Guest Post: A Mumbai date with the Delhi Girl

You will remember the delightful special edition date I had in BombayIn casual conversation I’d asked him to write the date up for me, so I could find out what it was like going on a date with me. And he did. 

It was a lovely Tuesday morning and work was busy as ever. And, by busy I mean having to decide whether to log on to Twitter or Facebook first. Twitter won as usual.

I thought of checking out the 50 Dates in Delhi blog since I hadn’t done so in a while. I discovered it in an article in Mint about a month ago. I dismissed it because these blogs seem like attention grabs, so imagine my surprise when this one read so well. The writing was lucid and fun; she didn’t say excessively mean things about the men who agreed to be part of the experiment; all in all, she seemed like someone who was having fun on these dates.

While scrolling through her latest post, I saw something about her visiting Bombay.

This was my chance, I thought. I could get to be in a dating experiment and take one Delhi girl out for lunch/dinner/drinks. But what if Delhi Girl had already visited Bombay? What if she thought 25 year olds are just creepy noobs who like to hit on everything that moves? What is she’s never used the word ‘noob’? DEAR GOD, SHE COULD BE AN AGEIST!

I pulled myself together and decided to send out a test tweet to check if her trip was over already. Thankfully she was yet to visit the city. She told me to email her.

I got her mail address from the blog and officially asked her out. It was fairly straightforward, in the sense that I didn’t wax on about why I was such a nice guy or why our date would be the best thing in the world. I just said that I liked what I read about her on the blog and that I’d be a very happy guy if she agreed to come out. She instantly agreed to come out with me (:D) and we exchanged a few more emails.

Now when I read those mails after over a month, I can’t imagine why she agreed to say yes. Was this the perfect way to approach a woman? I don’t know. Could I have done better? Maybe. But it was very exciting for me that I was meeting with this woman who I had only read about till now.
After a little confusion regarding the venue for the date, we froze in on Saltwater Cafe at Bandra for lunch on Thursday. To be honest, I hadn’t been to this place before and the menu looked overpriced. But trustworthy sources had assured me that the place serves good food and has really good service. So I just went with it.

I was in Bandra for some work in the morning and I had just assumed that I’d be done early. But work had to be a pain in the you-know-what, extending beyond my budgeted time. Around 12:30, I figured I’d probably need to postpone our date by 30 minutes to finish everything that was pending so I could meet Delhi Girl with a free mind.

We exchanged a few texts and I decided that being on time was more important, even if it meant that I’d had to fend calls from the boss while on the date. There I was, at 1pm on the dot. A ten minute delay and about three calls later, she made it to the venue, even as I was trying hard to dial down my enthusiasm.

The first thing I notice is that she is wearing a green dress with a floral print and I realise that I am inexplicably observant of women’s clothing. She walks to the table and I greet her with a hug. It isn’t awkward or half hearted. A real hug, like we’d known each other for a while and had finally gotten a chance at meeting. I am glad about this.

As we settle down, the staff at Saltwater Cafe has already started placing the menu and prepping the table. She notices the bottomless Sangria offer and is quick to ask me if I’d like some too. Now I have always harboured a prominent distaste for sangria. It is just watered down wine with fruit thrown in. A fruit punch at best. But she’s so enthusiastic that, despite my reservations and a pending work day after the date, I agree to go for the bottomless glass.
I am glad to be proven wrong. I take the first sip from my sangria, and I am pleasantly surprised by how delicious it tastes. There is very little fruit and the alcohol is not just plain wine but a nice cocktail (with some vodka, I’m told. I can barely tell the difference.).

Better than the booze though is the conversation. I’m really enjoying talking to her. She discusses the blog, her family, her cat, her flatmate, her incredibly cheap Wi-Fi plan and bad attempts by younger men at asking her out. She is a conversationalist, I can tell. Maybe her line of work and the dates that she has already been on ensure that she’s easy to talk to.

In my recent experiences, the people I’ve been on dates with have been rather difficult to talk to. Maybe great on the phone, but increasingly boring when in person. But this date is fun. I am willingly sharing stories about what happened in college and with previous dates. She is highly amused by the number of women I’ve dated.

I noticed something unusual though. When I talk to her, she is completely cued. She just gets it. Not for a second does she miss a word I am saying. It’s a major turn on. She answers everything confidently and asks me questions to find out more. It makes me feel good about this date and makes me feel like this is someone I would like to go out with again.

The boss calls at least three times over the duration of our date, but I really do not want this to end. Unfortunately, she has somewhere else to be. So I do the sensible thing and drop her to her destination. In the meantime we’ve made a plan to meet in the evening again, even if it means that I have to crash her meeting with a friend.

The time in the evening is far more fun and intimate. Infused with rum and chicken and loud conversation. Loud conversation that is often interrupted by the staff at Janta because we’re disturbing the other patrons. Of course, we respond with even louder discussions about male genitalia and how hands work on them. Cigarettes are lit and some private moments are had.

This was followed by a peaceful 2:30 am-ish walk around the bylanes of Khar and a goodbye kiss that makes me feel things I haven’t felt in a while.

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Special Edition Oakland: Ghetto birds

IMG_20141210_093123 When I came to the Bay Area on this trip I was torn. Should I take a break from all that effort of trying to date, or should I use this opportunity to date a different kind of guy, one I couldn’t date in Delhi? I kept floating around OKC and Tinder just to see what happened, and the results were dismal. Despite having more than twenty over-95% matches on OKC, no one wrote to me or replied. Plus the Bay Area seems to be full of white hipster boys in poly relationships, drinking craft beer and keeping their bushy beards out of it. Not exactly my type ahem. And I assume I’m not their type, especially with my short stay.

