24 October 2023

Serendipity strikes yet again!

I had kept some time to do the formalities in New Delhi Airport. It took a fraction of that time. I was done checking in, immigration and then security in 9 minutes!! Tried to keep myself busy perusing the various shops but, none of them were to my interest.

So, went to the lounge that I was assigned to and was just going to settle down in a chair, when I saw Nilanjan next to me!! Nilanjan (DJ’s brother) and Masha have become great friends from to the meetings we have at bars when they visit DJ and PJ. I have some fond memories of Covid times when a few of us were an informal bubble and we got to interact with them a lot!

He was taking the Doha route to get back to the USA. I am taking the Amsterdam route!

22 October 2023

Moitra Kakima !

When I met Pintu and Sintu, I had asked if any of the other old friends were still around. Most of the names they mentioned were strangers to me. I had already left by the time they had come in. Except one name – Joy Moitra!

I remembered him. In fact, I remembered his dad vividly. I think he was in the same department as my dad at work. The two distinct memories I have of his dad are that he always wore the traditional Bengali white kurta pyjama and he was never without a “paan” in his mouth!! This is a betel leaf wrapped around a areca nuts, slaked lime and other condiments – which were supposed to have a addictive, extremely mild narcotic effects. Was fairly common in Bengal then.

I also found out that Joy Moitra was the cashier for the Durga Puja Committee. However, he had to go somewhere else at that moment.

Not to be outdone, I went back to the same mandap the next day again. And hit pay dirt… saw this tall young gentleman (his dad was very tall) and asked him if he was Joy. I was overjoyed to hear his answer. Found out that his mom is still around and lives with him. Again, the same house for over 50 years!!!

As you can imagine, we walked up to his house and predictably had a blast with his mom remembering the good old days.

Walking back, I mused how I miss those previous generation folks who were such great personal examples and guides for me when I was very young and growing up. Most of them have gone, one by one. But, even the ones that are still around – most are feeble and ailing – I do not think I have made enough effort to meet them, reconnect with thme, talk to them and say Thank You!

Yesterday, I was able to say Thank You to Moitra-Kakima!!

21 October 2023

Bhattacharya kakima!!!

I had two great intersection points from my trip to the Durga Puja in my old neighborhood. This is the first one.

There were these two young kids – much younger than me – that lived in a house absolutely opposite end of our street from us. We were the first house on the right. They were the last house on the left. Although we used to play soccer in a field next to their house, we never played together because they were much younger.

I also remember they were both students of my mother in the local primary school. During one of those phone conversations with old friends much later, I had found out that they still live in the same house!! And are a big part of the local Durga Puja arrangements.

After reaching the Puja “mandap”, I noticed four adults sitting in a chair by the adjoining pond. Tried to see if I could recognize any of them as Pintu or Sintu. No luck. So, I went ahead and asked them if there was a Pintu or a Sintu nearby.

Of course!!

They immediately pointed me to one gentleman inside the mandap. As you can imagine, one by one, I met the two brothers who instantly remembered us moment I gave them our names. The icing on the cake was to meet their mom – our Bhattacharya Kakima!! Kakima and I sat down and talked for a long time of the old days and what happened to the whole neighborhood folks.

That was an incredible walk down memory lane!

20 October 2023

A remarkable young gentleman

For a person like me who is an anachronism in so far as writing instruments are concerned, it is difficult to not marvel at somebody like Karan Dhir.

I lazily strolled into Terminal 1 of Mumbai airport a bit early for my maiden flight to Durgapur. I had flown out of Durgapur once and that was three months back but never into. My hope was to score my first delicious masala dosa this trip in the food stall inside the terminal.

Instead, like a fait accompli, I soon found myself scanning the fountain pens at the William Penn shop. There was nobody else other than an unassuming young gentleman at the counter. With who, I struck up a conversation. And was soon amazed by his knowledge of fountain pens.

I apologized for taking too much of his time. He would have nothing of it. He talked about how he comes across fountain pen collectors once in a while and can’t help exchange information and learn new things.

We went over to my website and checked out my collection – the bamboo pens, the glass pens, the quilt pens and of course the modern fountain pens. He taught me about some of the more modern Indian pen brands and we went over quite a few of the pens in the store.

I told him how I carry two fountain pens always in my bag. He stunned me by reaching into his bag and fishing out a hooded nib style Hero pen. You may remember how I had collected one of these. It has a very sentimental value to me. That was a gift my mom had received when she became a teacher!!

I was suitably impressed that in modern day and times when even keyboards are giving way to touchscreens, an young man like Karan Dhir still has a passion for classic instruments like the fountain pen.

I finally landed up picking up a fountain pen to add to my collection. And a few new writing pads for the coming year.

I must have made an impression on him. He insisted on gifting me a fountain pen from his side. I got a feeling no doubt like my mom had with her pen.

“I do not often meet collectors like you sir. Please accept this from my side.”

That was a surprise that started this whole trip of surprises!!

14 October 2023

Another intersection point!!

So, there I was … in Virgin Atlantic Lounge after a fairly hectic 36 hours, all ready to jump the pond back when I got a message from Delta that the flight is boarding. That could not be true. The flight was two hours later. While on a call with somebody in India, I started walking to the entrance of the lounge where the display for flight information was.

Turns out Delta meant to say that a gate as been assigned. The flight would not be ready to board for quite some time.

But for that mistake from Delta, I would not have walked to the display boards and would not have heard somebody calling my name out! Turned around and there was Utsav!! We had started working together when I moved to Atlanta in 2007.

Coming to think of it, that erroneous message and the fact that his flight to JFK was delayed for three hours is what made both of us get to the display boards to check status.

He was on his way back from India. I was heading home from London. He was going to JFK and I was going to Atlanta. A message in error. A delayed flight.

Equals two old friends get to meet!!

Serendipity is such a beautiful thing!

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!!