20 September 2023

Intersection Point in Paris!!

I got to know Melania at work in Germany – oh! some 20 years back. Ever since then, we mostly have kept up thru phone calls and Facebook posts. Of course, there are those April birthday calls every year. I have been promising Melania to visit her whenever I find myself in Paris. But in spite of all my travels, I never made it to Paris for a long long time.

Finally this time, I made it. And Melania took some precious time off from work to come and visit me. I was running between being on the stage for a panel discussion and an office dinner meeting. And she was in the middle of a crucial sales cycle. In between, though, she biked up to where I was to have coffee and catch up on our lives and old friends.

I learnt quite a bit of skiing from her. Skiing is second nature to her. I do not think I will recognize a ski blade if I saw one. The part that blew my mind was that you can ski up a slope. I am not talking about starting with a momentum from a down slope. I am talking about starting from zero and then skiing up!

We also talked about politics in France, US and India; our old days in i2 in Germany and some of our dear friends from those days. And yes, rugby, football, American football and cricket too !!

She had to leave for work soon. It felt like we did not finish our conversation fully. It only means we need to make time to visit in US or France again!

Thank you Melania for taking to effort during office time to meet me for coffee!

11 September 2023

If you ever find me trying to fly a plane as one of those crazy things I have signed up for…

… you can, without fear or favor, blame this gentleman!! Him and Michele Baker!!

Stephen and I go back almost 10 years when he was a pilot in the company I worked in. I remember his love for flying. Has been doing it for 41 years. When I had gone to our Alaska office for a business review, Stephen had taken me up in the air and showed me a bit of Alaska.

So, when I found out that he was in town for some training, I had to find some time to sit with him. You see, Stephen is one of those rare folks whose intellectual curiosity is boundless. Of course, we spoke a lot about airplanes. The mechanisms of how the smaller planes fly and what are the key skillsets required.

But we talked about things that you would not think you would discuss with a pilot. We talked about motorcycles and we talked about boats. We talked about Bayesian probabilities and generative AIs. One of the more interesting arguments we got into was whether with quantum computing we can fairly accurately predict how any human being will think or decide on a particular problem given enough data on how the same person has thought or decided before.

It was a bit of an unfinished debate. I feel this need to go to Alaska and spend a day with him to finish off our discussion. And maybe go up in the air in his personal plane.

Something tells me the next crazy idea is starting to germinate!!

18 August 2023

I was not done with my intersection points yet

For my first office trip after quite some time, covering two cities in two days, you would think I have had enough intersection points already. Except that there was one more left.

A few months ago, Tej had let me know that he would be coming from Dubai to Boston to drop his son in Boston College. I was not expecting to travel there (I had not yet contemplated on getting back to work). But I made a note on my calendar that he would be in the USA – Boston, to be precise.

As a background, Tej and I lived next door to each other in our dorm during our MBA days – 1989 thru 1991. He was Room 1307 and I was 1308. All our contacts subsequently were thru phone calls – usually in January, on his birthday.

After making my travel arrangements last week, while putting my flight details down in my calendar, I came across my notes. I was so glad that I had jotted it down. A few Whatsapp messages later, I realized that he was actually flying in on Friday late night. I was leaving town early morning the next day. No worries, I told him. I would wait for him in his hotel lobby and we could meet for 15-20 minutes since he was bound to be very tired.

Sure enough, at around 9PM, good old Tej walked up to the check in counter with his suitcase!!

As promised, we spent about half an hour together and resolved to spend more time the next time!!

18 August 2023

Of three old friends and junk genes!!

The last time you would have seen these three together would have been in Chennai – circa 1989. Except that the fourth chair would not have been empty. Partha Roy would have been sitting there.

The two girls would have been talking loudly. Both would be laughing heartily. I would be trying to cut in with some dad jokes (then called “PJ”s – stood for Poor Jokes). And Partha would quietly sit there sipping his soft drink and then once in a whole bring the roof down with his loud guffaws. Lata would be speaking with a great command of the language English and Kiran would be talking of something disapprovingly with a liberal dose of Hindi words in her English.

34 years later… nothing has changed. At all!! Other than Partha, who was conspicuous by his absence, everything felt the same.

I was in Boston for work. Stayed in the Marriott in Cambridge that I used to stay in the late 90s when we had an office next door. Lata works in Cambridge and Kiran lives in Cambridge. A few phone calls here and there – and there we were!!

Two highlights…
Lata refused to believe that I had once driven her and her roommate – together with my friend Aditya – from New York to DC and we had stayed with somebody she knew in DC. I gave her a lot of details of the trip – but she would have nothing of it. Finally, I had to call Aditya and get him to send us a couple of pictures (he was and still is an avid photographer) from that trip. I showed them to her. Her first reaction? “That is me? Send it to me – I want to show my son this picture”.

Second was, Kiran and I got a class on “Gene 101” from Lata. I finally have the answers to a lot of questions about genes, DNA, genomes, chromosomes etc etc that I had all these days. Learnt about “junk genes” for the first time. Did you know about them?

17 August 2023

Meeting God!

“Rajib, we have just relocated to New York,” said the message from Vinayak – somebody with whom I went to IIM Ahmedabad together for our MBA. In fact we were in the same Section (Section C) in the first year. But that is where our similarities ended.

