No no, this isn’t Romeo and Juliet =)
#15 wrote to me way back in early September. It was a lovely email. Here’s an excerpt:
You probably get hundreds of these. So here’s another.
If you have empty spaces on your calendar, I’d be happy to be a footnote somewhere.
A little about me. I’m an ordinary guy, with an ordinary job, in an ordinary city. And I like walks. And intriguing people. Who write blogs. About social anthropological experiments.
I replied, of course, and we had a nice amicable email conversation. He works in energy and economics and I nearly exploded with enthusiasm because I rarely have a chance to talk about these things in my world right now. It turns out, via Delhi incest, that we have common friends. We decided we’d like meet, but then he’s busy that week. I’m busy the next. He has a wedding. I’m sick. Finally we find a Monday night that works, only, on Friday he learns he has to travel for work. Then I’m travelling. Then he’s sick. The night I’m free he’s not. The afternoon he’s free, I’m not. It’s like we’re star crossed! Finally we find a day that works for both of us, and place that works for both of us since eek he lives in Noida. We go to Le Bistro Du Parc in Moolchand Market, where Flavours is. (I should go to Flavours. It’s been years, but I used to love it!)
I google map the place because well back in the day I didn’t drive and I didn’t know South Delhi at all. (I still get lost past Ring Road sometimes heh.) I am confused. There are two places it could be, two flyovers and two flyover markets! So I call a friend who lives in Def Col and he explain it to me. I drive on down, take the service road just before Moolchand and follow that dark and windy road to a market with a Domino’s. I look around and can’t see anything that looks remotely like Flavours OR Le Bistro Du Parc. I give up and decide to use the foolproof old Navajo method of navigation. I roll down my window, stick my head out and say, ‘Bhaisaheb, Bistro du parc?’
The parking gent nods and says yes yes it’s right there around that corner leave your car here. I meekly do as instructed and scramble out. For some reason I felt like LBDP was worthy of what I call my I-just-went-to-church outfit, which is a really pretty blue gingham dress with delicate jewellery. As I walk in, I realise that I was right. It’s very… I want to say European, but now that I think back there were tons of places like it in New York. So let’s just say it was very Western country where rents are high and restaurants are small. There is a huge mirror on one wall, bright yellow flowers everywhere, and generally an effect of well-lit candlelight, which might seem oxymoronic, but is most achievable though rarely seen in India. It’s intimate, but you can still see your food.
My date arrives, in a blue shirt. He’s slim and handsome and has a great smile. He makes to hug me but I’m too lazy to get up (bad me!) so I grab his hand in both mine and say sorry I’m lazy. He smiles and sits down across from me. We talk for a bit about Flavours and the market and wow look at this place here. ‘Weren’t you going to look for a table upstairs?’ he asks me, and I tell him that upstairs, while charming, had no a/c and since Delhi seems to think it’s still August I’d rather not. He agrees fervently.
The waiter appears with the wine menu, which looks really good. We both stare at it longingly, but summon the strength to wave it away. He’s not drinking on doctor’s orders, and I’m not drinking to prove to myself that I can. A digression here to discuss the menus at LBDP. They’re these giant blackboards that the waiters hold up. On the one hand this is very cool because you can read it together. But it’s also not entirely readable in places, and, worse, I was riddled with guilt at taking my time to read it because the poor guy is standing there holding up a blackboard!!!!! We settle on chicken salad for him and a tomato and carmelised onion tart for me.
We sit there, sipping water in beautiful wine glasses (Props to LBDP because those glasses were NEVER empty. Amazing.) and chatting about life the universe and everything. I ask him why he lives in Noida and he explains that since he works in the Lodhi Institutional Area it’s not so bad for him, and living there he and his flatmates have a big and beautiful house and space for two dogs. Can’t argue with that. We laugh at each other’s employment histories–I’ve finally met someone who’s quit a job faster than me. My record: 15 days; his: 5!
He asks me how the project is going and I ask him if he hasn’t been keeping track. ‘No, I don’t read the blog,’ he says. ‘Wait, didn’t you write to me off it?’ I ask, mistrusting my memory through so many conversations and more than a month’s time. ‘Yes, yes. I read it then. My friend sent it to me.’ (It’s interesting how many guys write to me because a female friend or relative has sent it to them.) So I bring him up to date and tell him he’s #15. I tell him how lately I wonder if people are writing so they can be on the blog or if they want to actually ask me out. He understands what I mean, but well there aren’t any real answers here.
It turns out he takes photos too, so we’re sitting there fiddling with phone internet to show each other pictures. I tell him I rarely shoot anymore, only of the cat when he’s being cute, and I pull up the Facebook album dedicated to the beastie. He shows me old pictures from trips he’s taken. Another thing we have in common: we’ve both fallen years behind in uploading photos! I tell him I tend to take portraits best, and show him some I’ve taken of my friends and use as their pictures on the phone. He says kind and complimentary things. He sends me the address of his blog and I promise to email him links to my albums. (Which I haven’t yet. Oops.)
The food comes and it is stellar. I can see why my ex boss has been raving. The portions are small though, which makes me sad because it is then not somewhere I can go again soon, because it’s quite expensive for my budgets. On my plate reposes a pile of tomatoes, and next to them a pile of spinach with some more tomatoes. I cannot believe I am eating so many tomatoes! But they are really really good. Ah French food and butter. There’s more butter in dessert, which is the most ridiculously decadent creme caramel I have eaten in my life. I’m sorry this post is so much about the food but sweet Mary mother of Jesus it was so good. I could have married that caramel. But back to the date.
We eat slowly and chat all the way. I’m tired though, because I’ve not slept much. I tell him about my gorgeous trip to the hills over the long weekend, and how it ended in staying up all night on the worst bus ride of my life, which I couldn’t even recover from properly because I find it hard to sleep in the daytime. I also had an important meeting that morning (more on that tomorrow) so I couldn’t just fall into bed at 730am when I got home and sleep the day away.
I ask him about his dating past and he tells me, quite openly, about his ex girlfriend. I tell him about mine. He asks me questions about how my industry works and I ask him questions about research. We talk about what we’re reading and how it’s tough when you read for work to read for pleasure. At least his focus of reading is what he wants to read. Mine is not that simple. It’s now about 9 and we’ve been there a couple of hours. I smile at him and announce my exhaustion, so we get the bill, pay and leave.
He walks me to my car, kisses my cheek goodbye and stands there as I get in. ‘Why don’t you leave?’ I ask. ‘Oh, just waiting to wave at you when you go’ is what comes back. And, true to his word, he waits till I’m driving out and waves goodbye.