20 January 2022

Dear old friend from 20 years back!

Geoff Dougall!!

So many idle chats we had had back in the late 90s and early 00s. Theoretically solving in our heads all the problems that the company we worked in was facing. Sometimes, Ted Dimbero used to join us and mostly leave us in splits with his inimitable humor.

I remember the Dougall family visiting us in our house in Coppell, TX. I think Geoff had a couple of kids and we had only Natasha. Then Geoff left the company and Dallas and joined his dad in the CPA firm he owned in Portland, OR.

I had to meet this gentleman this time when I was in Portland for a few hours. And what a gentleman he still is. It was a delightful couple of hours catching up on his family, his kids and how he has grown his business. Then there were those exchanging of notes on beautiful vacation spots and the discussions around politics in US and the geopolitical situation in the world.

Like good old times, theoretically, we solved a lot of problems. Instead of our company’s this time it was for the whole world!! Coming to think of it, if I were to solve any of world’s problems, I sure want this gentleman on my side!!

17 December 2021

Ran into an old bartender friend

My brother and I had just checked in and then settled down at the restaurant in Westin Kolkata. The idea was to grab a quick lunch and then head out to explore all the places my mother had spent time in.

After we had placed our order, a young gentleman caught my eye. He was looking towards me. I had the feeling I must have met him before. From behind the mask, I could not recognize the face at all.

He stepped up – “How are you, sir? Everything okay?”

“Yes, yes!”, I said as I focused on his name tag. Tathagata. I feverishly ran thru in my mind the dozen or so staff members’ names that I knew in the Westin but could not still place him. The name rang familiar but I could not see the face.

I think he sensed my struggle. “I was at the JW Marriott, sir!!”

Immediately, the memories came back to me!! Of course! This is Tathagata – the bartender at the lobby level bar in JW. He diligently fixed me with a Hendricks and tonic followed by a glass of wine every evening in March when I stayed there with my siblings and their families for a few days.

“What are you doing here?”

I learnt that he had moved to Chennai (the Sheraton, I think) and then had to move back to Kolkata since his mom fell ill.

I promised to see him in the evening at his bar.

He fixed me with one of his signature cocktails. And I picked up some wisdom around “blue peas” and how to make a gin change its colors with it (and again with the tonic water). I have to try this at home.

It was good to see Tathagata after almost nine months and learn aa few things about his trade.

2 December 2021

Met an old friend after a long long time…

Subrata was in town for work. Fortunately he was able to make some time to visit us. Caught up with him after a long time. Monisha, Subrata, Sharmila and myself used to get to see each other fairly often. We were in the same community in Dallas and we had kids of similar age. Then, we moved to Atlanta and they moved to Indianapolis. We talked a lot about those good old days in Dallas.

Hope to see Monisha also some time soon!!

22 November 2021

Of vinyl records, motorcycles and Tanzania!!

You probably remember from my post a couple of days back how my friend from office – Deval and her sisters Krupal and Rachana gifted me their dad’s vinyl record collection. Well, get this…

Two days later. It was 9:40PM my time…

“Deval?”
“Yes?”
“Are you busy?”
“No. Having drinks with Chris and Celia.”

I felt reassured that I had not woken up Deval. She was out with two more of my friends from work.

“Well… your dad…”
“Yes, what about him?”
“Was he the CA in a factory called Voil Industries?”

I can only imagine the confusion that must have descended her.
“He was a CA alright. I have to ask my mom about that factory.”

“Ok. Let me try this. Did you folks live in a bungalow in Baroda?”
“Yes.”
“Was there a movie starring Snehlata shot there?”
“Yes. The movie was shot in our bungalow. How do you know that?”. Again, I can only imagine her confusion.
“Well, believe it or not, I have found a connection to your dad.”
“WHAT???”

Let’s take a brief pause here. Let’s see what else happened that day.

I am sure you remember my motorbike friend – Rakesh Rao. He is the organizer, the lead rider and the guy who keeps our team of riders together. He has been a veritable source of tips and tricks for a new rider like me.

Well, he sent a very cryptic “The world is really really small” message to me and his wife Priti the previous day.
I texted “What is going on?”
“I will explain to you when we meet”, he responded.

And later that night, he spilled it all to me. He had recognized Deval’s dad’s name from my post. But he waited to talk to his dad first to make sure he was right.

And that is how I got all the information and the connection.

“Well, your dad had a classmate in Tanzania. His name was Jashwant C Rao. His son is my personal friend in Atlanta. We go out motorbiking together.” I kept explaining to Deval.

“WHAT???”

“Yes. His dad owned Voil Industries!! And my friend has been to your bungalow many times. Remembers you folks!!”

Can you imagine that?

What is the chance that my motorbiker friend in Atlanta and an office friend in Chicago are connected by me AND their dads who were classmates in Africa?

Thank you Rakesh for helping join all the dots!

It is really a small small world, as you say! It feels so great to sit in the cross section of all these intersection points!!

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18 November 2021

Unmasking my friend!

I thought twice… I thought thrice…

“Should I call out her name? What if it is not her?”

The moment I saw her walking into the airplane aisle, I thought she looked like my teammate Vicki. But the challenge was she had a big mask on and I just could not see enough facial features to come to a conclusive judgment.

