#1: V for Vendetta

The first one was a little complicated in the setting up. #1 wrote me a very nice email, and while he did say something a little strange about us not being each others’ ideal body types, he seemed nice, if at the very young end of the spectrum. We decided to meet on a Monday, only I found I’d double booked, and there was a lot of frantic messaging back and forth before we decided to meet at the SDA market. I really liked him from the conversations we’d had on OKC and Whatsapp, and for some reason I felt like he had to be the first one, because it would bode well for the rest. This was partly because I hadn’t felt any verbal chemistry with #2, who was coming up that Thursday, or the possible #3, potentially scheduled for Sunday.

I arrived, and went to Spell & Bound, where he’d said he’d wait, and called him. He came out, a very skinny guy with a thin pointy moustache and dangly V-shaped beard. He looked a lot like the guy from V for Vendetta, before he had his facial hair waxed. We shook hands and decided to pop into this tiny cafe the Flatmate had pointed out on our last visit to the market. It was called My Kind of Street Cafe, and was a little hole with 5 tables crammed together and a bizarrely expensive menu for the ambiance and quality of food.

We went in, both broke, and ordered milkshakes, and I got nachos, which turned out to be corn chips of the Cornitos variety, with hot sauce squirted on them and then topped with crumbled cheese and stuck in an oven. Interesting, but not nachos.

#1 was very easy to talk to. He worked in a start up that was in a slow phase, so we chatted about work a bit. Then we segued into my standard OKC date icebreaker: what are some nutty OKC stories? And then we began to make connections, and discovered that we were separated by only two people. Point to Delhi OKC Bathtub Theory.

Much younger than me, he was far more open about his experiences on OKC than the older guys tend to be, openly talking about hookups and all the inevitable incest that ensues when the circles are as small as Delhi circles tend to be. He’s from down south, which always makes me happy, because of my sudden quest for my roots now that I am in a minimally alien culture all the time. I say minimally because well, I’m an honorary Punjabi, and all my appreciation for Tamil movies, music, food and boys has only surfaced in the past two years.

In about an hour and a half, the conversation died down, despite the twenty-minute detour into examining a spectacular poster of the history of TV to see what we could identify, and it was time to go. We parted ways amicably, with promises to ‘hang out again soon’, knowing well we would not actually contact each other again.

A nice, mellow beginning.

 

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#2: Serendipity

#2 entered the field quite simply. He has a slightly embarrassing OKC ID, but he wrote me a very straightforward email saying he thought I was doing something interesting and so he wanted to say hi. I replied, asking what came next, and once again he straight out said, I want a date or two and then we’ll see. Enchanted by this openness, I said yes, and we swapped email addresses.

Once he popped up on chat I pinged him and we chatted a bit, mostly admin shit: when, where, what time to meet. We settled on one of my favourite places in Delhi, Chilli’s in Vasant Kunj, on Thursday at 630. He made a strange joke when I said they had the best happy hours in Delhi, and there was a bit of awkwardness. Sigh, I thought to myself, this isn’t going to be a great one is it? Conversation was stilted and it certainly seemed he had a sense of humour that was a little off from mine. I will even admit that when a friend and I were discussing when to see a movie, I said Thursday at 9 please.

‘I don’t know how you do it here (he lives in Dubai at the moment), but I could pick you up.’ I gracefully declined and drove myself there, so I’d have a quick exit. Once in the past I’d met an OKC guy at Chilli’s and he’d been very insistent on picking me up and dropping me off, despite my repeated refusals. I managed to get there on my own but then he was dreary as can be and highly creepy, and I ended up having to text my flatmate to call with an emergency. At which point he once again tried to drive me home. So I am always careful to be in control of my own getting there and getting home.

Thursday came around and I was crazy busy, so I ended up having to push the date to 730. He got there 15 minutes early, and texted to ask if I minded if he ordered a drink. Touched that he asked (since I don’t think I would have!), I told him to go ahead. Then he asked what I wanted, since I should take advantage of happy hours. I told him.

I walked into Chilli’s and called him, and a guy at the very last booth stood up and waved. He was tall and broad, which I personally love, because it’s the only time I can feel small, and, after the mandatory handshake he gave me a casual side-hug. Clearly this was someone who was comfortable. How nice.

I sat down and we just took off talking. I don’t think that for the first hour either of us finished a thought, because something he said would spark a tangent in me and vice versa. About this time he managed to knock over a large, full glass of water, and of course drench me in the process. We moved to another table, with much laughter, and then picked up where we’d left off. ‘Where did you grow up?’ ‘What did you do?” ‘What DO you do?’ ‘What does that MEAN?’ ‘Why me?’ ‘Why OKC?’ ‘Do you read?’ and other flurries of questions turned into long stories of things we’ve done and places we’ve been and people we’ve met.

