5 June 2016

Wheels of life go round and round…

This is such a mega intersection point that it will take me some time and effort to thread it thru. I will try to make it as short as I can. But no promises.

The best starting point might to that day a few decades back when in a large room Raj and I were hunched together looking over a monitor trying to debug some software to understand why it was crashing. Both of us were poring through the manuals of Informix 4GL to make sure we understood how the page locking worked when a phone rang rudely. Raj took the call and a few words later (and I paid no attention to it since I was still getting confused with page locks), he kept the phone down and looked at me and said “Viji delivered a baby girl!”. The gravity of the moment did not sink in immediately. It took me some seconds to realize that we needed to drop our manuals and go get some sweets for others.

From that moment when I became the first person that Raj shared his happiest moment in life with, I have had a special bond to his family. A few months prior to that incident – 3rd June, 1991, to be precise, I had started my job life. That is when I started my long friendship with Raj. We have worked together in three of the four jobs I have had in my life.

3rd June, 2016 (day before yesterday) was my 25th anniversary of career life. I could not think of a better person to be with on that day than Raj and his family. Not a problem. It is on that day that the same Shruthi was getting married! And the Roy family had descended upon Fredericksburg to share the third happiest moment of Raj. (Second happiest was when Karthik was born and getting married to Viji does not count since I did not know them then 🙂 ).

What a coincidence to share the same day exactly separated by 25 even years at the same spot with the same person on two life-defining moments – one for me – one for him.

Wait! That is not where it ends.

During the ceremony itself, I was milling around the crowd. Now, you know that I am not the most comfortable person in a big crowd. I am more a one on one person who likes to get to know every individual. I am a little awkward – okay okay, I am very awkward – in a group where I get to say “Hi”, “Hello” and move on after exchanging a few pleasantries. And I was going thru those perfunctory pleasantry exchanges when one such guy walked up to me and introduced himself – “Uday”. I responded “Rajib”. For a fraction of a second, we had moved on when the same thought must have struck both of us. Both of us pulled back – sized up each other again and had the same flashback. And this time we said the same words, except at a much higher decibel level. “Uday?”, I yelled. “Rajib?”, he yelled back.

You see, Uday was the guy who had hired me (along with Pradeep and Devyani from HR) – no doubt against his better judgment – for my first job! I still remember the interview questions. And my answers – hence, the point about “against better judgment” :-).

Now that was a coincidence worth living for. The guy who got me rolling in my career came back to my life exactly 25 years later!! To the day!! No more of those pleasantries! Cornered Uday for 45 minutes and caught up with his life, his family and so many of our old friends. So much so, that he remarked – “We should write a memoir some day”!

So here goes it – Uday! Thank you for taking that chance on me many moons back. Without which I would have never know Raj. Without which I would have never known Shruthi. Without which I would have never showed up for her wedding. And certainly, without which, I would have never gotten a chance to see you again!!

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4 June 2016

Like good old times…

A few weeks back, I had called up Arthur to wish him a happy birthday and one thing led to the other and eventually, we decided to see if we could get some of our old i2 guys together in Austin. I was in charge of reaching out to everybody. Want to take a guess who did not get it done in time? Office work, Tasha’s graduation and other excuses led me to realize on my flight to Texas that I had a lot of reaching out to do.

In any case, scrambled as best as I could on Thursday and Friday. With a lot of help from other friends, we were able to put together a small lunch meeting. Most of the rest were out of town.

It was a short meeting (partly also because I was waiting at the wrong restaurant 🙂 ) but it was great to see how well some of my i2 friends have done – personally and professionally. i2 was a place I got to see some really really brilliant talent. I can honestly say that I have never had a chance to work in any other place where so many smart people came under one roof.

Not that any of thoat smartness ever rubbed off on me – but I have decided to bask in the glow of those friends, anyways!

Tom, Richard, Arthur, Harvey, Karthik, Reddy and Raghu, thanks for showing up! Carolina, thanks for gracing our get together. For the rest, sorry we missed you. Hope to see you next time. I think we will leave the organizing to a local guy next time 🙂

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4 June 2016

The spirit rules supreme!

Woke up early in the morning and started driving towards Cedar Park. It was going to be roughly a two hours drive but thru some of the most beautiful parts of Texas. Yes, Texas has some really beautiful hilly parts to it. However, I was slightly distracted because the person I was going to meet – Bob Hart – who I met back in 1995 had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I was not sure what to expect.

Three decades back, I was in development and Bob was in IT and let’s just say, Bob had his hands full trying to keep us disciplined from hacking into all sorts of things. And that is when we were not busy whacking away the main network cord with a sharp left jab of a ping pong shot (courtesy Vasu). Yes, in those days of start ups, we thought nothing of putting the ping pong table right in the muffle of the network room!!

Coming back to the trip, I might as well have enjoyed the beauty that Texas has to offer. Cancer surely has taken a great toll on Bob – visually thirty pounds for sure – but has not broken his spirit one bit! If anything that sharp sense of acerbic humor has become even sharper. Sure he had late stage cancer. Sure they had to cut him up. And sure that has not eliminated all the malignant cells. With the result that he has to go thru – hold your breath – six long months of chemotherapy to beat back those cells. Every session of chemo is worse than the previous one – I can only believe how painful the journey is going to be for Bob.

