#21: Because, puppies. Puppies!

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(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.

Hello
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.

Because, puppies.

puppies

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.

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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.

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.

#19: Breaking some rules

There I was, mere days from departure, losing my mind because my house was chaos after the flatmate moved out, my first half catsitters backed out, I didn’t have room to pack or even find all the stuff I was taking to the US for my nieces, and of course six things went wrong at work. In the middle of all this I got an email from one of the most Bengali names ever. Really, that was my very first thought. Wow, that’s a Bengali name. So racist no? Heh. So this guy introduced himself and told me he’d ended up on Delhiwalla‘s site and found me and dived in. His email made me smile.

If you are restarting your project, it could be nice to meet up sometime and share stories. Since you mention Latin America as a passion, my only connection seems to be the fact that I support Brazil as a football team and know a bit about the Incas; so that’s out.

(Also notice the correctly used semi-colon. Be still my vibrating editor’s pencil.)

I wrote back and asked me many questions, to which he replied with great frankness and questions of his own (yay!) and we proceeded to email vigorously for a while. I told him he’d have to wait till January when I was back if we were going to go on a date, and I hoped it wouldn’t fizzle out by then. (Or, as seems to be the case with me, he wouldn’t go and meet some hummaze girl and want to date her. Not that I don’t wish that for people; it’s just happening with annoying regularity.) Our emails became shorter and shorter and he asked to switch to gtalk–this was actually the day I was leaving. We chatted through my crazy last day at work that I had originally planned to take off entirely, and when I left, 3 hours behind schedule, I gave him my number so we could whatsapp through my cab ride home.

Traffic turned out to be horrendous (some satsang. Gah.), so we were chatting away. At some point he asked me what time my flight was, and I told him. ‘Why’d you ask?’ ‘No reason,’ he said. ‘Oh I thought you’d be all let me drive you to the airport,’ I tossed at him cheekily. (This seems to have become what I say to everyone these days: ‘Please drive me to/pick me up from the airport.’ Clearly I’m tired of being strong independent woman.)

If u want
Why not?

My chin was on the floor of my taxi at this point, because I was just being sassy and never expected to be taken seriously. I told him it was sweet but too much, and he then said no, I’m a nice person, and you’re a lady going to the airport at 2am, I cannot let you take a taxi. I will come. But I don’t drive, so it’ll be errr a taxi.

I was very touched, and so I told him to come have dinner with me at home with my cousin and friend who were there to see me off and take over house and JP. This was a most unusual date anyway after all–I could break some rules. I got home and finished packing and whatnot, and my friend turned up, only to threaten to leave because I had date coming over. So I texted the date and asked him what he thought.

Does your friend drink whiskey?

Yes

Then it’s fine.

I expect him to turn up at ten (airport departure is at 1230), but he tells me he is leaving at about 730, and there he is at my door, bottle of whiskey in hand, at 830. He’s most youthful looking, has a bit of a tummy (signs he enjoys the good life) and is very nicely dressed. Shirt and loafers and all. Okay maybe they’re not loafers, but I mean not-floaters-or-sneakers. After introductions are over we pull out glasses and set to.

He’s expansive and interesting–and interested, but it’s a threeway conversation, and he makes sure to engage with my friend too. We talk about his friend’s dog that he loves and I call utterly spoilt, while JP refuses to even sniff his shoes (which is unusual, since there are few things JP loves more than leather shoes). It turns out he has also worked on the project my friend is working on, so they talk shop. We swap stories of people and places; I ask about dinner and he says he ate lunch very late so he’s ok. He’s been watching a friend in hospital for a couple of days, so I ask after the friend, who is better and bouncing about, much to the horror of his caregivers.

My cousin shows up, with another friend, who joins us while the cousin goes off to prepare for class the next day. We sit around; they are drinking the whiskey rapidly and I’m being good and taking it ridiculously slow because hello plane. Time saunters past us in a haze of chill, smoke and laughter. It’s my cousin’s birthday, so at midnight we pounce on her and there is some tuneless singing and standing around sheepishly. And then it is time to go. I change and gather my stuff; they say their gooodbyes; my friend helps us schlepp my suitcases downstairs and he calls his driver.

And there we are, at the alone part of this most unusual date. I am literally falling asleep because it is three hours past my bedtime, and I’ve been up since 530am. So I put my head on his shoulder, he puts his arm around me and holds my hand, and we talk nonsense for the forty minutes it takes to get there. (Yes forty, because Mahipalpur has a jam. Of course it does. Eyeroll. But this tim I’m glad.) I tell him how sweet he is to do this and he brushes me off with an ‘I’m a good person; I keep telling you!’

And then we’re there, and I’m running off to get a trolley and he’s unloading the suitcases and piling them up for me, and I hug him goodbye and kiss his cheek and tell him I’ll see him again when I’m back. ‘Of course you will,’ he says. ‘Text me when you’re through security.’

