Chocolate and Gold Coins

Friday, September 16, 2005


My wife always is bumping into people she met in high school. This would not be so unusual if she lived in the same city that her high school is located in. But her high school was in Madras, India, and she meets these people in Minnesota and in Virginia.

My father is always bumping into people he met in the military, (he fought in WWII). One time he was telling a story to me about his experiences in Italy when a fellow came up to him and introduced himself. It turns out that they served in the same division.

I find that odd. I have never met anyone from my old high school or college since leaving. Occasionally, I see the names of people I know in unusual places. For example, I found the name of a good friend in high school in a reference in a textbook I bought. I found the name of my boss referenced in another textbook. But I cannot claim this is so much of a coincidence. A lot of people know someone who wrote a paper that was referenced in a textbook.

Maybe this is more bizarre: today I was reading the Indian Economy blog and it referenced a paper by “Smith and Joshi” (I changed the names). I thought, “Is that Sunil Joshi?” Sure enough, it was. He is the father of one of my son’s classmates.

But this made me wonder: is this really so much of a coincidence? After all, Sunil Joshi (again, not his real name) is an economist and so am I. It is not so much of a coincidence that we wound up in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area; a very large percentage of all of the world’s economists live near D.C. It isn’t such a coincidence that we send our children to the same school; this school is very popular with economists and my wife and I chose this school for exactly that reason. It isn’t a coincidence that Sunil Joshi would write a paper on India’s economic development since he does work for the IMF and he is from India. It isn’t so much of a coincidence that I would be reading a blog about the Indian economy because I am interested in economics and in India. But still, it does seem like a coincidence.

Now this might be a coincidence. While I was writing this very post, my wife called to say that she met someone from her hometown that was a friend with my wife’s favorite cricket player. And oddly enough, this person met the cricket player at Tyson’s Corner Virginia, just two miles from our home. How odd is that?

So, does anyone else have a coincidence that might be worth sharing?


  • Interesting blog, Michael. What came to my mind after reading your blog may not exactly be relevant but here I go. When I learn new words, and I read some article or news or whatever, I more often than not spot these words. I think to myself what a coincidence. But in truth it may not actually be such a strange coincidence after all; if I was not aware of the word I would not have paid particular attention to it, so wouldn't wonder about it.

    Also the six degrees of separation game is somewhat relevant I would think - who knows maybe we all have a max of only six degrees of separation!! :-)


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:25 PM  

  • Hi Swami
    My father always noticed that whenever he heard a new phrase he always heard it again within 24 hours. This might have been because he was more likely to recognise it or remember it because it was "in his head" or it might be that the phrase was more like a fad that was suddenly very popular.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:09 PM  

  • Ok here is one from me....

    My wife was brought up in Kopargaon (a small town / village) in rural Maharashtra. She was not much into english movies and would hardly watch any.

    When we got married, she told me that the Only eng movie she loved (out of the few she saw) was Mighty Ducks a movie about Ice Hockey....

    I had neve seen the movie, so we rented it one day and then we noticed that the movie is set in Minneapolis ... where we live

    She still tells me about this coincidence and thinks that it was some Karmic coincidence that she loved the movie just because she was destined to come to Minneapolis ... Is that coincidence?

    Or is that I liked the movie Fargo and it took me to Msp too?

    By Blogger @mit, at 3:20 PM  

  • Hi @mit
    That is interesting. It is a coincidence but not as big as it first seems. If your wife wanted to live in the U.S., she was likely to live in one of the top dozen cities, and Minneapolis is one of them (although, of course, New York and Los Angeles are much bigger).

    But who can argue against karma?

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:36 PM  

  • sometimes these coincidences are unnerving....

    there are waaaay too many students here in the states, whom I've met here for the first time, and who studied in different cities/institutes in India, but I find that they are friends of friends.....

    One of the strangest ones was in Illinois (I went to UIUC before I moved to Seattle). I made friends with this other chap, and we found that we lived a block away from each other in Bangalore (but didn't know each other). Then I told him that my parents had an old friend of the family in Urbana (and that is a very small town in Illinois). He said he had an aunt there too. His aunt and uncle, and my family friends were the same people :-)

    By Blogger Sunil, at 8:44 PM  

  • Michael, you changed the names of the authors to protect their identities?! :))

    By Anonymous Anand, at 11:53 PM  

  • This post will surely make Christmas come early for my friend Rajk who specialises in documenting, sharing and gushing over coincidences.

    The freakiest coincidence I have experienced occured when I had gone to watch a movie in Lucknow, back when I was studying management in IIM Lucknow. At the cinema hall I ran into an ex-classmate of mine from my engineering college in Pune.

    Prima facie this does not seem like a huge coincidence. But it is if you know how far apart, both distance-wise and otherwise, Lucknow and Pune are. Electronics Engineers from Pune may work in Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai or even Calcutta, but Lucknow really offers no employment opportunity...or any probable reason to be there. Apparently my ex-classmate worked in Bombay, but had come there just to visit a client of his company for a meeting to discuss some specifications. He was in town only for a couple of days. He had never earlier been to the city, nor has he ever visited it again.

    Bumping into him there was a freakish coincidence. And another freakish coincidence connected to it has just happened. Earlier today I posted the 55-word story for which you had tagged me. Another friend of mine, Dharmendra, also tagged me on his blog here. The title of the post is 'ab tak chappan....almost', which is a play on the hit hindi movie 'ab tak chappan' which means "56 till now".

    I just remembered that the movie I had gone to watch 2 years ago in Lucknow when I coincidentally met that friend was 'Ab Tak Chappan'!!!

    By Blogger Gaurav, at 10:50 AM  

  • Hi Sunil, Anand, and Gaurav
    Sunil: Your coincidence sounds so similar to at least one that my wife told. Things like that happen to here often. She will meet a Tamilian and find out there's a connection. Maybe thats not so odd. Maybe its odd that I cannot do this.

    Anand: Yes, I changed the name so that Arvind's child could remain anonomous. He is a friend of my son's. Anyway, the name was not too important. I wonder why the name "Sunil" came to me?

    Gaurav: That's an interesting coincidence. That is just kind of bizarre.

    Thanks for your 55 word story.
    Readers: here is Gaurav Subnis's story.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:37 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger jon, at 1:28 AM  

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