What was even more interesting was that instead of going past me, she stopped near me and started putting her luggage up. And then sat down in my row one seat over on the other side of the aisle. She was trying to put her luggage up. Seeing her taking a few moments, I got up to help her. But by that time, she had already put the suitcase in. I sat down.

She looked at the passenger behind her and apologized “I am not tall enough”. And for the life of me I could not figure out whether the voice matched the one I have heard in Zoom calls and the couple of times I have talked to her directly.

I looked across my row. Her face was against the bright light from the window. The contour of her face did not help me much – I have not spent that much time with her. And then, there was the mask, of course.

My mind kept going back to a couple of months back when in a similar fashion, a gentleman sat down next to me and started talking to me mistaking me for one of his friends. And of course, I was trying to figure out how did I know that person. I figured my memory was failing me. We had a great laugh later and have become friends. In fact, I am friends with his son now too!!

Got busy with some office work and completely forgot about the lady till the boarding was completed and we had to shut down our laptops. Looked at her again. Still not sanguine.

Then an idea flashed across my mind. I texted her. You can follow the text message in the picture.

Turns out it was indeed Vicki Thomas. She was going home from Chicago and was connecting thru Atlanta. I was headed home too from our Chicago office!

Of course we had a great laugh. Took a selfie (which I am terrible at) after getting down.

16 November 2021

Meeting a real smart lady

Meeting Kiran invariably means I need to sharpen my brains. The topics of discussions are usually fairly deep and requires a lot of thinking. This time, the talk was about bias and the importance of being able to listen to the other side of the story. One thing we marveled about was – be it politics or religion or Covid vaccinations for that matter – how we quickly divide folks into one side or the other. But in reality, most people lie in a vast grey zone in that spectrum.

Great discussions!!

10 November 2021

Intersection point with a friend of 22 years!

For most people, it is usually I who visits them in their town. That is because I am on the road a lot. However, I think Pavan has met me more number of times in my town than the other way round. She is a road warrior too.

Got to see her again in Atlanta during her business visit this week. Coincidentally, in exactly the same hotel as I had met her four years back!!

It was good catching up about our old i2 friends and her family! One of these days, hopefully, she will make it to our house too!

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2 November 2021

Great evening with Robb

Robb has always been a voice on the phone or a face on Zoom windows. Got to meet him first time since he was in Atlanta for work.

It was a great evening talking about how he convinced his mom not to make him eat tomato (by throwing up all over 🙂 ), his journey thru multiple industries, his adventures in mountain biking and the larger perspectives of life!!

18 October 2021

There is a reason why we did not talk about the days when we worked together

Anand (Iyer) was visiting Atlanta from Portland. So, five more of us from Atlanta got together with him for drinks.

We have all worked together in our past in one or the other company. Guess why did not talk much about the past?

Because we could not decide which company to talk about!! Turns out we have dragged each other along wherever we have gone.

To wit, I have worked with Karthik in 2 different companies (and once in different companies but owned by the same PE firm). Anand and i have worked together in 3 different companies! Madhav and Karthik have worked together in 2 different companies! Vijay has worked in one company with Anand and me and yet another company with Karthik!! Anand (Srinivasa) has worked with all of us but Vijay once.

And I am no sure we are quite done!!

That was a great evening!!

17 October 2021

Of pandas, start ups and famous actors!

“So, what are you doing in Atlanta?”, I asked the Martins as we walked from Avalon to Alpharetta downtown on the Alpha Loop.
“We came to see you!”, said Steve.
“Me?”
“And the pandas!”
“What??”

Turns out Steve and Carolyn travel whenever they can now that they are empty nesters. Before that though Steve worked in Apple. Not coding and all that. That he did when I got to meet him on my first day at a startup called i2. He had shown me all the fan mail he used to get (meant for the actor Steve Martin). After leaving i2, he went to work for Apple at their retail stores. Doing what he liked doing the most… teaching customers one on one how to use the various applications.

You might remember from a story from June of 2017 how a picture he posted on Facebook made me realize that we were in the same airport at that instant and I ran to meet him for a minute just before he had to jump into the plane. I missed Carolyn that time since she had already stepped in. They were on their way to New York that time.

Another crazy coincidence with Steve that also includes Facebook happened the following year. I was on a business trip and had posted a picture from Natick, MA. Steve saw that and let me know that he was born there. On a whim, I found out the address of his birthplace, went to that house, introduced myself and took pictures of the house and sent it to Steve’s mom!! You can read the whole story here. (I found out from Steve this time that we both lost our moms literally two days apart last year).

Going back to the pandas… apparently, the Martins love pandas (who does not?) and they have made it a point to go visit all the pandas in the USA. Turns out only a few zoos have Pandas and Atlanta was the last one on their list!!

And thanks to the Martins, we got a taste of what empty nesting might look like for us. We walked from Avalon to Alpharetta downtown, bounced around three bars, had some interesting drinks (one included smoke and fire) and finally settled down for a nice dinner. And then walked back to Avalon!!

Thank you Steve and Carolyn for keeping Sharmila and me in your minds during your Atlanta visit. We got to do this again soon!!

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