2 October 2021

A great soul, she was

With some apprehension, I called up Jayita. I was not expecting the phone to be picked up. But it was.
“Jayita?”
‘Who is this?”. That was a male voice. I assumed that was her husband.
“My name is Rajib. Rajib Roy”
“Jayita’s doctor friend Rajib?’
“No. I am calling from America. We are friends from Durgapur”.

****

In fact, I distinctly remember the day I met Jayita for the first time in Durgapur. I was entering my classmate Shukla’s house – B2/75, if I recollect correctly. A girl was heading out of her house at the same time. We met on the path from the gate to Shukla’s house past the perfectly manicured rose beds that was the hallmark of Shukla’s dad’s efforts.

“Rajib, this is Bani. Bani, this is Rajib”, introduced our common friend.
“What is your full name?”
“Jayita”
“Ah!”

Yes, even in those days, I had a penchant to call people by their formal names.

Jayita and I probably chatted for about fifteen minutes before she headed out and I went in to Shukla’s house. That was December 1983.

****

“Jayita, na?” (Are you not Jayita?) I asked the person who I thought I recognized as the same person I had met over a year back. The same Shukla and my best friend of those days – Avijit – had brought me as a guest to their college (Bidhan – as most Durgapur folks will know) for their Saraswati Puja celebrations.

That was the second time I met Jayita. We probably talked for no more than ten minutes that day. That was February 1985.


****

“Dingulo tor mon-e porey?” (Do you remember those two days?) I asked Jayita.
“Ekdom na”. (Absolutely not), she candidly replied.
This was 2017 April. A good 32 years after she had seen me last.

Even this meeting was because of a common friend. I was visiting Pune to meet my classroom teacher from tenth grade. While there, I knocked on the door of somebody that was my batch mate (Lalita) but I had met her only once – that too, back in 1980!! But her husband and I had other connections!! (his classmate was my private tutor!!)

If you had seen Jayita and us (this included Lalita and Manbir) interacting that day – you could be forgiven for thinking that we have been seeing each other every day of our lives. You might remember some of that from this post.

Her vivacity, her ability to keep everybody engaged was simply marvelous. I remember the whole day thinking – “Man! I should have kept up with her all these years”.

She clearly had a gift for empathy and an uncanny prowess to relate to any human being on a one on one level.

Every year thereafter, the birthday call to her became an exercise in truly appreciating what a great human being she embodied in herself.

****

Coming back to the phone call that I was talking about…

“Sunechho to?” he asked if I had heard everything – as I continued talking to the male voice.
“I am afraid I have”.
This was the first time I talked to her husband Bhaskar-da. And the net out of his message was Jayita was fighting a losing battle to cancer.

After a long chat – Bhaskar-da was justifiably frustrated, angry and helpless – he concluded “We are now counting hours or may be days”.

For the life of me, I still have no recollection of how I ended that conversation.

****

Two days later, I have been informed by our common friend Madhumolli that I can quit counting.

****

Life. I tell you.
The regret is not why people move on. I accept that.
The regret is why am I chasing so many meaningless things in life instead of the people that meant something to me at some point in my life.

Rest in peace, Jayita. Your vivacity will remain a beacon for me for the rest of my life.

Till we meet again…

****

1
25 September 2021

Ending with a surprise

Before I could draw the curtains on this Texas trip, had to spring a surprise on somebody.

At about six in the evening, called up Willie Weng. With whom I had fought in the trenches one too many software-does-not-as-advertised battle.

“Willie, is it not your birthday today?”

“Yes, man! You never forget”

“Happy Birthday!”

“Thank you!”

“What’s happening special on your birthday?”

“Nothing really”

“Going out for dinner in the evening?”

“No. we are eating at home.”

“So, not going out anywhere in the evening?”

“No”

“Okay. Then meet me at the Windmills at Greatscape at 8:15 PM. Let’s celebrate your birthday.”

“Wait. What? Are you in Dallas?”

“I am!!”

“I will be there!!”

And like that, I got to spend Willie’s birthday with him. In fact, we tried to nail down when we had celebrated his birthday together last. “Definitely not after 2006” is what we came up with.

As always, it is always refreshing to hear from the straight shooter Willie. He is a bit older than me but he looks aalmost exactly like he used to twenty years back!!!

That meeting with Willie was like signing off with a “paraph” to this great trip back to Texas!!

25 September 2021

The cool couple from Dallas

At least they were those days when we were there. Met Subhasis and Debjani after quite a few years – 7? 8? It used to be that we would sit at the bars in Grapevine downtown over a couple of glasses of wine as the Dallas intent heat would wilt into the evening.

Today, we went to the Windmills at Greatscape. (This is owned by the same folks who own Windmills in Bangalore that I have had the chance to visit twice before). This whole area has completely changed in the last few years. Does not look like The Colony that Sharmila once had a business in long time back!

It was great catching up with the “Bandos”, as we called them – what with all the hypothetical questions from Debjani and she drinking two drinks for the first time (she insisted). You can even see her raising both the glasses in the picture that cool bartender Josh took for us!

25 September 2021

Totally cool intersection point

Do you remember the trip Sharmila and I made to that beautiful island Eleuthera a few months back? You might remember from the posts about all the locals we met and made friends with. One of them was Nigel. You might recollect from this story that he was the bartender at the resort who took care of us.

