8 May 2021

The time lapses are trending the right way

Last time I saw Prabasaj-da in school was 1984. Then almost thirty years later, ran into him unexpectedly at our local Durga puja in Atlanta. In spite of promising to see each other again, somehow life got in our way. Next time I saw him was seven years later at a coffee shop.

We set a target to meet with the family after Covid vaccinations. Fortunately, within six months or so, we were able to get the families together. I had not seen Kathleen since the Durga Puja either. We went to Wolf Mountain Vineyards to grab lunch and have some chat time outside.

The weather was gorgeous and the north Georgia mountains were beautiful.

But the highlight of the meeting was Aliya – who I had not seen before. She kept us thoroughly entertained and engaged. Not to speak of the time when she split us into two teams and then when asked “What are we supposed to do?”, she sheepishly admitted – “I have not thought this one thru”!!

Loved her intellectual curiosity and playfulness!

30 years… 7 years… half-a-year… I think we are trending the right way!!

29 March 2021

Have you ever heard the story of a kidnapping victim?

“Sir, you probably realized this – I am a very shy guy. I cannot talk to people much. I can’t believe you spent one and a half hours listening to me.”
“Vivek, I am going to take that as a compliment of the highest sort”, I replied.

Frankly, I had not realized that it was one and a half hours already. And it was barely 4:30 am in the morning!!

I had gone to sleep at around 10 pm in the ITC hotel in Durgapur. The jet lag was writ large over me when I woke up at 2:30 and could not go back to sleep. Instead of disturbing my brother who was fast asleep, I simply grabbed my laptop, iPad, phone and headed downstairs to the lobby. The idea was to try and catch up on some posting of blogs.

The lobby was fairly dark and warm. I guess the lights and the air condition had been turned down. There was this one thin lanky guy at the counter who was poring over his phone. Not ever shy of chatting up strangers, I went ahead and talked to the young gentleman. Vivek Thakur, he said was his name.

But it was clear that he was not comfortable talking. I was equally determined to get to know him. And I am so glad that I prevailed.

By all accounts, Vivek is a rising young gentleman. But somebody who has faced a few challenges in life. Not the least of it was that he was once kidnapped by gangsters.

“You mean, you were actually abducted?”
“Yes, sir!”
“Why?”
“For money, I guess.”
“Are you comfortable talking about it?”
“Sure. You can google it up too”
Which I did. Here is a newspaper report from that day…

He took me through some scary details of how a car came and hit him on his bike gently enough to throw him out in a dark evening. And then how he was roughed up into a car where there were a few other miscreants. He was made unconscious with some chemicals.

Apparently, the cops on the highway smelt a rat with the vehicle and asked it to stop. When it did not, they gave a chase. After a few miles, in a construction zone, the driver lost control and the car tumbled over. The miscreants high tailed it and fortunately Vivek was rescued – badly shaken up.

As you can imagine – my jaw dropped as I heard the story.

If that was not enough, found out that his best friend – who was an amazing artist and musician (in fact, he took me thru some of his work) had committed suicide the previous year. Apparently that also came in the local newspaper.

He also talked about how when his dad moved the family to Durgapur, it was a very rough transition for him.

By this time, for a very shy guy, he was certainly talking his mind – although haltingly (almost like he was thinking and weighing in before saying anything). We talked a lot about his aspirations. He loves the service industry. Someday he want to open his own business – perhaps a hotel.

“Vivek, you have a fascinating story. Can I write about you in my blog?”
“You have a blog, sir?”
“Yes, www.rajibroy.com. You will see stories of many people like you that I meet on the road”.
“Sure!”
“Let’s take a picture together. I will feature it in the post”.

After we took the picture, I asked him – “By the way, what is your birthday? I will make sure I call you on your birthday.”
“March 4th, sir!”
“No way!”
“Why?”
“That is my younger daughter’s birthday!!!”

And we left as he mentioned about how he could not believe that we had been talking for one and a half hours.

The following day, before checking out, I saw him for another few minutes…
“Sir, we have another coincidence!”
“Wo do?”
“Sir, my nickname at home is Nicky”
Apparently, he had been reading up my blog and figured out that it was Niki whose birthday I was referring to.

We had a great laugh.

Vivek “Nicky” Thakur, I have no doubt that you will be reading this blog too. I just wanted you to know that you are an amazing person. The mental strength you have shown in overcoming life’s obstacles so early in your life will only take you from success to success.

I will surely be around to cheer you up!

28 March 2021

Intersection point when I was least expecting it

“Are you Rajib Roy?”, she asked.
“That is what rumor in the street is”, I said as I looked at the lady standing in front of me trying my best to put a name to the face.

A few minutes prior, my brother and I had settled down in a rather empty bar of the ITC Fortune Pushpanjali hotel in Durgapur. After settling down with two glasses of gin, my brother excused himself to go to the restroom. I was intently watching a spectacular Virat Kohli catch on the TV in the last of the T-20 matches India was playing against England. I had vaguely realized thru the corner of the eye that the lady at the only other occupied table had gotten up and was walking towards me. I assumed she was headed out for some reasons.

What I did not realize is that she had actually recognized me and had gotten up to talk to me.

I am glad she recognized me because I failed to recollect her name.

Realizing that, she helpfully offered “I am Dipita”.

“Lahiri?”, I asked.

“Yes”

Then the old memories came flooding by. It was New Year’s eve. As everybody was out on the streets trying to welcome 2017 in, I was sitting in the restaurant of a hotel – which happened to be a couple of blocks away from where I was where all this was happening – writing down posts from the day in my blogsite.

