amazing risk taking and self confidence!!

  38. Looks familiar? Jun 16, 2022

    That is a painting done by Shreya (in the picture) – my first cousin, once removed (my uncle’s grandchild). She took different pictures of the four of us from Facebook and then stitched them together in a painting.

    She did this when she found out that we will be coming to India and came down personally to gift us the picture!

    That is very impressive!!!

  39. My uncle’s family Jun 16, 2022

    A picture of my uncle’s (partial) family.

    Look at the picture on the wall. Now look at the young kid (Rana) in blue shirt in the picture. The picture on the wall is a sketch done by Shreya (to your left in the picture) of Rana at different ages!

  40. Munna-di!! Jun 16, 2022

    Munnadi was our neighbor since 1979 December. I left home in 1983 July. So, it was a short three and a half years I got to know her. After that, it mostly kept up with her thru other neighbors. About 25 years back, I had managed to meet her and her two sons. Since I had some free time this evening and it had been already 25 years, I decided to spring a surprise on her and her sons. Unfortunately, I missed her younger son Debarpan this time. And I could not even talk with Debarghya (her elder son) about mirrorless cameras. (She gets mad if we start talking about photography).

    It was really great exchanging notes about the updates of all our neighbors.

  41. A Red Bull and my mother in law just do not go together Jun 17, 2022

    A Red Bull – as many of you are aware is all about caffeine and sugar. In other words, screaming high energy. My mother in law is anything but. I am sure she will be uncontrollably ricocheting off the walls if she even as much as tasted a drop.

    So, you can imagine the surprise on my face when I spotted a Red Bull can in her dining table this morning. I immediately accosted her with my confusion. If you think I was confused, you should have seen her face. She took the can in her hand turned it upside down, gave it a good look over and came up a total cropper in terms of figuring out how she got a Red Bull can.

    After some sleuthing around – and the big hint was there was a Sprite can and and a can of Tonic Water also nearby – none of which I assure you my mother in law has ever tasted – I was able to put the picture together.

    Remember we were holed up in JW Marriott in Kolkata for five days? And that my brother in law had come over with his family for a night? Well, he had brought a packet of cookies, sweets, water bottle etc for his mom and kept it in the refrigerator in her room.

    A couple of days later, while packing her suitcase to check out, she grabbed the stuff he had brought for her. For good measure, she also grabbed those three cans from the mini bar thinking he had brought them for her.

    Of course, now the next question is what is she going to do with those drinks. I offered her to buy her some gin to finish off the tonic water. I think she was ready to faint right then and there.

    She did not, of course. But if she did, that can of Red Bull would have come real handy!!

  42. Didu came out to say Goodbye to Nikita Jun 17, 2022

    This trip was all about Nikita wanting to see her Didu (grandmother). This morning, after packing up and checking out of the hotel, we swung by Didu’s house one last time to say Goodbye.

    I do not know if and when they will get to see each other again.

  43. Next stop – an empty house Jun 17, 2022

    After saying goodbye to my mother in law, we headed straight to my parents’ place. We have not yet sold the place after they transitioned. Sharmila and Nikita both wanted to visit the place that used to be their home. As the car drove thru the by-now-much-familiar path between Durgapur and Kalyani, it took a final turn at Pannalal Road and the flat (right top corner) became visible. Usually, this is the exact time that I would spot my dad sitting in the balcony waiting for me.

    That has surely become a thing of the past. This is the fourth time I am visiting what used to be their home in a year or so. Still have not gotten used to they being not there.

    The big things get easy. It is the small things – the only shoe he had that has not been worn ever since, the unfinished incense stick she had lit that evening, the watch that has stopped, the calendar that is still stuck in December 2020, the glasses lying around unused, the half finished soap in the bathroom… they are the ones that torment the most.

  44. Surrounded by emptiness Jun 17, 2022

    Nikita sitting on the same chair at the same spot she did with her grandparents back in 2018. In a matter of two and a half years, we lost three of them. Now that she is headed to college and independent life, I am fairly sure this is the last time she is visiting what used to be her grandparents’ place in Kalyani.

  45. Nikita at the sanctum sanctorum of this house Jun 17, 2022

    It was this small balcony that holds the most memories of the conversations that I had with my parents. And way too many cups of tea!!

  46. Nikita trying to re-light an unfinished pack of incense sticks my mom had left Jun 17, 2022
  47. Sharmila poring thru the papers of my parents. Jun 17, 2022

    This is the first time she is visiting India after my parents died. Last time she saw them was actually AFTER I saw them laat (about two weeks later) – merely a few days before India shut down in March 2020 due to Covid.

    Note the interesting filing system my parents had. All important papers were impaled into a thin iron rod with a hook and then later hung from a coat rack. The coat rack had multiple hooks to keep the files organized!!!!

  48. 6K walk with Sharmila this morning Jun 18, 2022

    Around the Eco Park / Wax Museum / Kolkata Street Food area. Lots of nice things to see.

  49. That surely had me fooled Jun 18, 2022

    Sharmila and I were enjoying the various artifacts that have been put up outside of Kolkata Street Food (opposite the Eco Park outside the Wax Museum) reminiscent of Kolkata a few decades back. There is the tram car, the double decker bus, the yellow Ambassador Taxi, old movie posters (like Sholay) etc. There is even a statue of Tintin!

    While going around and admiring the set up, I was very aware of a quintessential walking hazard in India. That being – getting dropped on by all those birds on the electric wires above who somehow have an uncanny ability to induce bowel movements when and only when there is a human being below. Specially if they are not wearing a hat.

