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North American Reunion at Utica, New York: August 1-3, 2008

Utica Reunion - 2008: Personal Reflections

by Jacob

Disclaimer: These are just my personal views and observations. It obviously is slanted, biased and subject to all DNA defects. So, please bear with me. It is not intended to hurt anyone or criticize anyone. Liberty for friendly teasing and editorial freedom is taken. Well, you know the rest.

What makes me real glad and proud is the fact that the North American Reunion, the official beginning of which is subject to various interpretations (our archivist George is working on resolving those), but undoubtedly the beginning of the recent reunions started in 2006, continues to get better and better with each new year. Everyone had a great time when they met in Hudson in 2006, so much so that immediately the date for the next one was set for Milwaukee in 2007. Meena and Mony rolled the red carpet (so that we do not have to step on the cow dung in the dairyland of America) and we had a great 2 days of reunion. In 2008, the torch was passed on to our Utica, NY friends. The reunion will go back to Chicago in 2010 hosted by Savio and Annie and then back to Hudson, Ohio in 2011. So, we are in firm foundation to continue this grand tradition.

Looking back to the just concluded Utica reunion hosted jointly by Mathukutty (Dr. Mathew Joseph to our Kerala and Middle East alumni), Leena, Samson and Jane, the following events stick in my mind.

Day 1: Friday, August 1, 2008

1. Discovery of Jane Nivas and the further exploration of kingdoms, villas and cottages.
2. Dolly, Jane's sister. How her opinion of KMC doctors changed from awe to not sure what.
3. Discovery of "real Leena".
4. Mathukutty the jokester?

Day 2: Saturday, August 2, 2008

5. A grand boat ride - the paradoxical sea sickness of Jaya
6. Samson and his gadgets. Using technology to provide a "jazz."
7. Up close with "little" Annie - when words escape, call "makri."
8. Living in the land originally titled by George Washington and business acumen of Mathukutty.
9. The Great escape - banana eating contest and singing. The sudden disappearance of bananas.
10. How to really prepare for the quizzes. How Savio prepared for all eventualities by watching all the National Geographic, public TV programs and Jeopardy on TV - not to mention Discovery channel, History Channel, and all others.

Introduction

The reunion officially began on Friday, August 1. One of the great things the hosts did to maintain the cohesiveness of the group was to accommodate everyone in their homes. Jaya and Ike stayed with Samson and Jane. Everyone else stayed with Mathukutty and Leena. Mathukutty and Leena moved their temporary sleeping quarters to their basement so that their "guests" can be accommodated comfortably. To answer the excuse of Meena of needing a whole floor to jog on after she wakes up at 3 AM, Leena arranged it so that Meena and Mony were the only inhabitants of their first floor (ground floor in Indian and British terminology.) This ingenious arrangement prevented some of the reunion guests from using hotel as an "escape place" and forced them to stay with the group. (I would add here that Leena had perfected the "hotel as an escape" methodology in the past and so true to the conventional wisdom of 'it takes a thief to catch a thief,' she has skillfully closed that loophole.)

The other factor that contributed to the success of this reunion was that everyone was told to be there on Friday so that we will have the whole Saturday for various programs. In the previous reunions, some people ended up in coming late on Saturday and others who came early on Saturday left early on Sunday, so there was really not much time when everyone was together (not to speak of using "hotel as escape" even when they were in town). Jaya and Meena (the Nathoons), Ike and Money arrived on Friday before noon. Jacob and Shila arrived at about 4 PM, Jolly, Susan and Becky arrived at about 5:30 PM. Both Jacob and Jolly were delayed in traffic enroute; otherwise they would have been there earlier.

