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Monday, January 19, 2015

Dinner with New Friends at UB Mall

My HBS ‘70 classmate and our Section E secretary is Ajit Jhangiani.  Ajit and I keep in touch both through the alumni network and on Facebook.  So, when he learned I am now in Bangalore, he sent this e-mail:

Subject: e connect
·         Me
·         david d
·         narendra j

Hi Duncan, David, and Narendra.

Hopefully not an imposition, I am connecting three good people currently in Bangalore.
David is an old roommate from Boston, a good friend, and residing in Bangalore for many years now.
Narendra is a cousin, an independent IT specialist, and currently in process of moving back from Singapore to Bangalore.  Duncan was in my HBS class of 1970, Professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and visiting professor at the Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship in Bangalore.
Hopefully you guys can get together and have a beer, with a salute to me in the first round! :)


That same day I replied to the group,
Hi, Ajit!

Thank you for the excellent suggestion!  

David and Narendra: 

I am up for that beer, and a dinner to go with it.  My cell number here is xxxx xxx xxx.


We immediately got into telephone contact, which explains why I was riding in the back of a powered rickshaw from XIME in Electronics City on the crowded, bumpy surface streets of Bangalore at about 3:45 yesterday.  At a crowded intersection my driver got a call on his cell phone, and pulled over to the left shoulder of the street.  He turned to me and said, “My father… dead.”  I said, “Your father has just died?”  “Yes.”  His eyes started to tear.  I touched him on the shoulder.  “I will find another taxi,” I said.  He said, “Stay.”  He then drove me a couple of blocks to the next rickshaw stand, got out and found me another ride, and, reluctantly, accepted my payment.  Then he went home to his family.
In spite of that minor delay, I arrived on time at the ultramodern United Breweries Mall in downtown Bangalore.  My hip was in pain from my continuing pinched nerve problem, so I found a staircase, and sat on it to await Narendra and David.  I had only just sat down when two security guards started walking toward me from across the covered driveway, and Narendra saw me and waved to me, as well.  The three arrived at my position simultaneously as I tried to stand, had my left knee collapse, and rolled onto the street.  All of a sudden, my sitting down apparently became understandable to the guards.  They helped me to my feet, as their sergeant came to join us, and offered me first aid “at the hospital.”  I declined, said I was okay, and Narendra and I waited for David, who joined us after only a couple of minutes more.

The drama past, we went into the mall past the Rolex and Mont Blanc stores that decorated the entranceway, and made our way to an upscale food court.  After a brief survey of options, we settled on a Chinese restaurant, where for over three hours we talked, became mutually acquainted, and enjoyed two pitchers of beer, accompanied by wasabi prawns, fried rice, wok-fried veggies, and, in my case, black-pepper lamb.  It was marvelous.  Narendra has lived his life around the world, having worked for periods of years in China, India, the U.S., Switzerland, and several other lands.  He has a keen eye for the absurd and wasteful, and thus is a highly valued business consultant.  David is now retired, but is active in NGO activities, and teaches as a volunteer deep in the Indian “outback.”  His stories told of naked children playing in streams as leopards drank from them, total harmony between them.  They told of his teaching beneath a tree, without anything electrical or electronic in sight, using a portable chalk board to illustrate writing or arithmetic.  There is no doubt in my mind that the three of us will meet again before I head home late in February.  Both David and I have invited Ajit to come down from Bombay to join the next party.

Last night’s gathering was for me delightful.  It was my first dinner out in downtown Bangalore since arriving two weeks ago.  It reminded me of my first night in Cluj back in 2008, when UBB Prof. Mircea Maniu took me to Iulius Mall, open only six months at the time, and showed me the Mercedes SUV for sale on the main floor.  There is an upscale side to India, as there is to Cluj.  The Bentley parked in front of the mall as we left was one indicator.  Like Romania, India is still developing. As was true in Romania in 2008, the streets tend to be very dusty and very rough.  But I judge that with 1,000,000,000 people, India’s challenge is much greater than that of Romania, where universal education has been in place for almost a century, and where there are only 2% as many people to feed.  By the way, I rode behind a Renault Duster on the way into town, and went home to XIME last night in a Renault  Logan, both vehicles designed and built in Romania, by Dacia Motors in Pitești.

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