After my dismal OKC record, I gave up on finding dates for Bombay. All in all a good thing because my trip turned out to be ridiculously busy, even though two hours of one day involved sitting in a car in traffic. Can I hear an argh? However, a couple of days before I left, I got an email and a tweet from two different guys and I set up lunch with one and dinner with the other. The dinner chap I had to ditch because of a family thing that never materialised because of aforementioned two hours in traffic jam, but I did have my lunch date.
It all began with a tweet, after which he emailed me. His email was direct and to the point, and included this refreshing bit:
To begin with, I am 25 years old and no, I am not going to say that age is just a number or just in the mind or some such nonsense.
Instead, I’ll say that you should consider this because I am really keen on meeting with you and probably share a drink or two (or seven). I want to be a part of this experiment and see what I am like when on a date.
Of course it was about him!
No, no, I’m kidding. Now that I revisit the email I don’t know what prompted my gut to say yes but it did, and there I was, pledged to go on a date with a gasp twenty-five-year-old. What to do, I cannot resist a brain operated by a person who knows how to use it. He proceeded to take charge in an impressively respectful way, and try to find the right place to go for an hour before emailing me a cry of despair. I told him I don’t like beer and I like Italian, Mexican and American food, which he said helped and the venue was chosen.
While all this was going on, I was trying to do five days work in three and also catch up on sleep debt from the previous weekend, so everything was a bit of a blur. The night before I arrived in Bombay, he texted, despairing again, to say the perfect place was only a dinner place, and propose an alternative: Saltwater Cafe. I said ok and forgot about it.
I’m done with my meeting and also with pouting because I was hungry and it is nearing one and he just asked if he could push by half an hour. He responds well to my pout and I finally find Saltwater Cafe (note to self: do not expect person who doesn’t know where things are to tell you where things are) and walk in. This big tall guy stands up in the back and waves at me. He’s wearing a checked shirt. Big, tall, south Indian man in a shirt. Already I approve of this date. (Or maybe he did his homework? I guess he could hardly grow tall specially for me…)
He hugs me hello and he smells lovely, which for some reason is something I notice a lot. We sit down and he launches off into conversation. He has this lovely gravelly voice. It’s as seamless and fun as #2, and I find myself constantly saying ‘You are atypical for your age and gender’. I feel a bit like after all the whining I have done about young boys, the universe is out to prove me comprehensively wrong.
I order some mushroom and couscous, and the waiter earnestly tells me, ‘Yeh healthy dish hai madam,’ which makes me giggle, and I order it anyway, since I know I’m getting egg butty the next day. It comes, after our bottomless sangria, and it is spectacular. If all healthy food tasted like that I might be able to give up cheese… And the sangria. It was truly perfect. Generously laced with vodka, not just a glass of fruit with some wine sloshed in it; it had flavour and tones, and, most of all, was a truly bottomless glass. I swear every time I turned around they had refilled it!
I ask him how he found the blog, and he says it was the Mint article. He asks about my trip and I rant about how I hate Bombay weather and the damn auto seats are all reclined at a 45-degree angle which makes it nearly impossible to sit as you’re jolted about those damn cobblestones. What can I say, I like being a south Delhi princess. He is most amused and agrees with me as I enumerate all these things about Bombay, since he’s not from there either. I have to say though, this trip has really made me wonder how people deal with that kind of traffic and pollution and stress. Then again they have lovely places to go out that are affordable, and apparently the under-25 male population is charming. From my sample size of one of course ;)
He tells me what it was like growing up where he did, and how he was a total loser as a kid and then after one brutal rejection remade himself into a ladies man. This makes me laugh because it is so much at odds with how I think these things work, and also just exactly the sort of thing a cocky 25-year-old would say. Only, I’m the one who’s wrong about him. It’s only at the end of the day, after we’ve had a second date-ish where I demand that he crash an evening of drinking with another friend, that I’m able to articulate it properly, but it’s worth putting out there so I will.
The thing with this guy is that he is, simply, interested. He’s interested in what I have to say; he’s interested in contributing to the conversation, in sharing his own life and stories; he’s interested in me as more than a sexual being. And that is one of the sexiest things in the world. I cannot stress this enough. He doesn’t flirt with me; he engages with me. He makes me feel like I am enthralling, and that, even if we never see each other again, and he doesn’t get to even hold my hand, it is worth his while to have spent this time with me. And he doesn’t do it by saying ‘Oh you’re the most awesome woman I’ve ever met’, or any such thing. He just does it by being present and being engaged.
Alas our lunch is over too soon, and I tell him I’m going drinking with a friend in the evening, if he’d like to join. He immediately says yes and then insists on dropping me home in the taxi he’s taking back to work. He insists on ferrying me everywhere actually, and it’s really a nice thing when you’re in an overwhelming alien city.
Later that evening he does join me and my friend, and the two of them proceed to have a great time, though said friend periodically declares that he’s not going to be a kabab meain haddi and is just going to leave. Eventually we do leave, and we (not including friend) end the day with a short walk around Khar, holding hands like teenagers.