Savio and Annie were scheduled to be there by 4:30 PM or so. Their flight, scheduled to take off from Chicago at about 1 PM (eastern time) got cancelled. They were rebooked on a later flight that was then delayed. So, after spending a good part of their day in Chicago airport, they finally made it at about 8 PM or so. (all times are approximate.) So, everyone was there by Friday evening at Jane Nivas to kick off the reunion. The early visitors had plenty of snacks to munch on. Ike had time to discover all the coffee shops in New Hartford (the name of the enclave where Mathukutty/Leena and Sampson/Jane lives. The name was officially changed from Utica as they were really tired of people calling it Ootah and Utah and what else.) In some of the trips, Mony gave him company. The word in the street was that Mony was scouting appropriate locations for building an airport, in case he decides to buy a plane (oops. that was a surprise not to be revealed to Meena so as to enjoy the great "What.. Ahh.." moment that Meena had when Mony first showed up at their home on his brand new Infiniti purchased without Meena's knowledge.)

Everyone assembled at Samson and Jane's (the official hosts for the Friday program) house on Friday evening. After Jaya finished her elaborate bath (In case our non-US friends are wondering how can anyone spend hours in bath rooms, you should see a bathroom in the US luxury homes. The bath rooms sport comfortable Jacuzzis, elaborate TV, DVD hook ups, scenic views of the landscape, and the latest communication technology (aka cell phone) so you can use it as an escape place (now that a hotel as an escape was not available)) and Ike and Mony returned from their latest "discovery" tour, we were treated to Ike's special coffee. Ike was worried about potential competition from Annie and her tea (with that secret ingredient). So, he was glad that Annie's flight was delayed so he will get a head start on this. His worries were unfounded as it turned out, Annie forgot to bring her tea and unlike Ike, didn't have time to go and explore whether a substitute tea can be purchased locally as their flight was delayed.

Jane Nivas

Now we were up for the first "surprise." You may recall (at least those that read the KMC-Yahoo forum emails), I had tried to "expose" the sneaky way Leena was trying to rename our homes by calling Jane and Samson's house as "Jane Nivas." Of course, the women were OK with Leena's mission as they contemplated "Meena Nivas", "Jaya Nivas", "Annie Nivas", "Susan Nivas" etc. Neither Leena or Jane challenged my email (they let me make a complete fool of myself as it turned out.) The big surprise was that Samson/Jane's house is called "Jane Nivas" and there is a big sign in front of the house proclaiming in bold letters "Jane Nivas Pachikkara." (see our photo album) Samson explained that his ancestral home is named after his mother so he wanted to propagate the favor by naming their home in Jane's name. Now that the shock and awe was over, it was our turn to cover up the embarrassment by taking photos. Not just pictures, but pictures with Jane standing under the sign, Ike taking photo of the sign, etc. (see photo album)

Now the discussion turned to Jane Nivas and the possibilities. Jaya said she does not like the name "Jaya Nivas", instead may be "Jaya Nilayam" or "Jaya Vilasam" may be more to her liking. Shila suggested "Jaya Villa". (No one dared to suggest Jayamma Nivas, fearing the consequences.)

Ike tried to divert the attention from renaming his home by suggesting that Meena's house may be called "Meena's Kingdom." Mony liked that name very much. He said this will make his job easier. How, we asked. He said, now I can say, "Meena, thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in Wisconsin as it was in KMC." Jane, who was sporting her trademark smile on her face like a make up, for a moment lost her composure and really laughed. Something to suggest to Samson when they are alone.


Meena's Kindom? Thy kingdom come.


Dolly's Big Surprise

Dolly, Jane's sister from Gaithersburg, MD was with Jane when we visited Jane Nivas. Dolly admitted to us that she was really intimidated at the prospect of spending the weekend with what she thought, "all these doctors-cardiologists, pediatritians, nephrologists, family practice/internal medicine specialists, psychiatrists, etc." She tried to convey her anxiety to Jane and Jane kept smiling without saying anything and that was no help at all.


Dolly is at the left

Dolly then tried to convey her anxiety to Ike and Jaya when they came there on Friday. Like typical Ike, Ike changed the focus. He told Dolly, "Dolly, you are about to witness the eighth wonder of the world."

"What is that?" Dolly momentarily forgot her anxiety. She thought Ike was going to say something about artificial heart or new generation drugs to replace statins that lower LDL or raise HDL, etc.

