I make very good chai tea latte, I am told. But I have not made a single cup of tea for my grandpa. He used to relish his evening cup of tea, as he confabulated with his childhood friend. He passed away rather suddenly in an auto accident in 1994 - he was 61, I was 13. Had I made tea for him, he would have enjoyed the taste, aroma and the gesture in equal measure.
When I was a high school student in India, my Aunt was going through a personal crisis. The details are not important. Sure, the rest of the family rallied around her. But I reckon she would have appreciated a little more empathy from me. I was young. I was brash. These are not excuses for insensitivity. It is how I was back then. My Aunt passed away last October at the age of 49. Did she know that I was sorry for my callousness as a teenager?
I did not get that yellow graduation cord in 2002. At Carnegie Mellon University, students who graduate with honors are presented with a yellow cord around their neck at the time of getting their certificate. When I did my Masters, our Grade Point Average (GPA) had to be at or above 3.75 out of 4. In my last semester, I had done well enough to recover from a slump. My GPA ended up being 3.71. Or so I thought. One of my professors sent out an e-mail stating that there was an error in the grading of the final exam. Recalculations were done. And my grade for that course changed from a B+ to an A-. My revised GPA was three point seven four. Why could I not be left with a 3.71? Why did I have to miss out on that yellow cord by 0.01, the minimum possible difference? Of course, I could have worked even harder to not let this near miss happen in the first place. In the final analysis, I had done well but graduated without honors. Without that yellow cord, I might add.
I got a very polite letter from the Fuqua School of Business in 2007. When I was applying to business schools, the one school that I fell in love with at first sight was Fuqua at Duke University. The curriculum seemed fantastic and the vibes that I experienced when I visited the school were magical. As I walked out of the interview, I said to myself, “I belong here.” But after enduring an excruciating period of being on the wait list, I was informed that I had been not admitted.
Regrets about loved ones, regrets about close misses, regrets about not getting something I desired – yes, I have had regrets. But there are a few reasons why those thoughts don’t pervade too many recesses of my mind.
Last December, I had gone to Atlanta to meet with some of my friends. These are friends that I have known since high school. I was meeting with them after three years. Before the trip, I felt this inexplicable but strong urge to make tea for them. So, after getting permission from the friend who hosted us, I took my loose tea, tea press, kettle and milk frother all to Atlanta! And I made tea for them twice a day for the duration of my trip. Especially memorable was a moment during a late night session of board games when one of my buddies asked if I could make tea. It felt nice. As the tea was brewing, one of my regrets was being vaporized.
After completing my high school, I had moved to the US in 1998. My Aunt continued to live in India. In my early years in the US, along with homesickness came a pang of guilt. And for the rest of her life, I was a much nicer nephew to my Aunt. To her, true munificence stemmed out of thoughtfulness of gesture rather than any expensive gifts. I understood this and spent quality time with her. I just wish I had more time with her. One of the things that she wished for was that I be a good husband to my wife. Ever since she passed away, I have made sincere attempts to go the extra mile to make my wife feel special, cared for and loved in a purer, unconditional manner. I have a feeling that my Aunt will be smiling from up above. That beatific smile of hers that I cannot see in person anymore obscures a regret that I do not feel anymore.
I did not do my MBA at Fuqua. Instead, I went back to Carnegie Mellon, to their Tepper School of Business. When I graduated in 2009, I had finished with a GPA that ensured that something could go around my neck when I received my diploma - a luminous yellow cord.
Some stories have a neat little ending. Others do not. But we can, along with destiny, co-author a sequel that completes the story in an unexpectedly fulfulling manner.