11 August 2022

My compatriot from Muenchen days!

Last time I met Sameer was over seven years back. I think we were doing college tours for Natasha.

My last night in SFO was spent having dinner with this old friend. He has remained pretty much the same with that ever present smile and the quiet demeanor. The one surprise was his new hairstyle!!

Since he is an Apple executive, I always get a few pointers on some interesting and useful apps on iOS. I still use the sleep app he had suggested. This time he showed me a few that will test my intellect and spatial thinking!

Thank you Sameer for coming out to Burlingame all the way from San Jose.

10 August 2022

A short and sweet meeting with Celeste

Both of us had about 30-40 minutes of break during our meetings. We were in the same city but, of course we were in different offices. Made a dash to grab a coffee and catch up.

We had worked together for about 3 years. These were the early days of the current company I work in. As it often happens, we have way too many stories from those early formative days of the company. We even sat in adjacent cubicles before Covid came in.

Have you noticed how when you meet old friends from work after many years – none of your recollections involve numbers or even product names? Almost all of them are about people – and in fact specific interactions with or of those people.

I have a few that Celeste and I are going to talk about – maybe fifteen years from now. The one that I am surely going to mention to her soon to be born son is how we even got to an agreement to work together!!! I am sure she will suggest that it was my version, but I will have Graham to back me up!

10 August 2022

Invigorating conversations. With a complete stranger.

Sometime last year, my friend from engineering college days – G. Balakrishnan – who we simply referred to as “GB” (engineering students of four decades back were well ahead of their times in recognizing the uselessness of multiple syllables or even the need to spell out everything – which, I am glad to see, the current generation and social media is finally getting around to embracing 🙂 ) had sent a rather strange request from India.

His request was to give some time over the phone to a friend of his who lives in the Bay area. I assumed the gentleman – Shriram Narayanan being his name – would want to discuss career move related topics. The request was strange because what his friend wanted to discuss had nothing to with work at all. It was about my blog! Apparently, he had a lot of questions.

I finally got to call him up on Oct 27th. I was driving from one meeting to another and took the call from my car. A scheduled half an hour meeting went over an hour. I still remember discussing finiteness of time, how do we recognize in ourselves what we are good at and such absorbing topics. Regrettably, I had to end the call since I had to go to a meeting.

This trip to SFO, I actually caught up with him face to face. Over a cup of coffee, we continued with where we had left last October. The discussions were refreshing and invigorating. Truth be told, I have not come across too many people with whom I can have this kind of in depth discussions on very different topics. (Magesh Ranganathan pops up as an immediate exception to my mind)

“Learning” was a big topic of discussion this time around. Why we learn and how we learn. And why we stop learning. How we learn from experience but that in itself is a tricky process since that assumes accurate recollections from memory – which is an absolute myth. (this does not include certain other kind of learnings – like skill learning – biking, swimming – where the brain somehow involuntarily commits to some parts of memory that it has no problem recovering on demand even after five decades!)

Hope to have more sessions with Shriram in the future.

9 August 2022

Meeting my penpal

I thought I knew a thing or two about fountain pens and nibs and all that. But at the end of the evening, I realized how little I knew about what makes those pens and nibs come to life. All because I got to have dinner with a pen pal of mine from the other end of the world.

Let’s back up a little. About twenty years back, I had a colleague at work – Madhuri. She was fifteen years younger than me and we worked in two different ends of the world – Dallas and Bangalore – but of course, we knew each other since we were in the same team.

It was much later – and by that time, she had moved to Singapore with her husband Rupesh – that we realized we shared a common fascination for writing with fountain pens. It was a post on Facebook that she had put up that had triggered my attention.

And that started a long series of writing letters to each other – between Atlanta and Singapore. The topics invariably were about life, travel, parents in India, old friends and so on.

In one of those letters earlier this year, she let me know that they were moving from Singapore to San Francisco. Even after they moved, the letter writing continued. In fact, just last week, something happened when I was setting up my small workspace in the new house. I was carefully putting her last few letters in my letter organizer when Nikita happened to stroll by. I showed her some of the letters and she justifiably marveled at the beautiful handwriting.

Well, guess what? I met up with Madhuri and Rupesh for dinner this evening. The board meeting scheduled in San Francisco offered this opportunity.

I never quite told you what makes fountain pens come to life, did I? Well, that is where Madhuri’s expertise comes in. Paper and ink. I am always frustrated by the quality of paper in the USA. Got some great tips on how to choose paper and some good brands from Japan from her.

You all think I am nuts that I have over 100 fountain pens? Get this – she has 65 different colors of ink!! I have only 8) I learnt a lot about the chemistry and quality of inks from her. I even picked up some new terms like “sheening” and “pooling”. She had brought a few different varieties of paper to demonstrate her points to me.

Incredible evening for me!

5 August 2022

An evening with the Sivasubramaniams

Thanks to the effort of Lakshmi, Sharmila and I got together with Anand and his family this evening. Original plan got a bit washed away by the rains but we adjusted the plans and still put in a dinner and a walk. Brought a lot of the old Chennai days (where Anand and I went to undergraduate school together) and the Tamizh jokes back. Now that both their children will go to Georgia Tech, I hope to see more of them!

5 August 2022

Lunch with good old Tom!

Tom and I would often see each other in the corridors of Equifax. After leaving the company, I used to run into him once in a while when he would be running too in Fowler Park. Then, for a couple of years we did not met. Other than the birthday calls, in fact, we had not talked much either.

Suddenly, a few weeks back, I got a message from him that his dad has been moved to a hospice. Since I volunteer in hospices, we were going to talk about what to expect and what not to expect. But the next day, I got a message that his dad had transitioned.

Today, we talked a lot about how to cope with a father’s demise and priorities in life in general. It was good to see good old Tom again!

16 July 2022

That picture is so reminiscent of times a quarter century back

The Aroras and the Roys had not had their progenies yet. Many a weekend lunch and dinner used to be spent just like that picture. Lot of laughing and a little of eating.

For the record, to explain Gagan’s face, I must admit that I had timed one of my jokes precisely at the time he had taken a mouthful of beer. He could neither spit it out (august company and all that) nor gulp it (for fear of choking while suppressing laughter – or worse, snorting the beer out). Had to laugh with a mouthful of beer.

If we had smart phones a quarter century back, I have no doubt, I would have had similar pictures from those days too!

Thank you Gagan and Bharti for driving all the way to the city, buying me drinks and then dropping me where my college dorm reunion was going on.

16 July 2022

The curious case of a camera bag

This weekend, I attended our IIT-hostel (engineering college dorm) get together in Seattle. I will write about that later.

One of those hostel mates who showed up was Ranga (Sampath Rangarajan, if my memory serves me right). He was one of the few that I used to be close to and I even got to know his parents and siblings. In fact, every year, I look forward to my conversation with his dad on his (dad’s) birthday.

This time, Ranga, always the enterprising guy was not only busy leading a lot of activities – dancing, hiking, antakshari (a type of song competition) – he was our lead photographer too. At least, he was toting his Canon DSLR and taking a lot of pictures and then dutifully uploading them on our group website.

No photographer myself, I still started talking to him about his camera with the modicum of knowledge I could muster from yesteryears. Eventually, I got curious about what all lenses and other paraphernalia he was carrying with him in his sophisticated looking camera bag.

And among various other photography related accoutrements, as evidenced by the picture, I found a bottle of Hajmola (look it up) and one of Tylenol!!

I guess it is a case of being better safe than sorry!