You keep meeting people in life. You remember some people, but most you forget. Few have elephantine memory and they remember the names. I am envious about these people as they make their acquaintances comfortable when they meet after a gap.
When I am asked “Do you remember me?”, I get embarrassed. I do my best to place the person, but often fail or make a wrong guess, especially when it comes to the name. Many don’t like this weakness of mine. They expect that I remember. And there is nothing wrong to expect this at the least.
I remember I went for a meeting at the UNEP office in Geneva. As I entered the foyer, a woman in the early forty’s ran towards me, hugged me and exclaimed “Prasad, you never told me that you will be coming? You have been absconding for quite a while, we must catch up”
I couldn’t just place this woman. I knew I met her before – as the face looked familiar – but I couldn’t recall her name and the context we last met.
The woman continued.
“Well Prasad, you must be rushing for your meeting. So, I am letting you go now. I will pick you up from the hotel at sharp 7 pm and we will then head for a good dinner”
Given her kind gesture, I thought it was not appropriate for me to tell her that I don’t remember your name. It would be so impolite I thought.
The woman asked my hotel’s name. I said ibis. “Oh, Ibis at Palexpo” Woman said. “Last time you were at Jade Manotel on Rue Rothschild. See you at 7 pm”. The woman disappeared through an elevator.
The woman was absolutely right. I did stay at Jade Manotel the last time I visited Geneva. This time Jade was full, and I could only get a room at the Ibis.
So, this woman certainly knew me before. And that’s why her face looked familiar! But then who was she?
As I sat down in the meeting room, I did my best to remember her name. But shit, I just couldn’t place her. I couldn’t concentrate in the meeting.
The woman looked Caucasian. Was she Gene? Gene worked with the division of economics and last year I had an assignment with the division. No not Gene, I said, as Woman’s accent was meditarian. Oh, then it could be Laila from Cairo? I seriously considered this possibility. Laila worked on Gender. She loved Indian food and we used to lunch together. I used to give Laila tips to appreciate the Indian food. But I dismissed this possibility too, as if she was Laila, then she wouldn’t have hugged me. Laila was kind of “conservative” person. I gave up.
I was ready at the hotel lobby at 7 pm. I was a bit nervous as I did not know my “host”. The woman zipped in with a Beetle that was stark red.
“Come on in Prasad”, she yelled
We drove on the streets of Geneva.
“We are heading towards Leopard Lounge & Bar”. Woman said this while changing the gears. “A trio of musicians are playing today. I don’t remember the name of the band director. I have booked a table”
Leopold Lounge and Bar in Geneva
I had heard about this lovely jazz bar before and always wanted to go. When we entered, I enjoyed the quiet, dark and elegant lounge and reminiscent of a bygone era.
We sat together. I didn’t know what to say and so I started “some” conversation. I talked about the weather (how chilly it is), traffic (how it has increased over last few years) etc. The woman added that cost of living is going up especially for leasing apartment in Geneva. These conversations sounded hollow and meaningless to me (and certainly to this charming woman). I was trying my best to place her– my brain was spinning and working hard at a high stress level.
While the woman was giving me a patient hearing, she seemed to be a bit amused though. I could sense that. That made me uncomfortable.
Suddenly, I got a bright idea.
I said “You know I sent an email to you that I am coming to Geneva and the email got bounced. Maybe I typed an incorrect email id. Would you have by any chance have your name card on you. I better take one so that this mess doesn’t happen next time”
“Oh Prasad, no problem” She opened her large purse and pulled out a box of her visiting cards: Here you are” She gave me her name card.
I looked at the card. It said Nara Sullivan, Basel Secretariat
Oh, it was Nara then!!
I had met Nara during my last visit to UNEP that was some three years ago. I was in Geneva for a whole week then and we had got along famously well because of her love for Jazz music. We did two parties at that time and each time after the party Nara had pulled me out to places near to the Geneva Lake to listen to the Jazz. We did exchange a few emails after that, but our correspondence soon faded away. Thats the sad part of our work life.
I now got the context. Of course I knew Nara and should have recognized her. It took me a while to gather myself.
I gulped a glass of soda water – picked up the flyer on the Jazz performers of the night that was lying on our table.
The cover page carried a picture of Trio Band Pilgrim.
I said to the woman (who was no stranger to me now) “Nara, it will be great to listen to Christoph Irniger. Thanks for picking up this place. Christoph is a well-known saxophone Jazz player and director of the Trio Band Pilgrim. I think he studied at Zurich University of the Arts Music Pedagogy and at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences. He is considered to be one of the top young Sax player in the Switzerland”
“You are now on your track Prasad. For the past half hour, I was wondering why were you wasting time talking about the weather, traffic and me speaking about rents of the apartments in Geneva. That was not you. At least as I remember”
Nara was right.
She sounded relived.
“Prasad, now let me ask for a bottle of Chardonnay” Nara said this while tapping on my head.
Christoph Irniger’s Trio Pilgrim Band was about to start. And I was now ready for better conversations.
Cover image sourced from
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