As I sink my fingers into the fragrant rice and encounter a hot potato and proceed to break it down, in the beginning of what was to be a nostalgia ridden meal of a Kolkata Mutton biryani, I am reminiscent of the life of the person who brought it and our on going association that started on a similar month in the millennium year.

The century had just changed, and we were just getting used to writing the entire four digits of the year on our documents. Admission season was on for the new batch of students to the newly introduced 4-year programme of Hotel Management, as a directive from the AICTE. As a private unaided institution, our survival depended on convincing prospective students the advantage of an extra year and the additional burden to the educational budget of the family and for the survival of our career and earnings.

It was during the admission process, that someone came and told me at the staff room that one student had decided to return home after having taken admission. It piqued my interest more to find that this student was from Bengal, which had an emotional connect for me. I dropped whatever I was doing and made a swift run to the Principal’s office where admission process was being undertaken. I swung into his office and asked him about said student. He informed me that they had withdrawn from the admission process and have left his office after having collected their documents. I quickly excused myself and searched through the several faces, who were in various stages of filling out forms in the lower lobby. A quick stop at the office, pointed me in the direction of the main door, where the said student and parent had made their exit.

I reached the main entrance to find a salwar kameez clad girl with steel framed glasses in discussion with a portly gentleman about to make their way to the nearby auto stand which would take them to the railway station for their journey back home. I heard bits of Bengali spoken as I halted, out of breath, in front of them. I introduced myself and in chaste Bengali, asked them about their plans. 15 minutes later, the father-daughter duo had changed their mind about withdrawing from the course and on my assurance of a seat, even if they come after the Durga Puja vacations, seemed to have done the trick.

She did come back and soon she took the course like a fish to water and the additional mentorship of Jaya, she specialised in housekeeping and at the end of four years, this girl blossomed and became our first management trainee to get in the Taj Group of Hotels. Soon our mentee found herself in the famed Taj Mumbai and other properties before she moved on to bigger roles with the largest facility management company in India where she still serves. But this is more that just a story of a student doing well.

Her transformation from a mild mannered, soft spoken Bengali girl from the North Eastern State of Assam to a corporate professional in a global company is so satisfying for a mentor and inspirational to her ilk. Her personal journey was fraught with challenges and we helped to tide it over time and again. My visit to her home in Kalyani, (near Kolkata) and support through her personal trails, her career moves were all monitored and advised by us. Her move back to Bangalore first and then into my apartment as a tenant first and then as “Ipa” and “Ima” (Manipuri for father and mother) was the final acknowledgement as a family member. A fact that was endorsed by her parents Bikashda and Sushmitadi and my children.

Her presence and support was even more evident during the wedding preparation of my son last year and she continues to be around as “Ichaanupi” (my daughter in Manipuri) to us. Her every move is supported ably and completely by her choice of husband, is to be admired and celebrated. He is every woman’s dream and they have found a space in our family photo wall as well as our hearts.

This post of gratitude goes out to you Angira (Bose) Kataky and Biraj for the good souls you are and fate for bringing you into our lives. Your ebullient nature, loud presence and beautiful sarees sure brighten up our lives — real and virtual.

PS: thank you for the biriyani too!!

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