But then there was this one guy on Tinder–he had no picture–but he had a clearly Spanish name, and that famous gut of mine was like READ MORE. His description was charmingly straightforward, so I wrote to him, and he responded with interest and engagement and we decided we’d go out. After much haggling about dates, we decided on a Tuesday night movie at the New Parkway Theater–a theatre with couches and wine!

The day comes around and I’m supposed to meet him at Paramount Theater in Oakland, since the bus from where I am goes there. But in a case of brilliant Google fuckup, I end up expecting the trip to take twice as long as it does and then of course overshoot and miss the spot. I ask the lady behind me when the stop is coming up and she says oh you missed it! I’m not too far though so she tells me to hop out at the next stop and get a bus back. I’m totally lost and I think I could probably walk back to it but I don’t know how. I hate not having data. I text him to tell him about the fuckup and he very sweetly asks where I am so he can come and pick me up. Five minutes later there he is in a car across the street.

I hop in; we hug hello and set off of the theatre. Once there we discover we’re going to be watching a documentary called 20,000 Days on Earth, which neither of us knows anything about, but hey, wine and couches. The movie turns out to be a very er masturbatory exercise by Nick Cave, and sadly seems to be one of those movies that’s only fun if you’re a fan instead of one that pulls you into being a fan. But we don’t mind, since then we can whisper to each other and not care about missing bits of the movie. Some time into the movie he puts his arm around me and I snuggle up on his shoulder, and we hold hands. It’s all very cute. And cosy. And comfy.

When the movie is done we shuffle out and decide to grab a drink. He wants to go to Plank in Jack London Square, and as we’re driving there we see helicopters circling and pass four police cars sirens blaring. ‘They’re headed to the protest in Berkeley I guess,’ he says. I’m very thrilled though because hello it’s like in the movies! The chopper has it’s searchlight on and is circling a particular spot. ‘You know, in Oakland they called helicopters ghetto birds,’ he tells me, which makes me chortle in glee. I love that term.

We get to Jack London Square and park and walk over to the bar. This takes us past a gorgeous Christmas tree, and I also realise we’re on the waterfront! So exciting. Yes I know, very lame desi girl in phoren happening, but hey I am desi girl in phoren. We get our stamps and go on into the bar, with me gloating about them accepting my driver’s license as ID, which I’d been warned they wouldn’t. It’s a crazy, loud gaming bar. There are videogames, a bowling alley, giant screens showing all sorts of sports channels, other throwing games outside (that I neither recognize nor remember), and an outside bar. I request sitting outside because there’s no way we’ll hear each other inside.

We hop onto bar stool and get a drink and launch into chat. He asks about my family and tells me about his. We discuss how my sister worries about me when I meet internet people, and she’s only three years older. He tells me he stopped hovering over his sister–seven years younger–a long time ago. I ask him about work and tell him about mine. I ask him if he’s seen the blog. ‘What blog?’ ‘Wait, I didn’t tell you about the project?!’ And then I do. He is very amused and then of course asks about my being single at my age in India. ‘Don’t your parents stress?’ ‘Well they do because I’m unhappy I don’t have something I want, but otherwise no. They just want they kiddies to have what they want and be happy. I have very unusual parents!’ He is very entertained when I explain the numbers logic I have and points out that I’m an analytical person.

He asks why I have the no sex on first date rule and I explain how many guys online in India just want to get laid, and while that’s fine by me, it doesn’t work for me until I connect with a person. And that connecting, while boosted nicely by having a common background, doesn’t need one. ‘Look at us. We grew up very differently, but we’re still able to talk and understand the other person’s differing opinion or perspective! That’s what I call having brain and knowing how to use it.’ He laughs. ‘But sometimes you’re just hooking up with someone and having fun and it becomes something bigger,’ he says. ‘Aren’t you cutting yourself off from that?’ I clarify that I’m not closed to that happening, but in all the time I’ve been dating it has never happened to me, and the one time it came close I was really messed up and I’d like to avoid that if possible!

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We’ve finished our drinks and he says come on let’s go for a walk. We wander out to the waterfront which is full of lights and boats and reflections. He tells me that the AT-AT Walkers in Star Wars are inspired by those very cranes we can see, and I tell him how I thought Star Wars was OK. He refrains from hissing in horror though and we go and stand by the rail so I can take pictures. We stand there talking, holding hands and being very cute. I notice the ghetto birds are out again, circling one particular spot. It’s now time to leave so we go back to the car and head out.

And then I get my movie moment. Not only are there several helicopters overhead, we constantly pass Highway Patrol and police cars, and at one point have to take a quick right turn away from an actual protest march. When we get to the freeway we’re stopped by about twenty cops in riot gear (!!!!)*. One of them starts screaming NO! NO! NO! NO! and I panic a little bit, but then I realise it’s for a guy who’s trying to drive around the police cars–that had their lights flashing–and get on the freeway anyway. (Desi? Hee.) It then takes us a really long time to actually find a way onto the freeway and then soon enough I’m home. I give him a quick goodbye hug and run into the house. I really hope I’ll see him again.

*I later discovered it was this.

Special Edition: One date in Bombay

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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!

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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.