While talking to him that time, I had found out that his wife and kid lived in Lewisville, TX.

“Next time you are in the USA, let me know. I will see if I can come out and meet you”, I had promised him.

A couple of weeks back, I received a message from him on Whatsapp that he is in the USA. As it turned out, I was planning to go to Dallas for the fountain pen show anyways.

And just like that, I got to see Nigel again. And his beautiful daughter!! Unfortunately, his wife was on call for her work and could not join us.

But it was so great to talk to Nigel about the island again. We talked about people like Richard (one who had opened up a bar on the ocean and gave Sharmila that big conch), Shirley (at the same bar), Edgar (the cigar smoking liquor store guy), Alicia (who had solved my cash problem) and so many of the other places Sharmila and I had explored.

Started missing the island again!!

His daughter is the sweetest kid ever. Had no complaints coming to me and taking pictures with me!!

25 September 2021

Another friendship built on the road

I am not sure what exactly I was discussing so intently with Bob (Bobby) in this picture but I remember thoroughly enjoying our conversations. In the quick conversation to get to know about Bob and his life, I found out that he is from Arlington and lives there even now. That is where Sharmila and I lived for two years before the kids came along.

I mentioned to Bob that Sharmila had gone to University of Arlington. What do you know? So did Bob! His kids and other family members too!

I was curious about the challenges Bob faces these days around managing a restaurant. The staff shortage part I knew – but I had no appreciation for the complications in the Delivery channels (Grubhub, Uber Eats etc). I had not realized that the packaging had to change and you take a fairly big hit in revenues.

Bob mentioned that all his life he has been in this industry. That too, mostly Mexican outlets. Mi Cocina, Don Pablos and On The Border.

Larry perked up at the mention of Don Pablos. Ostensibly, that is the favorite Mexican place for the Mason family. I am not sure I have been to one yet. As it turns out, they are not there any more – at least in the Dallas area. Will try one next time I find one.

It was great meeting you Bob. You are an outstanding people person!

25 September 2021

Another throwback to yesteryears…

“Where do you want to go have lunch?”, I asked Larry

“I do not care”

“Pick a cuisine – Chinese, Mexican, Indian…”

“Let’s do Mexican”.

A few swift Google map searches later, I asked – “Mi Cocina works?”

“Sure enough”

So there we were – at the Mi Cocina in the Galleria mall next to the ice rink.

As we sat down at the table, I mentioned to Larry – “You know there used to be a Mi Cocina further up north from here. It burnt down after some time. But before that Sharmila and I used to go there for their mojitos”.

“Why? Did they make great mojitos?”

“Well, they put a peeled sugarcane stick as a garnish. Never ever have I seen that before or after. I loved that sugarcane stick. It reminded me of India – where we used to chew sugarcane sticks at home”

A few minutes later, when Bobby came to take our order, I told him the story again and asked “Do you still put sugarcane sticks in your mojitos?”

He cryptically replied – “I do not know. Let’s find out!”

And we found out!!

I sure got my sugarcane stick in my mojito!!!

25 September 2021

A lovely gift from Larry

In anticipation of my visit to Dallas, Larry had made this gift for me. It has quite a few themes interwoven in it.

First, the blue circle behind – that is my logo (you can see it in my blogsite).

Second, the words “Life is in the dash”. This refers to a poem by Linda Ellis – see here – that Larry and I talk about often.

Third, the Pez dispenser. By now you know that is one of Larry’s passion.

Fourth, the Pez dispenser is actually designed after the character Dash from the movie Incredibles. Larry had to educate me on this bit – since I do not watch movies.

Thank you Larry… your “Incredible” Dash is certainly written in bold and beautiful font…

25 September 2021

The real reason I was in Dallas

You might remember that three months back, I had gone to give company to Larry as he visited the largest annual Pezmania festival in Ohio. He is a crazy collector of Pez stuff and that is his passion. Even makes them on his 3D printer.

That time, I had told him that we will do a return favor in September. I would come to Dallas to attend the annual fountain pen show and he can give me company. And that is what we did today.

I am not sure who was more stunned – me seeing all the PEZ dispensers in the Ohio hotel or he seeing all the fountain pens in the Dallas hotel!!

24 September 2021

One last meeting for the day!

I was fairly tired after all the meetings for the day. But there were two very special friends I still had to meet. Actually, I had not met them before ever. And that would be little Mara and even littler Harry. Turns out it was Harry’s first birthday.

Incredibly enough, just two and a half decades back, their mom – you can see Shruthi in the picture – used to be as young as them and played with me – just like them. In fact, in the same city – Austin!! I distinctly remember Shruthi calling “helicopters” as “helicutters” and refusing to eat any food whatsoever!!

Hank had given me the heads up that Shruthi’s parents (Sharmila’s and my dear friends – Raj and Viji) were in town – as were Shruthi’s brother – Karthik and his girl friend Alice. In somewhat of a coincidence, Natasha and Karthik went to the same elementary school in Coppell and then both of them – along with Alice became alumni of NYU.

If that is not enough – Raj and I have worked together in four of the five jobs I have ever had and lived in three of the four cities I have lived in during my professional life!!

Wonder what more connections I can create with the third generation now….