Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thanks and good bye Jeff

On the Friday before last I got a text from Jeff saying his flight was postponed and we could meet over coffee on Saturday. Jeffrey K Reneau, Director of American Consulate (Public Affairs), has completed his tenure in Kolkata and was scheduled to leave the city.
I could not meet him one-to-one last week although we met in social get togethers in the city. Jeff got very busy with his packing and other formalities and I was in a series of functions so we could not work out a timing to meet.
The City of Joy has seen many diplomats in the past so many decades who have come and left, but only a few of them have really made an impact, not only career wise, but also in the city's social circuit with their warmth and enthusiasm.
Kolkata still remembers George N Sibley and his better half Lee Alison Sibley.
Some of them like Guenter Wehrmann, the late Consul General of Germany, was also a very accomplished photographer who held his exhibitions of photos in Kolkata a couple of times and even breathed his last in Kolkata.
Former Italian Consul General Mr Campari also breathed his last in the city. Another former Italian Consul General in Kolkata Augustino Pinna and former American Centre Director in Kolkata, Suzan M Schultz, were also very popular in city’s social calendar. In fact, Suzan very sportingly rode a camel on Rajasthan Diwas in Kolkata in 2005 when I had brought a champion camel pair called Dhola-Maru to Kolkata.
And who can forget former US Consul, Ms Beth A Payne, who could be seen walking around the streets of Kolkata with a camera. Many Kolkatans would remember the familiar sight of a foreign lady shutterbug clicking away pictures of the rickshaws, roads, lanes, ghats, old buildings, potua para, Maidan, Victoria Memorial and countless other interesting places that India's cultural hub, Kolkata, had to offer.
Jeff was one of the few diplomats who lived in Kolkata more than any other Kolkattan and was an active participant in Kolkata’s social events. He was very lively and approachable. Except for his looks he seemed more Kolkattan to me. He was there to play dhak during the Pujas last year at the Chaltabagan Durga Puja which he found to be very exotic. During Dean's farewell at The Taj Bengal last month Jeff came dressed up in a Sharbari Dutta designer outfit.
When we met last during coffee on Saturday evening at The Taj just a day before his scheduled flight the next morning, Jeff became emotional and said to me, "I just fell in love with this city and I can never forget it."
I have come across many diplomats in the past 15 years who spent a span of time ranging from two to three years and then leaving the city but not many of them send you a gift which you receive after he has left the city. Also not many of them could honour an invitation received on the very same day of the event and even fewer could feel personal enough to call you up and seek a visit to your home over simple home food. That was Jeffrey K Reneau.
Goodbye Jeff and all the best.

ess bee

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