28 November 2020

She took her hat!

The year was 2015. Sometime in September, as I reckon. I was sitting face to face with the lady who I had not seen for such a long time. A lady who had made so much difference to me when I was growing up. Between her and her husband – Bose-Kaku, I can certainly certify that there has been no other elderly parents who have loved me more other than my own parents.

Two effusive sentiments emanated from her that day thru our tete-e-tete. Her sense of pride in what I had made of myself and her sense of pride in what her son had made of himself. Coming to her son – that would be best friend from school days – Avijit Bose.

Both his and my parents have had their share of ailments thru their old ages. Fortunately for me, my parents have my own brother and sister close by and I go every three months to see them (well, when Covid was not around). But Avijit – thanks to the constraints of the medical profession – does not have the luxury to visit his mom that often. And he is the only child.

In spite of having to deal with all the physical challenges (she could not even go down the stairs to the ground floor – and no, the building had no elevators) – she seemed to be immensely proud and content of being a mother whose son has succeeded in life. Notwithstanding the fact she lost her husband a few years back and is totally dependent on domestic help, her sense of purpose was totally fulfilled by the fact she got to see her son establish himself and have a beautiful family. With an outstanding grandchild, I might add.

I reckon it was Thoreau who had once proferred – “Live your life, do your work, then take your hat”.

The call from Perth, Australia this morning was to let me know that Mrs. Bose had taken her hat.

I was in touch with Avijit in Australia on a daily basis getting updates on his mom – stuck in a nursing home in a small place called Uttarpara near Kolkata. I can only begin to fathom what he must have been going thru – trying to remote control all her care by phone – stuck in Australia. Both of us were warily optimistic of today – this was the day she was supposed to come home. Oxygen cylinder clipped to her nose and all. She was going to need help breathing for the rest of her life. But she would have been home.

That was not to be.

Too many memories are flooding my mind right now. None as overwhelming as her unconditional love for me. A level of guilt has started creeping up too. I go to see my parents every three months. Perhaps I should have made a few detours to see Bose-Kakima a few more times.

And yet I know, if I ever expressed the myriad of feelings I am going thru, she would have reprimanded me – like she used to when I would say two rosogollas were enough when she would insist I eat all the sweets she would offer me when I visited her – that I ought to celebrate her life, not mourn her death.

And what a life to celebrate! From the humblest of beginnings (I happened to get to know her past from her brother and two sisters – of who, only one sister is surviving), she lived to be the most independent person I know. And, to repeat myself, raise a wonderful son.

Bose-Kakima, in our and your son’s country, it is customary to say “Rest in Peace”. If you can still hear me, I say – “Rest in Peace – if you will, but keep an eye from up there on your son and me – you must!”

Amen!

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24 November 2020

Old i2 friends!!

Parag Chitalia was in town to visit his in laws. I had last seen him somewhere in the early 2000s (about 17-18 years back, I reckon). Karthik was able to get the three of us together for a quick drink. We missed Madhav who unfortunately lost his mother the previous day.

7 November 2020

Covid did not stop this intersection point!!

To help understand this intersection point, I have to pull three strings together. Let’s see how well I can do that.

Last evening, Avi, Sharmila and myself were out at a cigar bar and one of the topics that came up was all the moments of serendipity I go thru. In fact, we talked about that one time I had taken my family to Bombay and how in that one stay, I had experienced one intersection point after another.

First, at the breakfast table, I ran into somebody from Shanghai who I had met only once before – in a running trail in Atlanta. Later, met a co-worker from twelve years prior on the beach – who was visiting from Hong Kong with her own family. And then as we settled down in the lounge at the airport to fly back, I spotted a junior from my Engineering college (used to be a few doors down from me in my hostel) sitting at a chair nearby poring over his laptop. (he did not recognize me but that was because he had no idea I had shaved my head off two years back). The day itself had started with a breakfast with a friend rom MBA days who has backpacked to over 100 countries in the world. The topic de jure that morning? “Serendipity”!! Go figure.

I was lamenting to Avi how Covid has stopped to all my travel and that I am not being able to create those intersection points any more.

Okay. Let’s stop the thread there. Let’s start with a completely unknown person. Ashwin Ramani is his name. Turns out he had run into my blog sometime back and has been following me ever since. I had noticed that name when I saw it in a list of emails added to subscribe to my blog. Eventually, I got an email from him too. He talked about some of the posts on music and that apparently, he enjoys the blog in general. That was very nice of him. Thru emails, I go to know him a little more. Turns out he is a musician himself and has a band. We had a great chat over it.

