Personal Notes

“For Old Friends of their Fathers”

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One of my favorite books is the “Celestine Prophecy.”  One of the books my dad told me to read.  Much of what I liked about it was the idea that everything is connected to everything else, and that we don’t have to settle in life for coincidences.

I bring this up because in the past two weeks, 2 very neat things happened.

First, by way of a “coincidence” through his daughter, I got in contact with an old algebra teacher who I recall very fondly from high school.  He was modest and unassuming, methodical but very effective.  As I told his daughter, her father was paid to teach us how to solve for the unknown, but he was teaching far more than math by the posters he hung in his classroom — many which were characteristically “un-mathlike.”  One in particular was a quote from Gandhi, one that I stared at constantly for almost a year and was emblazoned in my memory: “In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.”  That quote stayed with me through the years and he was surprised I remembered it.  It’s funny because he never drew attention to that poster even once, and yet somehow that’s what I took away from his class.  It is amazing what we will remember and forget in our lives, and that is why teachers are so important — not just by what they decide to teach and say, but also by the little things they do, the posters they hang on their wall, and the things they say silently.

Then, about a few days ago, I randomly received a message from the mother of a childhood friend that I once knew.  Shauna was my first friend in California, when we were living at “Our Town” apartments in Costa Mesa.  I was probably 5 or 6 and the world was a very different place to me.  To suddenly get a message from that long ago is like the past literally reaching back to grab you.  There is no feeling like it.  There is always something magical about long-lost friends.

The mother shared with me what has transpired over the past 30-some years.  Shauna got married and has 3 kids, and her younger sister got married and has 5 kids.  Two more siblings were born after they moved from California, and they too are married (with kids).  We laughed at the old memories we shared with how little we all had; still, they were the best of times and we made due.  They would take me to church and my mom would make Indian food for them.  In fact, we still have the copy of the Bible they gave us (it was translated in Hindi), and we had given them a copy of the Bhagavad Gita (in English).  We each took something from that relationship.  It affected me and a part of that will also flow down to my children.  It’s the only way things work.

Until these “coincidences” revealed themselves recently, these were latent memories I certainly would have forgotten. Part of why I write these blogs is that it is my goal to pass all of these thoughts and stories, and so much more, to my children, because I am fully convinced that one day from now, another “coincidence” will unfold in the streets where Jiya may bump into someone who was the child or grandchild of a person I once knew, and for them to be able to make that connection is what life should be all about.

One of my favorite shows is the “West Wing” and one of my favorite lines from the show is when it is revealed (in true Sorkin-esque flashback form) that Leo knew Josh’s father.  The scene is with Leo pulling Josh out of a meeting for Senator Hoynes (who Josh is convinced will win the Democratic nominee for President).  Leo tries to repeatedly convince Josh to meet instead with Jed Bartlett, the Governor of New Hampshire, who is also aiming for the nomination.  Josh is reluctant to meet the Governor and finally demands of Leo, very bluntly, “Why should I?”

Leo squares him up, smiles, and just says: “Because that’s what [sons] do for old friends of their fathers.”

So Jiya, if you’re reading this one day, you know what you have to do…

To your family’s success,

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