There were casual mentions of exes and lifestyles, and I was positively thrilled to learn that he actually runs what my friends used to call a ‘grown-up house’, i.e., a fully functional house that doesn’t rely on maids or takeout. Could it be that I had met a desi guy who picked up after himself and took responsibility for things like meals and groceries? And, at some point, he said, ‘It’s not fair you know; it’s hard for guys sometimes to know what we’re allowed to be.’

At this point he said he needed a smoke. But Chilli’s has no smoking area. So he asked the waiter what they’d do to him if he lit up right there, which made the waiter giggle and tell us we could try Underdogg’s across the hall which did have a smoking room. And then he stood up, handed a card to the waiter, telling him to start a tab, and we walked out, strolled into the other bar, refused a table, went into the smoking room, finished up, came out, paused to have a jovial chat with another waiter and strolled out.

Back at Chilli’s, three hours sped by and we’d hit that point when the glasses were empty, nothing was coming, and it was move the venue or go home. Since, by now, my gut was leaping about, banging bongos and screaming THIS IS A GOOD GUY, I asked if he wanted to come to my house. ‘What’ve you got to drink?’ he shot back at me, before agreeing. Later, as we walked up the stairs he asked me if I didn’t feel weird, letting a stranger into my house. ‘No, I said. It’s happened enough times! I like having people over, and I’m very lazy, AND I’m on Couchsurfing, so it’s completely normal.’ ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I’m feeling weird.’ I bit back a SO CUTE! and simply ushered him inside and poured him a drink. ‘Nothing whiskey can’t cure,’ I said.

And then we sat at my balcony table and talked some more, and another three hours passed in a blur. The Flatmate came home and joined us for a while, and then left. Clearly we had extremely strong chemistry–I could say anything to him, and he’d listen with an open mind; he knew how to talk instead of argue; but, above all, it just felt so comfortable. It had been literally a year since the last time I’d had such a great first date, and even that one was more tense. And then, in the wee hours of the morning, I worked up all my courage and thought up a speech to give as prelude to making the first ever move of my life, and decided I was going to kiss him and hope that, if he didn’t want it, he’d be adult enough to stay friends.

Only the kiss, when it inevitably happened, was entirely organic–I don’t remember who kissed who! Quite the appropriate end to a phenomenal first date. I knew I wanted a second one. All that remained was to see if it happened.

#3: The truth lies in the minority

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Date #3 was the result of my enthusiasm. You see, I’m trying to be proactive, so every couple of days I write to a bunch of guys. 37, with a reticent profile and a photo that only showed his back, there wasn’t much to go on but I wrote anyway, because my (vast and apparently wise) gut said to. I opened with my standard email:

hello
care to chat?

He replied with:

Sure. What number are you at? :)

Such refreshing directness I though to myself. None of the usual cagey ashamed to be ok OKC stuff, straight to numbers. I must admit that I saw the email at 615 m when I was trying to maintain the fiction that I wasn’t actually awake before my alarm AGAIN. So I gave it to him and warned him I’m not very good on the phone. His reply, when it came, was slightly embarrassing, because it turned out he’d been asking for the number of dates, not my number.

Anyway, our conversation proceeded apace on OKC, his ‘felicity with the English language’ (yes, that’s a direct quote) making me weak at the knees, which, of course, I told him. Soon after the first email he called me and, to my surprise, we managed to chat on the phone for a good forty minutes. He’s Muslim and has a beautiful name. He was very enthusiastic about meeting and since he was busy that evening asked to meet at 4. ‘You’ll never run out of conversation with me,’ he says.

I was going to take him to Chilli’s, cheap and besht as my mother would say, only the man is a heavy smoker, so we went instead to Underdoggs, which, as I learnt from #2, has a smoking room. It is also rather affordable during Happy Hours, which makes me happy. When I pick him up (he’s on my way to the mall), he doesn’t look from the front like I’d expect him to. His face is squarer than I expected. He is, of course, smoking a cigarette, which he put out before he hops in. We say hi, and I mutter about traffic being so bad this early in the day. The usual round of questions and answers begin, and soon enough, despite the traffic, we’re parking in my corner of the parking lot and riding the lift up.

‘I only drink beer,’ he tells me when my Blue Lagoon arrives and I’m sighing about how well it has been made. When I ask why, he says that he loves it and always has. ‘Well that makes sense,’ I say, ‘lots of people don’t like hard liquor.’ But it turns out that beer is the only booze he’s ever drunk; he’s never tried anything else–not even that luscious blue drink up there. When I ask why, he just says he really likes beer. Being me, of course, I refused to accept that explanation and told him there was definitely a deeper reason, one he might not be willing to accept or admit. And then he says, ‘Well, actually, I don’t think of beer as alcohol, so you know…’ To which I, of course, responded with a ‘Hah, I knew it!’