Ike continued without realizing what is going through Dolly's mind. "Dolly, very soon we will have Shila and Jacob arriving here. Shila was the quietest person in our batch and would hardly speak unless it is absolutely necessary. She is married to Jacob, who has a very hard time to keep his mouth shut. He can beat the most talkative in our lot. And he is a big contrast to his uncle Dr. George Jacob Sir who is famous for his phrases such as "very disappointed" rather than full sentences.

As Ike planned this diversion worked. Dolly forgot all about the doctors and now wanted to see this Jacob-Shila couple. By the end of the reunion, she was wondering why she was so worried about all these "doctors" like Savio predicted.

PS: When I told this story to Shila, she protested that she was quiet but not necessarily the quietest one. I challenged her to name someone quieter than her in the batch. She said Jane was very quiet. I reminded Shila that Jane once got on the stage and lip synced a song (I believe in place of Jaya who was sick) and everyone in the audience thought she was singing and the mike was not working. Well, Shila didn't have any answer to that. I left her at that.

Discovery of "Real Leena"

One of the things that reunions enable us to do is to provide an opportunity to get to know persons "up close and personal." This was especially true with Leena.

As you all know, Leena has earned her nickname "slippery" Leena because she has ingenious ways to slip out of things. During the first reunion, she came on Saturday at dinner missing all afternoon and evening programs. On Sunday, they left early morning. And she fought tooth and nail to avoid our "introduction" of her.

Then we got several snippets from her (usually in tandem with Meena that earned them the title of Leena/Meena duet). One characteristic of Leena had been that when she loses or about to lose an argument or debate she will threaten dire consequences or walk out for "shopping."

At Milwaukee reunion, Leena and company again came late on Saturday evening. Although this time they stayed on Sunday, it didn't help much as most others left by sunday noon. And during the jeopardy (quiz) Leena staged her "hotel disappearing act."

Now you know why I call Leena the slippery Leena. (Shila has told me after the Milwaukee reunion that she had several personal talks with Leena and said she is really nice and very knowledgeable about Mathukutty's business.)

So, to me at least Leena was an unknown. This reunion changed it all.

First, Leena could not pull any of her trademark "disappearing acts." We were all in her house. We had lot of opportunity to talk to her; so we got a chance to know her.

OK, after being the husband of a celebrated psychiatrist, and potentially acquiring some of the skill sets as in our poem
"mulla poo manam ettu kidakkum
kallinum undam oru saurabhyam"
I venture to pronounce my analysis of Leena. With limited data, I pronounce that Leena is a very simple person and the defiant attitude she projects is because she is really afraid. She may have heard of some stories about "ragging" and is afraid that we will rag her and so she has built up an elaborate facade to hide her fear. Like Shila, she is every efficient but likes to stick to the background. We have several photos to prove her blending in the background without attracting any limelight.

I will probably regret to say this in future, but she is not anything like we thought of her when we know her closely. This reunion enabled us to know Leena well. (Yes, she did pull several of her acts like banana disappearing acts etc. that we will discuss later.)

Mathukutty the Jokester?

One of the highlights of the reunion was a comment made by Mathukutty. As you all know, Mathukutty is the symbol of quiet, dignified presence. Shila said he was a person who will never say anything inappropriate or silly in the classes, never made fun of any girls, etc.

So, like Leena, we saw a different side of Mathukutty during the reunion. I don't know who set it up, it probably was either Ike or Jaya, our discussion turned into perception of Americans toward Indian doctors. Leena said, once a person came into their office and asked Leena (who, by the way is the big boss in Mathukutty's office with 2 persons in her personal staff not counting the maid, gardener etc. at home), "Can I talk to someone who talks English here?" Leena, without losing a beat answered. "No, we don't have anyone."

Now Mathukutty got energized and said, there was a doctor named Annakutty in the hospital and they often page her as "aana koothy" (Malayalam for buttock of elephant - my manglish is not very good.) We could not stop laughing for 5 minutes. That in my opinion, was the memorable quote and highlight moment of this reunion.

Next Page (Saturday Events)

Quick Links: Day 1 (Friday) | Day 2 (Saturday) | Day 3 (Sunday)

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