To start yet another thread, day before yesterday, I had a fairly long day. Office meetings, board meetings, budget meetings and all that. Another thing about Covid – I used to see my face only once a day in the mirror while shaving. Now, like a glutton for punishment, I keep seeing myself in those Zoom windows. Too tiring, I tell you.

In any case, Dipanjan, Parijat, Sharmila and I had stepped out to grab a quick drink late that evening at our favorite Alpharetta down town spot – Truck and Tap. In fact, I posted a picture from that meeting too.

Now time to put all the threads together.

So, this morning, I sat down at my coffee spot with my favorite cup of cappuccino and woke up to my first message from the previous night.

It was Ashwin – he had written to me (after seeing the picture) to say that Parijat is his high school classmate from India!

Mind. Blown.

4
20 October 2020

It is like we are on a three year circadian rhythm

After moving to Atlanta in 2007, it took me quite some time to realize that my classmate from my department in college – Aluru Srinivas – also is in the same city. Met him after 1989 for the first time in 2014. Then three years later, in 2017, met him again along with some of our other hostel mates visiting at that time.

And then another three years later, I met him again yesterday. Good discussions around all our classmates and what they are up to these days. One of the topics I learnt about is how marketable a CS degree is – especially in academia. I have a CS degree too but I was never good enough for academia. My journey took me to the corporate side.

It was good seeing Aluru again!

17 October 2020

Spending some time with a legend from my high school

Seven years back, Prabasaj-da had surprised me by walking up to me at the local Durga Puja and asking me if I was Rajib Roy. Prior to that, I had last seen Prabasaj-da in Narendrapur, way back in 1984. He was an year senior to me in high school and that is when he had left our residential school campus.

My blog site reminded me of that meeting a couple of days back and that led me to reach out to Prabasaj-da and set up the meeting today. It is a pity that I waited for such a long time. He was a legend in academics in school. But what had impressed me always was his independence in thinking. From deciding not to go for engineering or medical sciences (which is what just about everybody did those days – certainly the ones who laid any claim to fame in academic prowess) to the subsequent life journey that has taken him from Utah to Cameroon (he volunteered for the Peace Corps to teach Physics in a very small school there) to moving from Physics to Epidemiology sure makes for a fascinating story.

He came to our agreed upon coffee place riding in his bicycle that he has had from 1992!! His other bike apparently had to be paid as ransom so that they could go free from a village in the marshy lands of Darien Gap (in the border of Panama and Colombia). He and a friend of his were riding thru Central America in their bikes and you can read up about Darien Gap to realize how scary it is.

After enquiring about our common friends and teachers, most of my questions for Prabasaj-da was around the pivotal learning moments in his multi faceted life. We talked about why being an SME (Subject Matter Expertise) is something we should be afraid of and why our tendency to model any problem in the constructs of the one field we are experts of is fundamentally a flawed one.

The conversations also included why icebergs are in an unstable state (got to do with the center of buoyancy and center of gravity) or rather metastable state. One famous line from Prabasaj-da – “Reality is for people who cannot deal with animation”!

Since he is in CDC now, of course, we touched upon the topic of Covid – but more from mathematical and statistical modeling point of view. In a conversation reminiscent of what Madhav had once explained to me, Prabasaj-da explained how when the large pharma companies try to model where the highest concentrations of Covid is likely to be (so they can do A-B tests) – that knowledge of the model output itself changes behaviors of the the population (taking more precautions) that render the model invalid!! Madhav had explained this as the challenge in forecasting variables that are endogenous to the system.

I had the time of my life! We agreed to get Sharmila, Kathleen and ourselves together soon in the next few weeks!!

4 October 2020

Engineering batch virtual meet

Saw most of my classmates from IIT-Chennai Computer Science – 85-89 batch – together (albeit virtually) for the first time after 1989. I never had a chance to go for any of the college reunions. Of the twenty odd classmates that showed up today – we missed only a couple here and there and one who we unfortunately lost at too early an age – I have met less than one third of them in my travels. Need to fix that once travel starts back up again.

Thru the call, I learnt about how life has unfolded for all of them. Remarkably, everyone seems to have done so well. One thing I did not realize is how many of them have chosen to stay in the academics area. Unlike me, most of them came to this country after school to pursue higher degrees in Computer Science. Many have proceeded to become professors in renowned colleges like U.VA, Penn State, Carnegie Melon, Georgia Tech and so on.