Our conversation wandered all over the place, occasionally inspired by the newspaper articles plastered all over the smoking room, and also the CWG wrestling that was showing on the TV above his head. I made him giggle by voicing my theory about how they looked like they were indulging in some strange form of courtship if not coitus. He made me grin by nodding along as I spouted my Theories, and then we earnestly discussed how society trains men and women to be at cross purposes when dating. 

At one point he told me that the Indian government is gypping people by inflating the price of petrol, and in reality if you do the math you’ll see how it should be cheaper. I laughed, but he was very serious, and so I told him that if he could send me the actual numbers I might believe him, but until such time, I was going to go with my own intuition about it, which was the opposite. It was at this point that he said, ‘The truth lies in the minority,’ in caricature of earnest activists, which made me laugh some more and I insisted on writing it down so I would remember it.

As 6 drew close, he asked me, ‘In a world where men and women are less constrained–‘ and I interrupted to ask him less than what, because I knew where this was going and I like to mess with people. ‘Just less,’ he said. ‘In a world where men and women are less constrained by this bad training, on whom would the onus fall to propose a second meeting?’ ‘Whoever wants it,’ I retorted with a smirk. He laughed, and five minutes later I told him that if he were to propose one, I would agree. And then we left.

#4: Ghar ka bigda hua baccha

(Oh what a crazy week.)

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#4 was one of the early writers. He wrote to me I think a couple of days after the profile was up, and he seemed nice. I got no instant evaluation from my gut, but that’s good too because instant can also be instant no! We started chatting, and I decided I’d go out with him, but then my dad came to visit and I was busy and life kicked in, so it took us a long time to get to the date.

But finally, one rainy Saturday afternoon, we had settled on a time and a place. He chose Hauz Khas Village; I chose Imperfecto, because it is the perfect date place, especially in the daytime. We were to meet at 3, but, thanks to said rain, the traffic was more than a little insane, and all my morning errands got pushed later and later, so I called to ask if we could postpone a bit. But he’d left, so I abandoned my errands undone, and left too. Only, traffic was on crack, so I was practically in first gear from Vasant Kunj to HKV, and about ready to break something, but the universe made up for it by letting me find parking in the actual parking lot.

I then began the long hike to Imperfecto–it’s a true indication of how much I love the place that I ever go there! Fourth floor!!! In this weather! I was on the summit finally, and I called #4, only to discover that he was a good half an hour away, still stuck in some ginormous jam. ‘Never mind,’ I told him, ‘I have a book. But I will need to order some food, or I’ll end up chewing my own arm off.’ So I found a table, directly in an a/c vent and whipped out a book. Forty-five minutes and some food later, there was no word from him.

‘You are still coming, yes?’ I texted. ‘Hahaha, just parking,’ he replied. And finally, he came up the stairs. I missed it though because I was reading. Heh.

He was skinny, skinnier than his picture made him look, and looked like a nice, non-Punjabi north Indian boy. We shook hands and he sat down across from me. We didn’t leap into conversation instantly, but slowly and normally we began to chat. I told him to order some food, and he told me he didn’t eat much. He later told me that he drinks his drinks strong because there’s only so much room he has for liquids, and he has to make it count. Which I thought was a very interesting way of looking at it.

He works in a bank and lives with his parents. It’s a very shuddh family he tells me–no one drinks, eats meat or smokes anything. ‘Main hi hoon ghar ka bigda hua baccha,’ he says. Which of course made me giggle. I noticed that he was more comfortable in Hindi–not to say anything about his English, but there’s that language into which you lapse when having relaxed conversations, the one filled with slang that gets all your intonation right. It was Hindi for him, like it’s English for me. Though all my time here in the north has meant I’m not so bad with the Hindi either–or at least with faking it!

We talk about why we’re on OKC, and how we like to think about love and sex and lust. He certainly seems to talk my talk, the one of no games and no nonsense. ‘What’s the point,’ he says, ‘of pretending to not be interested? If a girl says she’s not interested, I just back off.’ I nod fervently. We go stand outside, with the spectacular view of Deer Park, and lean on the parapet-bar. He starts to move a little closer–I don’t know if it’s a move or unintentional–so at one point I need to crane my neck a bit to talk, and I ask him to take a step back.

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We drift in and out of the terrace area, and our conversation drifts around life theories, this experiment and my previous dates, what places we like to go out in Delhi, what our friends are like, what kinds of trips we take. We discuss guys who say ‘Can I kiss you?’ which is such a silly thing to do if you ask me. I tell #4 that if I want a guy to kiss me, he’ll know. And vice versa. There are lots of ways to indicate this stuff. And if I don’t feel it then I won’t indicate it, so where’s the need to ask?

