Our favorite local Indian restaurant is Touch of Asia; a modest locale tucked away in the back of a little strip mall in Overland Park, Kansas. We’ve been regulars ever since we moved back to Kansas City nearly 16 years ago. There to greet us is always the friendly and smiling proprietor. He is a permanent fixture in the place. And, you know, it’s funny, we’ve been regulars for so many years, we always have lots to talk with him about, but we’ve never exchanged names or backgrounds. Yet, we know enough about one another to feel like friends.
I remember when our son, Ian, now 10, was just a toddler. Not knowing whether he would be interested in the curries and spices of our favorite dishes, we used to prepare a little container of microwavable macaroni and cheese in advance of our visit to Touch of Asia to serve him as his dinner. We did this for a few years – the proprietor and all the servers would smile at Ian, coo at him and laugh about the food we brought for him.
Eventually, our child of highly discerning taste eschewed the mac ‘n’ cheese, preferring the Thali platters with his favorites, chicken tikka masala, malai kofta, raita and naan. The proprietor, as ever, would reminisce with us about those toddler years and chuckle, as we all watched Ian devour the delicious food served at this hidden gem of a restaurant.
About a month ago, as we often do, we went to Touch of Asia for lunch on a Saturday. The proprietor was not there. We certainly noticed his absence, but did not think much of it. Then, about two weeks ago, Marc went in for the lunchtime buffet during the week. Again, the proprietor was not there. “Hmmm?” he thought, but again, did not ask where he was.
This past Sunday, we went in again as a family. Again, the proprietor was conspicuously missing. I just had to ask. Our server said, “I thought you guys knew. He passed away; he had a massive heart attack. He was only 51. We miss him a lot.”
Our hearts fell. We lost our once sizable appetites. Passed away? How was that possible. The three of us were consumed by grief. And, we didn’t even know his name. Again, how was that possible.
Harjinder Gill was a quiet, friendly man; the co-owner and proprietor of our favorite local Indian restaurant. We know his name now. We didn’t realize the enormity of the impact he had on our Touch of Asia experience until he was gone. We miss him a lot, too.
My hope in sharing this story with you, the CLC Community, is both to honor the memory of a great proprietor who touched so many lives and to serve as a reminder that we simply never know what, who and how we – how YOU – might touch other people’s lives. Lead with compassion. Engage with caring and kindness. Ensure authenticity with every interaction. Indeed, whether you exchange names and histories and stories with those with whom you come in contact, you are leaving an indelible impression that will have an impact for years to come.