Suranjan-da had introduced me to Subhra Lahiri who happened to be nearby. That was the first time I met him. Noticing his family standing outside, I had come out and introduced myself to them too. That is how I got to know his wife Dipita and his daughter Ishita. That was the first and last time I had seen them. You might have read about it here.

“I have to admit that I am impressed with your memory. You managed to spot me at the other corner after having met me only once. I could not do that.” I told her.

She did point out that a shaved head and shorts in Durgapur were fairly strong hints!!

By this time, my brother had come back. I told him the whole story and also that Sharmila and Dipita were classmates in middle and high school!

Unfortunately, Shubhra is no more. But Dipita and I had a great time catching up on our lives and especially the progress Ishita is making in her career.

Hopefully, next time we will have more time to chat!

19 March 2021

I wish I had sat her down before

“My marriage is totally legit!!” she exclaimed.
“No, it is not. I have never heard of getting married thru proxy.”
“I am telling you. Look it up.”

That was the most excited I had ever seen Sydney in the time that I had gotten to know her. Very quiet and even keeled, I had rarely seen her that animated before.

She was one more of those folks at Barrel House Coffee Company that I loved meeting every time I dropped by for coffee. The staff there – Kevin (and his socks!), Tim, Autumn, Baylee, Allison… are simply outstanding. Very friendly and always makes you feel at ease. True southern hospitality that you would expect from a small rural town called Ballground in Georgia.

So, I did Google up “proxy marriage”. And apparently, it is a thing. You can get married in certain states in the USA without one of the spouses being present. (In one particular state, both can be absent!). Turns out Sydney’s husband – Jack – is in military service and did not make it.

However, the good news was that her husband was coming in to Ballground from his service in a few weeks and they were both going to drive to Tacoma, WA where he was getting relocated and they were going to start their lives together.

A couple of days before they left, I had asked her if she would be open to sitting down with me and telling me her life story. She readily agreed.

What an eye opening exercise it was!! I had no idea beneath that calm and composed exterior how much of life ordeals she had been thru. Most of it is too private for me to publish in a public story but an example would be she telling me growing up as a toddler wondering at times why she could meet her mom only once a week. That too in a church. Unlike any other friend of hers. Turns out her mom had lost custody – some entanglement with drugs, jail, missed court appointment etc. The poor mom – who went thru depression and was bipolar – had a very disturbing and difficult life herself, it seemed.

Meanwhile, as Sydney and her siblings bounced around between step moms and all that, the grandparents seemed to offer an oasis of support. “My grandma is like my mom in my life”, she summarized.

Allow me to fast forward thru some of the private details – parts of which were difficult for me to hear as I had flashbacks of my own daughters.

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I love coffee. I am fairly creative. I think I want to be a barista”
… and after some more thought, added -“Perhaps open up a coffee house some day, like this.”

As my slotted hour was coming to an end, I had to ask her one of my usual questions….

“So, what should l learn from your life?”
Sydney, characteristically, kept quiet for a few seconds and slowly came out with the answer:

“You are capable of more than what you think. You can always be a good person. No matter how the other person is, what you want to be is your personal choice”.

I have to admit that I was taken aback by the sagacity and wisdom of words from the mouth of a twenty-something-year old!!

Sydney Haynes Gobble, here is wishing you a safe and exciting cross country trip and a great journey in life. I have no doubt you will make something great out of your life. We will surely be there to cheer you up from the sidelines!!

——

P.S. At the time of going to press with this post, I found out that Sydney has indeed landed herself a job as a barista in Washington state! Yay!!

14 March 2021

One good turn deserves another!!

Earlier this month, you might remember that I had dinner with Kristin and Dan when I was vacationing in Clearwater with my friend Avi. During that dinner, Kristin had mentioned that they were going to vacation as a family at the Ritz Carlton on Lake Oconee a couple of weeks later.

Guess what? Sharmila and I came out to meet both of them again. This time at the beautiful Ritz property. The lake looked great with temperatures in high 70s!

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1 March 2021

Meeting a great leader

Two and a half years back, I entered a whole new industry. As one of my first things to do in the first month, I had called up my peer CEOs to introduce myself. While studying up on Kristin – who is the CEO of PAR Inc – I noticed that she had spent some time with Johnson and Johnson and then became a CEO (first of inVista and then PAR).

One of my first questions to her was – “How does one go from J&J to being a CEO of PAR?”. Her memorable response was “It helps if your dad had started the company!”. I remember laughing out loud. Her humility and humor struck me that day. And has struck me in every conversation I have had with her ever since.

Over the years, I have learnt quite some from her about the industry as well as learnt the depth of her leadership skills.

Was able to fulfill an old promise of looking her up if I was ever in the Tampa area this evening. Kristin and her husband Dan joined Avi and myself for a nice dinner tonight. The place was great, the food was awesome and the company was perfect. Found out later that the place I had chosen was the exact place Kristin and Dan had gotten married in!! What is the chance of that?

Great conversations!! Memorable evening!!

19 February 2021

A memorable evening with Megan Strub

We worked together back in Equifax. And caught up after 8 years or so. It was a great evening – at times we discussed the meaning of life and at times we caught up about our old friends!! How the evening came around has an interesting history.

My blog reports out what posts I had made on that day but in the prior years. I was reading up one of those and noticed a comments from Megan suggesting we should grab a drink together. I promised to do that in my reply. Which I realized I had not followed thru on.

So a quick exchange of messages and this evening was set!!

1 January 2021

Great start to 2021

Favorite cup of Cortado at one of my favorite coffee places – Land of Thousand Hills in Halcyon. Always a great start to the day when I get to talk to the ever helpful and fun crew of Chase, Sarah and Maddie in the morning. Today, I can say that they are indeed the first people I have talked to this year!!!

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