He says that sometimes you need to kiss someone, how do you know if there’s chemistry till you have? And that’s when it hits me: I do know.This gut of mine doesn’t just tell me about people who are good for me, or people I’ll get along with. It also tells me about attraction. If I don’t feel it right off, or say within two or three meetings, it’s highly unlikely to develop. Of course as soon as I’ve said this, he asks me what my gut is saying about him. My gut is silent though, and I tell him so. Honesty, after all, is something I claim to hold important!

It 630 now, and I have another friend coming to see me, so I mumble about departure, and he nods. As we exit the last flight of stairs, there’s a group of posh ladies in their forties who ask us what the place is like. Apparently they’ve been given a list of recommendations, and they want to know which one to go to, and the four flights of stairs are a little daunting for recce missions. I raved about it, he nodded along, the ladies thanked us and then he walked me to my car. And then he stood by my car until I finished fiddling with mirrors and iPod and seatbelts and change, and waved bye as I drove off. I don’t know why, but these tiny and highly unnecessary gestures always make me fuzzy.

 

#5: Brooklyn Boy

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Date #5 was with a guy who’d written to me ages ago on OKC, at my other avatar. He’s young–26–and grew up in Brooklyn, therefore interesting me immediately. We chatted on OKC for a while and then moved to whatsapp but I just found it very hard to talk to him. He was very…monotonous? That’s not the right word, but there was something very unresponsive about him. So I got tired of trying to talk and said sorry, I’m out.

When I set up this profile however, he wrote to me again and said I’m giving it another shot. Will you go out with me? What the heck, I thought, and said yes. Once again the texting began, and it was as I remembered it, very deliberate, no fizz, no sense of spontaneity. I nearly cancelled on him again. But then I said no, come on. Do it.

The day rolled around and I was delayed and then we went to my BELOVED 4S Punjabi only to find it had shut down (cue floods of tears). We then wandered around GK2 M block market looking for a place to go, my stomach slowly digesting itself from hunger. Suddenly, I spotted a big orange sign with Camino written on it. There, I said. We’re going there. And we did.

It’s on the 4th floor (sigh, aren’t they all?) but it had a lift. IT also had funny stuff written on the walls on either side of the lift (see photo?). The lower level was dingy and loud and thumpy, but they have a really nice upper floor with big french doors and a nice terrace, so I got daylight AND ac, which made me very happy.

We sat down, he ordered a beer. In all our conversations this had been a big theme with him–I hope there’s beer; I just want beer; I don’t care about the food, they have great deals on beer–which I thought was a bit alcoholic of him, but then I realised that the poor chap doesn’t get to go out much, or drink beer very often, so since he was going out he wanted to capitalize on it. I got myself–of course–a martini. Appletini to be precise and it was YUM. The food was nice too–I got a burger and we got some bravas for starters. The place was empty so the staff was dancing attendance on us.

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The drinks came and then we finally began to talk. It turned out that he isn’t unresponsive; he’s just laconic, which doesn’t translate well to texting, unlike me, who’s hyper regardless heh. I apologised for having forgotten everything we’d talked about earlier and asked all those preliminary questions again. We swapped silly stories–he had a good one about calling Houston on work and saying, ‘Listen I need this Monday my time, I’m in India’, only to have the guy respond, ‘That’s ok; I’m in Noida.’ I told him why I’m doing this project, and I also told him that I’m writing about it. He, of course, asked to read, and so I sent him the link.

He told me about his family, the crazy things he did in engineering college, how much he missed New York. There was something we bonded over! I asked him why he was on OKC, and he gave me an answer I did not expect: he said he was looking for love (of course not in those words). Then of course we launched into a discussion of what kinds of relationships work and what are realistic expectations, with me, hopefully not being too patronising, trying to explain that your partner cannot be your everything. No matter how much you love each other, they cannot be the only person you vent to, lean on, find joy with etc. Damn this modern nonsense we’re fed about relationships!

Then he asked me something: ‘Why is it so offensive to look at a girl who is attractive on the street?’ Yes, feminism 101, but the thing is, it’s not like I don’t objectify men, or lecch and so on, but it’s what it stands for for women. It took me a while to get him past the ‘But I’m not going to do anything!’ barrier, but I think he finally came around to understanding that for the women, 1. They don’t know you, so they don’t know you’re not going to do anything, and 2. Most men in India think they are allowed to do anything.

I sat there expounding more theories–like how I deal with people I love who hurt me, as people will always do. And he kept asking me questions about my theories. And so it went, until it was time for me to go. The bill came and I lifted my hand to look at it, but he glared and me and smacked it with his finger so I couldn’t see. Like a dedazo. So I smiled and thanked him, and we parted ways (after I stopped to photograph the lift), with plans to meet again.

I’m glad I went out with him after all, because it brought home to me the fact that my gut is often right, but also many people are at their best in person, and I can’t really buy into their textual personas so completely. This is, after all, the second time this has happened in five dates!