(I started this draft a long time ago, shortly after the date itself. But much has happened since, travel and trolling, and so I’m sorry, but I’ve lost the essence. But here is a report at any rate!)
At some point in early January, when I had just about recovered from my return from the US and my friend’s wedding in Bombay, I go an email.
I stumbled upon your blog after hearing someone mention it. I have read your about page, but as of now I haven’t read any of your dates.A little about me. I am from the US and am currently traveling in India. There is a lot more to me but how much do you want to know right now, isn’t that is what a date is all about?
Intrigued, I wrote back, and #21 and I ended up having a long email chat. We quickly settled on meeting at Dilli Haat, because it’s been a long time since I’ve gone there and I was tired of eating/drinking dates. His history and of course the ease of communication made me think we would really hit it off, so I was excited. I was also supposed to go see some kittens, so I asked if he’d be interested in tagging along.
Kittens=good, but puppies>kittens just so you know.
And I shot back ‘well i don’t mind puppies. kittens>everything. except maybe sex. but sex is transitory and kittens are for EVAR.’
You don’t MIND puppies? Puppies are the best. I just want to get in a room full if them and play all day.
Kittens are cute but they have one flaw; they turn into cats. Puppies are puppies then they turn into dogs.
…You don’t mind puppies? Hmm, reading it a second time it is very troubling for me. Maybe this date thing is a bad idea. Tell you what, I’ll give you another chance to redeem yourself, but you are starting in negative territory. You will have to show up with your A game to climb out of that hole.
It made me giggle. He didn’t have a phone so we had decided to meet at the Hauz Khas metro station, and I told him what I’d be wearing. ‘How will I recognize you?’ I asked.
I will be the one looking like THE AMERICAN. … seriously, you can’t miss me. I won’t actually have a neon sign saying “I’m the American,” but I will stand out.
When I emerge slowly from the underworld I see to the right a large black guy in cargo pants and an oversized kurta, and he has dreads almost to his knees. He was right, I can’t miss him. I walk over and say hi, and we turn right around and plunge into the depths again to take the metro to INA.
We start to talk as we wait for a train and the conversation is slow, but it’s there. We talk a bit about how he was in the navy, or, as he calls it, prison. HE tells me how he thought it was an easy way to get out of deciding what to do, and then he did get to travel quite a bit so it worked out okay. ‘You know it was really hard choosing what books to take with us on board the ship, because space was limited, and you’d be stuck with them for a long time. We didn’t have laptops and iPads back then,’ he informs me sagely, causing me to clear my throat loudly and point out that I remember when black and white Doordarshan was a luxury we did not have. Then I tell him about pre-liberalization India.
He is actually the second-oldest guy I have gone out with, and it’s actually nice to talk to someone older than me. We indulge in the usual nostalgia for the past that people like to indulge in when they get the chance, but to our credit we give technology its due.
Once we’re inside Dilli Haat I tell him I haven’t been there in ages, so I will be distracted by the stuff I want to see. ‘I’m easy,’ he tells me laconically, and yes he does turn out to be. We wander all the way around, accosted by shopkeepers because hello firangi, and I explain all my favourite bits of Indian handicrafts to him. The Madhubani is tempting from afar but up close is actually quite ugly–the stuff I have seen in Hyderabad is better.
We end up at the Nagaland food stall because he has never eaten food from the north-east, and I order him some pork momos. He tells me about his large family and I tell him about my crazy one. I ask him what it’s like being a chef–which he is sometimes back in Las Vegas–and he tells me it’s not nearly as glamorous as one might think. We talk about the food he’s discovered in India, and why he is drawn to India at all. He tells me he prefers Bombay to Delhi, and I roll my eyes.
In the silence that follows I start to fidget. He’s nice, but I am feeling the pressure to make conversation, and I don’t like that. I know it’s not him who’s creating the pressure, but still. We talk a bit about books–thankfully he reads–and then the silence returns. Ah well, time to call it a night. We walk back to the metro together and part ways on the platform with a brief hug.