I returned to Calcutta on Friday morning.
My sons left for Rishi Valley School that evening.
My suitcase, containing my laptop, got left behind at Frankfurt airport. Happily, I got it back a day later.
I had gone to exhibit at the MEDICA trade fair in Duesseldorf. That was quite eventful. Warm relations with our international customers were sustained. And very good openings were made, bringing opportunities for business growth. The challenge now is to upgrade and enhance our manufacturing capabilities. Definitely a new watershed in the life of the small manufacturing enterprise started by my late father in 1967.
On the second evening of the fair, there was the usual grand party at the Canadian pavilion. And one afternoon, the stall promoting the Lille region of France offered five splendid varieties of their beer.
We stayed in an apartment in Essen, very near the historic Wassertrum (water tank). I remembered Uerige, (the famous bierstube in Alstadt, Duesseldorf) from my 2002 visit and found my way there. I made a new friend there, Marcel Khasti, an Iranian architect and painter. We also went to a 103-year old Yugoslav restaurant near the historic old synagogue in Essen.
After the trade fair, I journeyed by train along the beautiful Rhine valley. I spent a night with my friend Johannes in Eppelheim, near Heidelberg. He runs a bookshop, but his main work is in support and solidarity actions with struggles and movements of indigenous peoples in India. His partner Astrid is a teacher of French and nursing. Their son, Christoph, 20, is studying South Asian politics at Heidelberg Univeristy. We went for dinner to the nearby pretty little town of Schwetzingen. In Heidelberg, I also met Fritzi , a young architect, who was in Calcutta last year working on her masters' dissertation on public space in Calcutta.
And from Germany, I went to London. Three days, meeting relatives and friends. As it was cold and wet, I was mainly indoors. My kind hosts in London: Carolyn Stephens, epidemiologist, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and her Argentinian husband Alfredo, architect, in Highgate; Fiona McCluney, planner and consultant, in Fulham; and my cousin Anya Sitaram, tv newscaster and documentary producer, and her husband Richard Wilson, environmental journalist, in Ealing.
My cousin Feroze took me to visit my aunt Saroja, who is in a nursing home in Battersea. We also spent a while at "The Ship", a pub by the river in Wandsworth. I had Guinness.
The highlight of my visit to London was meeting fellow-blogger and new-found friend Yves. We talked and talked, and had lunch at "The Golden Lion", a pub in Fulham. I had London Pride.
I had hoped to meet my college-friend JP, but he had a sudden engagement. But we spoke over the phone. I was hearing his voice after 26 years!
I had gone carrying small gifts, purposefully selected, for all the people I was to meet, including some of our business customers. And I returned bringing little gifts for people here. Yesterday morning, I visited Dr Siddiqui and gave him the packet of Cuban cigarillos I had brought (after tearing out the glaring "Smoking kills" label). I also met Hasnain and gave him the vial of perfume for his wife Ishrat, a belated wedding gift.