Just a few days ago I managed to escape the lockdown and join the LOH in Kolkata at long last. We had been working in different cities the last few years and I was looking forward to getting together again post-retirement but Covid had played spoilsport. The last few years of staying separately after three decades of staying together had all the flavour and fun of a clandestine relationship. This was much like our dating days when being in the same office and from different cultures, we had to keep things secret till we eloped. Of late due to frequent meetings with the ministry, we could meet often but earlier we had to plan conferences and meetings with clients in the same city to get together, giving our relationship a spicy flavour.
Once going for a conference in Goa I found out her flight and seat number from her secretary and booked myself in the same flight in the adjoining seat. Then I persuaded the flight crew to let me stand with them and greet a particular passenger and show her to her seat. Hearing my story, the charming flying ladies happily agreed and I gave her either a surprise or a shock by popping up with the greeting crew. Another time, I was in Hyderabad boarding a flight and she was on a hopping flight. We joked about waving at each other from the air and as chance would have it our planes were berthed next to each other. As I was on the ramp she asked me on the phone whether I was wearing an inappropriate red shirt and walking in front of the queue. Then she asked me to turn and wave as she was in the first window of the aircraft in the adjoining bay.
Given her job profile, she visited London more frequently than I visited Lower Parel. So once, while she was there, I persuaded our Chairman to send me for a conference in London. She’s a workaholic and doing the touristy stuff together was ruled out but we had checked into hotels close by with our respective teams and planned dinner together. But she met me in the evening and said that dinner was ruled out as she had a dinner invitation she couldn’t refuse and the next day she had to host a dinner for her clients. I too had a dinner invitation which I was planning to bunk but now decided to accept. Comparing notes we discovered that our host was the same and so we arrived together and finally had dinner together. The next night also, I was asked to host a dinner for our clients which I happily agreed to and I picked the same restaurant that she had recommended. So, we once again ended up together with both the parties getting together. She left the next day for Dubai and I too escaped to a friend’s place in Surrey and had a wonderful tour of Surrey London and the nearby countryside. During another very formal sit down dinner with place cards hosted by a European company, we were allotted different tables with strangers and waved at each other and made signs about meeting post-dinner. My table mates were very impressed with the speed of my operation saying that I was able to get a date with the only Indian lady at this gathering without even speaking! They wanted to know my secret. My protests that that is no lady, sir, that is my wife wasn’t believed by anyone. But once this plotting backfired. LOH was attending a conference in Dhaka and going there via Kolkata. I too persuaded our chairman to let me attend the meeting though it was not my subject. The kind-hearted gentleman agreed and I came to Kolkata and met my daughter who was staying there those days then surprised the truant LOH at the Kolkata airport. She was surprised that I was attending the same meeting as it was not my area of experience and was her forte.
We had a wonderful time in Dhaka and the time came to justify my trip by making my presentation to the Bangladeshi counterparts. Being unfamiliar with the subject I had thought of a way out. Getting a standard presentation I had it translated to Bangla. Then I addressed the house with my sentiments at being in a country where my mother tongue was the national language and sought permission to make my presentation in Bangla. To thunderous applause, I read out and displayed the same in incomprehensible Bangla ending in a standing ovation. The next day our hosts gave us a warm Bangladeshi welcome of incredible delicacies.
It was a memorable trip.
But LOH was annoyed by having been blindsided and upstaged by the cunning gimmick.
Soumya is an alumnus of St Stephens College and Delhi School of Economics where he was supposed to have studied Economics. He, however, did not let studies interfere with his education. Currently, he earns his daily bhat mach by working for a PSU Insurance company, and lectures for peanuts. He is addicted to the printed word and has been devouring it since learning to read. In whatever time this leaves him he pursues his other passions, family, films, travel, food, trekking, wildlife, music, theatre, and occasionally, writing.