Of the ones that went the corporate route, what struck me is how most of them went to the big names – I heard Google, Microsoft mentioned many times and then Facebook and Amazon. My guess is these large companies have very different scales of computational issues that attract top talent like my classmates.

And finally there were a couple of entrepreneurs too!

A distinct pattern I noticed is that folks who were into music have kept up with their passion. Did not quite catch if those who were into sports have kept up with the same.

One big difference from my MBA schoolmates (coincidentally, one of the above friends and I went to IIM-Ahmedabad to do MBA right after school) is the geographical dispersion. Most of my IIT friends are in the USA – with a few in India and a couple shuttling between USA and India. Only one is in the UK. Contrast that to my MBA friends – most are in India or South East Asia – especially Singapore and Hong Kong – and other financial hubs like London and Dubai. And only a very small proportion are in the USA.

Good news is that we did not discuss anything about Computer Science – I would have been out of my depths in about a nanosecond!! We talked about our families and personal and professional lives.

I say this with all honesty – it is fairly humbling to realize that I actually went to the same classes as these folks. I know – to a fair degree, what I am good at and I know – to a large degree what I am not good at. Which is why I am still in disbelief that I managed to spend four hours with these luminaries…

19 September 2020

The Sylvesters!

Of the various aspects of flying every week that I miss, the topmost must be making new friends. I probably have made more friends on the road – at airports, hotels, restaurants – than by any other means. It has been a great experience even keeping up with them (I send FB requests to many of them – some of them make the mistake of accepting).

Now that I am not flying any more… I am having to adapt. Truth is I do not meet that many strangers any more. However, I am getting a few opportunities in the open areas where Sharmila and I go for late evening drinks. The most fascinating friends was a small kid call Dylan who played soccer with me in the Halcyon mall open area. I have not seen him ever since.

Today, we made friends with the Sylvesters. They were sitting in the adirondack chairs in Alpharetta downtown next to where Sharmila and I usually sit. It started with if we were comfortable they sitting down at the next set of chairs. From there we discussed beers – they were having Shiner Bock and we found the common connection in Texas (their son and Tom’s dad is in Texas and of course, both my daughters were born there) to Turkey (where Tom spent a few of his early years – his dad was in General Dynamics). Nikita, our younger one, went to a private school run by mostly Turkish teachers and actually learnt Turkish for a year.

Silvania is from Brazil – and that of course got us started about my experiences in Brazil including the crazy crowded city of Sao Paolo (where she is from). I thought Silvania Sylvester was a nice alliterating name. Found out that her middle name (dad’s name) is Silvi !!

We hope to run into them again. This time I need to talk about soccer!!

11 September 2020

Caught up with Dan Parzych

Got a chance to meet up with one of the smartest persons I have had a chance to work with. I remember Dan joining our company (Equifax) three years after I had joined. The lasting impression I had of him from my first few meetings was his vision around data and analytics and how business/customer oriented he was.

After leaving the company, most of my run ins with Dan were in the running trail. Looks like this year’s birthday call got him to set up a coffee meet up at the other location we used to often run into each other too – our local Starbucks!!

It was good catching up with Dan!

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15 August 2020

A chance meeting

Sharmila and I had reached Alpharetta downtown a little late. It was probably a little past 9:00 pm. It was a great evening. Beautiful temperature. The full moon was up. All the bars except one were closed. So, I grabbed two gin and tonics from there and sat in one of those many chairs they have set outside for folks to sit in a socially distanced way out in the open.

There was really nobody there. Till an elderly lady came and sat nearby. Actually her son came to settle her down and then went away. The family went for a walk but I guess Grace (we found out later she went by Grace) had enough of walking around for a day. If you think I am the one to talk to strangers, you should have met Grace. Within a minute we were talking about everything and sundry.

The hilarious part was when Grace explained how she had had three husbands. And that her third husband and the first husband where the same person. Both her husbands are no more. And then she slipped in that her second marriage was the best. I think it lasted thirteen years or so. In any case, thru the evening, I kept on repeating “So, Grace, what I am learning from you is that the second marriage is the best always”. “No, no, no”, that is not what I am saying,” she would immediately protest realizing that Sharmila and I were still on our first marriage! And all three of us would break into peals of laughter.

Later, I got to meet the whole family – especially her son, Jeffrey – who seems to have had a similar track record career wise like me.

I cannot wait to see Grace again in downtown Alpharetta. Loved her feistiness and throw-caution-to-the-wind attitude!!