But, I tell you, that is one guy ready for the journey. He taught me about the disease and details of his treatment plan more than most doctors would probably tell me. We had great laughter and caught up on our good old friends.

I wish I could hold up guys like Bob to the whole world to see what true fighting spirit is all about. Especially me – when I complain about the smallest things in life!

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4 June 2016

There are always plus sides to Facebook!

After posting pictures from the first two vineyards, I started getting recommendations from Facebook friends on a couple more to try. The first suggestion came from Lynette and Ted. I had enough time to drop Sharmila at the hotel (she needed to get ready for the wedding) and go for another wine tasting. The drive to Chisholm Trail Winery was a little scary. First the clouds became very dark and thick (see the previous post). And the small road off the highway that I had to take for nearly three miles went thru quite a few low areas. There was one part where I had to drive thru water. I was a little worried of getting caught on my way back with rising waters. If you did not know, Texas is going thru some terrible flooding right now.

It did not feel any better when I realized that I was the only customer at the winery. Fortunately, the rains did not come thru but I always had an eye to the outside as I tasted some wines. Coming back to wines, CTW ambience was nowhere close the previous two wineries. But, they had two wines that I really liked. The first one is a mix of three varietals – Barbera grown in south Texas and the other two from California – so that does not count as Texas wine!!

But the Lone Wolf (Lenoir varietal) was pretty good. Give it a try if you are nearby the Fredericksburg area. Made great friends with Dotty – see picture – who moved into this area from south of San Antonio area. She is relatively new to the industry but I was impressed how she knew the details of the history of the Lenoir grapes.

These grapes originally were grown in the Georgia and South Carolina areas – going back almost three to four centuries. However, south Texas was where it was grown more prolifically. In the 1900s (I think), when the French industry was brought to its knees due to blight, Lenoir plants were taken to France and grafted on the local plants as a solution. This particular varietal somehow can resist a lot more diseases than other varietals can.

Now there is one point on which Dotty and I differed. She thought Munson was the guy who actually came up with the solution for the French industry. I was aware of Munson’s fame as one of the best wine growers in Texas but I am not very sure of his contribution to the French blight solution. Need to do some research.

But that is neither here nor there. The important part is that this age, Dotty entered a new industry and had diligently studied up her stuff. So, I asked her to take a picture with me where she would hold the bottle I bought and I would do the customary pose 🙂

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3 June 2016

Back on a plane… this time with family…

Off to Texas – but in a very different part of Texas than we have ever been – near Fredericksburg. Usually you will not find me in any wedding parties – just the prospect of having to wear good clothes or formal clothes is enough to scare me away. But this is one is between two exceptional kids – Shruthi and Hank. Both of them are our family favorites.

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9 April 2016

Making new friends in Coeur d’Alene!

We had finished our hikes and were on the street hoping to get a drink and then dinner. But our youngest member Gublu wanted to eat some candy. And I promised him I would get him some. Which, in of itself, should have been a breeze if not for all the stores closing early in the evening in the sleepy town of Coeur d’Alene. However, Gublu and I marched on hoping to find a candy shop. And I am glad we did.

We eventually came to a store called Shenanigans which could have as well been named Kids’ Heavenland. They had all sorts of candy and icecream. All the adults and kids sat down. We bought a lot of candy and then we all had icecream. As the group huddled to enjoy their icecream, I peeled off to make friends with the young guy and girl at the counter.

Found out that Mallary and Sean were both from around the area and each had some really interesting life story. Unfortunately, I do not have Sean’s picture here since my iPhone crashed that night and I lost all local data. The picture you see here is the next day when all of us had breakfast at the same place where Mallary made some lovely crepes.

The most interesting story about Mallary was when I asked her if she was from the area. Turns out she was but she was moving to Alabama. My first question was how do you go from the picturesque North West Idaho to the other end of the country in Alabama? Found out she got married recently.

Which led to the next question – How did you meet a guy from Alabama in Idaho? It appeared that they actually met while vacationing in Florida. Not exactly while vacationing so much as in the plane. When, well not so much in the plane as waiting for the plane!! Apparently, they were sitting there waiting for their plane and they started a conversation which led to being Facebook friends which eventually led them to get closer as friends and eventually got married!! [It did make me think twice before sending her a FB invite myself – but I did it nonetheless 🙂 ]. I sure hope that she will open a crepe store in Alabama. They were delicious!!

Unfortunately, that day Sean was not there, because as luck would have it, the previous day was his last day in the store. From whatever I could gather from him the previous day, he is going to a local college (NIC). Loves languages, communication etc. As is my wont, I asked him what would he want to be when he grew up.

Sean was ready with the answer. He wants to start a company to produce movies and TV serials. Seems like he already has a couple of friends who is collaborating with him. They have their storyline written up already. I got an insider’s view from Sean about how the local geography in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane is perfect for most of the scenes they need to capture.

Delighted by the dual life stories of one – whose life got changed for ever waiting for a plane and another who is determined to make something of himself so early in his life…
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