    Accordingly, I was keeping an eye on the birds on the wires as I moved around. After sometime I realized that these birds were particularly lazy. Not only were they not flying away when I was nearby, they did not even attempt to look here and there foraging for food.

    And then I got it! In an effort to create a replica of Kolkata of the yesteryears, the authorities had spared no effort. Those electric wires were not real ones and neither were the birds. Those were life-like statues of crows and pigeons and what have you!!

    I do not believe I have seen this anywhere else in this world! I was totally fooled. Sharmila would not even believe me at first!

  50. The pre-monsoons are here in Kolkata Jun 18, 2022
  51. Quick visit to brother’s house Jun 18, 2022

    for a last “adda” before we start preparing for the long haul back.

    Only one person in this picture was not born in this country. And she is the only one who is wearing socks!!

  52. My dad would have been very proud of this gentleman Jun 18, 2022

    Sumanjit and I went to high school together for a couple of years – 11th and 12th grade. That was back in 1985. And indeed, that was the last time I saw him.

    Over the years, we have kept up over the phone – certainly on his birthdays. But inspite of my quarterly trips to India, never quite managed to meet him. One of the reasons is that he is a very successful IPS officer. (For the Indian Civil Services-ly challenged – that is the Indian Police Services – the bureaucracy for law and order ). And he is a DIG – which makes him a top bureaucrat.

    Full credit goes to him for making the time to come and see me in my hotel a few hours before we headed out for the US.

    Over a few cups of cappuccino with our better halves, I was explaining to my wife about how I was waiting for him at the hotel entrance and his retinue pulled up with all the flashing lights and all that. As the jeep stopped, his security detail jumped out before he and his wife could step out.

    That is something my dad would have given his right arm to see. He always wanted me to go to the Civil Services.

    Boro hoy-e IAS officer hobey”, he used to tell me. (“Do strive to become an administrative officer”)
    Keno? IAS hoy-e ki hobey?” (“Why? What is the big deal?” I used to ask him)
    Saamney pichhoney police ghurbey” (My dad would try to impress upon me the importance of the role by explaining the security detail that would be in front and behind me)

    Not that it had any effect on me. But my sister used to be profoundly frightened.
    Keno? Dadakey dhhorbey?” (She thought all those security guards would be trying to capture me!!)

    My dad would have been really really proud of me that even if I did not become an officer, at least I rubbed shoulders with a friend who was one. I am sure he would have been content living vicariously thru Sumanjit.

    Meanwhile, all the hotel staff was wondering what was going on. Now, I stay in this hotel every three months. I happen to have made friends with everybody – from the front desk to the chef to the bartender and you name it. You can imagine the combined sigh of relief they had when they saw Sumanjit get out and proceed to give me a hug!

    We were laughing over all this with our wives when Sumanjit told me a rather funny narrative. The narrative is that in the Indian context if a cop car pulls over in front of your house – especially one that has flashing lights – everybody in the neighborhood comes out with curiosity to understand what is going on. And then if the cops leave without you, your social stock immediately goes up! “Dada, aapnar bondhu-ke boley eta ektu korey deben?” (“Can you please pull some strings with your friend to get this thing done?”)

    What is amazing about Sumanjit – and this would have endeared him to my dad even more – is his humility. For everything he has done and all the power, he could not care less. Still has remained the same human being I remember. Shashwati (his wife) was even worried that their retinue might be taking up too much space in front of the hotel!

    It was a wonderful evening. Would not have been possible without the effort from him.

    As an additional bonus, before he left, his son came by and that is a whole story for another day. Never met a person that young and that well balanced in life. We agreed to have a few Zoom calls after I reach the USA.

    Thank you Sumanjit and Shashwati for your effort. Let’s do a trip together in India sometime as we promised!

  53. Took off from Kolkata airport Jun 19, 2022

    Every time, I take a window seat while leaving Kolkata hoping to catch the Howrah Bridge. But the flights always take off northbound. The one time it actually took off southbound, I was able to take this picture.

    Today, one more time, we took off northbound and then banked gently left. You can see the Hooghly River. You can spot the Bali Bridge and if you look hard, you can see the faint glimmer of the Howrah Bridge. The straight well lit road is B.T. Road. You can the see the silhouette of Kalyani Expressway too (which is what I used to take every three months to go see my parents)

  54. A mistaken notion I had about the Persian Gulf Jun 19, 2022

    Living in the West, I have realized during my travels in the Middle East, how little we know of that part of the world. I would go so far as to suggest that especially in America, we have not only little but very wrong ideas about the people and geography of that part of world.

    Here is one more from my own ignorance. I always thought that the Persian Gulf would be deep blue color – even near the shores. But the real color can match the Caribbean at places. Which makes sense. Because the desert sand is meeting the water, the slopes are bound to be gentle (not hard rock and quick drops).

    Loved this view of a beach in Qatar.

  55. Speaking of my ignorance… Jun 19, 2022

    If you had asked me to draw Kuwait, I would fill it up with sand, more sand and to bring some relief, a few sand dunes. I am sure most of us who grew up with mental pictures of “Desert Storm” would do the same.

    Flying over Kuwait today, I was struck by what looked like very large river basins. This picture was taken from 36,000 feet above sea level but you can see the whole intricacy of tributaries and sub-tributaries.

    After reading up on Kuwait, I now know that all those get filled up by winter rain (and are called Wadis – remember the pictures from Jordan or Oman?).

    I think a great adventure would be to just fly over all countries, take pictures from the air and remove a few more of the dark corners of the vast ignorance I have!