He was smart as heck. A very pleasant person to talk to and modest by the gobs. He was also very smart with finance courses and computer classes. In fact, he was so good, his nickname in campus was “God”.

I do not participate in any WhatsApp groups. So, I miss out on all the updates people post there. However, I do try to keep up individually with all of those whose birthdays I am aware of. Therefore, I was real glad that Vinayak proactively let me know that he has moved from India to the USA.

“Oh! Turns out I will be in New York in a couple of days too!”

We planned to meet early morning at 6:45 at Columbus Circle before my office meetings got going. Finished my run in Central Park and as I emerged from out of the park into the Circle, there he was! Waiting for me, looking the other way.

We took a walk in the park – remembering a lot of our days and friends from our MBA days. The last time we met was in 1991. About 32 years back!! A street side coffee and breakfast later, we split.

It was so rewarding to meet Vinayak and learn about his life journey. Hope to come to New York more often and spend more time with him in the near future.

16 August 2023

The last name connection!

The bar was reasonably empty in the hotel. So much so, the better. It gave me a chance to grab a glass of wine, sit by myself and read a book. The white noise of folks chatting around me, customers joining and leaving offered me the perfect environment to be in my zone.

As I picked up my head from the book to take a sip of the wine, I heard the gentleman next to me say “1505”. Looks like Patrick, the bartender, had asked him for his room number to start a tab. I tried to get back to my book with some mild thoughts of “what if somebody overhears that and charges their drink to his room?”

That though was quickly disabused when Patrick asked “Last name?”. Of course, he was going to match up in his system to avoid exactly the kind of fraud I was thinking of.

“Mukherjee”, I heard the gentleman say as I tried to look for the spot in the book where I had trailed off.

That last name had me immediately intrigued. I waited for him to finish placing his order. Patrick soon withdrew from the scene to take care of other customers. I lifted my head, turned to my left and finally caught the visage of my bar neighbor. Seemed like a young, well dressed, Indian gentleman.

“Mukherjee, huh?”, I asked.
“Yes, sir”.
“That would make you a Bengali, right?”
“Yes. How do you know?”
“Well, it takes one to recognize one. Rajib Roy, by the way”.
“You speak Bengali?”
“Of course!”

As with all my intersection points, the rest of the time was spent exploring connections. Once I figured out he had gone to Presidency and was from Kolkata, I knew sooner or later I would find some common threads.

“So, where did you study in Kolkata?”
“Well, outside Kolkata. Narendrapur. It is a Ramakrishna Mission School”.
“I have a vague idea of it. I went there too!!”

Turns out he was in the same campus as I was – although 14 years later.
“Which bhavan?”
Brahma. You?”

I fished out a picture of Prabasaj-da and I canoeing last Sunday and told Pinaki (that is his name, btw) – “You see this guy? We canoe together. He is from your old bhavan. This guy was All India 2 in IIT JEE”. I was hoping to impress him that I knew some smart people.

As I continued tracing his life, found out that he was in UK for some time. And also that he was into drama acting.

“Did you ever come across a Mausumi Das?”
“She was big time into drama”
“Yes. We went to school – and I mean from first grade – together!!”

And then it was his turn to enquire. I think he had started thinking about folks my age from Presidency or Narendrapur.

“Do you know Subhendu Dasgupta?”
I thought for a while and had to admit – “I can’t say I am remembering such a name.”
“Subhendu Das Dasgupta”
“Subhendu Das Dasgupta?”
“Yes. I think he goes by Das Dasgupta also.”
“Ah! You are thinking of Tathagata Dasgupta.”
“Oh yes! Tathagata. Why am I saying Subhendu? Do you know him?”

“Know him? Let’s see – we went to school together in Durgapur. We worked together in the same company in Dallas. His sister and my wife were classmates. We were in his place in California a couple of months back. And yes! I was talking to his wife Monalisa an hour back to wish her a happy birthday!!”

You can only imagine his reaction!!

We got Patrick to take a picture of us, exchanged our contacts and called it a night! We promised to see each other in Raleigh or Atlanta when our travel takes us to each others’ cities.

Today, I started traveling for work after a LONG time and the intersection points started flowing almost immediately!!

Still love talking to strangers. How else do you make new friends?

14 August 2023

Met her after a long time!

The irony is we live in the same city and we have talked so many times every year. Coretha and I worked together many moons back. After leaving our old company, she has been often my go-to person to get ideas and advise on Talent and Culture questions and often referrals for key positions. When Sharmila and I were vacationing in St. Pete earlier this week, we found out that she has a property there and we checked out her building too. But got to see her for the first time after nearly 10 years!!

My selfie skills are terrible and the sun was hitting our faces mercilessly when I attempted to take this picture!

11 July 2023

My classmate who never left my hometown

I had just about enough energy left in myself to create one more intersection point. Decided to go with this friend who I have not seen for 38 years. And even that, she has more vivid memories of that last meeting in her house than I do. Which is not very common. What is remarkable about Aditi – my friend in question – is that she finished all her studies in Durgapur and then started teaching in her high school. This means she is the rare person in my friend list who has never left Durgapur for studies or for work!!

Finding her place was a bit of a hassle – I had the address but we got misguided not once, not twice but thrice by walkers-by in the street. Ironically, we asked the first gentleman for directions while literally standing in front of her building. He duly send us down the wrong path!!

It was great to see her and catch up on her life story after these many years!!