Adulthood

The age limits I put on dating are often challenged, usually by said younger people. ‘Maturity is in the mind’ ‘Age is just a number’ etc. Now, I don’t disagree with any of this, but I have found that most people I know who are 30 and younger do not qualify as adults according to me.* Notice the qualifier most! Now these definitions vary based on your relationship–as in I expect the maturity to present itself a certain way when I’m sharing a house with someone, a certain way in the workplace, a certain way on a date. However, maturity in one place can usually be expected to translate into maturity across the board. But I’m getting carried away heh.

So this morning, I saw this on the Art of Manliness (Read the article. It’s amaze!):

Atop any list of the criteria for adulthood must surely sit personal responsibility. This means owning up to one’s mistakes, and carrying out the things one has promised to do, even when – especially when – such tasks are unpleasant.

Also central to maturity is embracing the role of creator, rather than simply being a consumer. Adults contribute to the world around them, rather than passively sampling the fruits of others’ labor. Adults build things; children (of any age) use these works, or, even further removed, simply become “fans” of them.

The ability to delay gratification is another marker of maturity. Children are inherently present-minded, and want what they want, when they want it. As we grow up, we must learn how to sacrifice a smaller reward now in the service of a greater good down the line. Adults have the ability to plan for the future and set long-range goals.

Related to this trait is self-control. Children act on impulse. Adults decide how to react, rather than being the slave of circumstances. They are masters of themselves.

Critical thinking skills also assuredly bear mentioning. Children are easily duped, prone to misunderstand things that are over their heads, and prefer information in simple, black-and-white narratives. Adults are able to parse information, evaluate the evidence for truth claims, ascertain the validity of sources, make connections between ideas, and grapple with complexity.

A good degree of self-reliance is requisite to adulthood as well. We are born helpless, and thus learning to help oneself has long been a sign of transcending one’s infantile state. None of us are an island, of course, but being largely dependent on others runs counter to the kind of autonomy necessary for maturity.

Finally, independence makes possible another quality of adulthood – having dependents. This category doesn’t just include one’s own kids; any leader – be it in the military, in business, in school, and so on – has those who depend on him for guidance, for direction, for mentoring. To be grown up is to have responsibilities not only to oneself, but to others as well.

I think this is the best definition of adulthood I’ve ever seen. And it translates well into the three spheres I mentioned up there. For the sake of fidelity to the theme I’m just going to go with dating heh.

So personal responsibility: owning up to mistakes and carrying out what one has promised. This might be the least adhered to part of adulthood in dating. Everyone thinks it’s completely OK to behave badly and then be belligerent when called on it, and refuse to apologise, or to only acknowledge behaviour when forced to. And god forbid you should commit to a plan and then carry it out! #8 is shining example here, though several to most of the guys I have engaged with in a dating-ish space in the past three years have been the same way. ‘I don’t make plans’ they say as if it’s a thing to be admired. Eyeroll. Of course age has nothing to do with this particular one, because #6, who showered me with attention and made grand statements about dating a man not a boy, rarely ever actually articulated a plan and then never followed through with it, even if all it was was a phone call. He finally apologised for his behaviour, after of course telling me I didn’t understand how hard his life is, when I told him the least he could do was apologise.

Embracing the role of creator not consumer ties into two of my favourite whines: picking places to go and asking questions. It’s funny how people think they’re helping when they say ‘oh anything goes’ when really all one needs is a suggestion, a cuisine, a neighbourhood, a price range, a noise level–something!! But nope that is too much to ask. While I do love it when a guy takes charge and plans a date, obviously I like to plan dates too, so I’m not saying take over my life. But make some effort yeah? Ask some questions, make some suggestions. Younger guys tend to ask me tons of things about my sexual self, which is boring and also clearly reveals their motives.

Delayed gratification and self-control: Do not send me seventeen messages because I haven’t responded in five minutes. Seriously. Even if you really want to talk to me, remember sabr ka phal meetha hai!

Critical thinking is harder to pin down to date specific scenarios, but it definitely plays a part when you say something and I challenge you and you refuse to stop and think about it. You don’t have to agree with me, but you have to have considered what I said–you can’t dismiss it just because #Kejriwalforeva! or some such thing. There was this one chap from JNU who metaphorically turned horrified eyes upon me (we were on chat) and said in a voice of extreme loathing, ‘Don’t tell me you’re apolitical!!??’ I swear I heard a hiss before apolitical. This was because I told him I am uncomfortable with a rigid political position and I don’t like to clash with people over ‘politics’. I also told him JNU people make me uncomfortable because JNU tends to refuse to look at itself critically, and his response? ‘You tell me one point where it should be critical.’ Clearly this was not someone willing to have a conversation about anything he believed in–somewhat like talking to a devout believer in whatever religion.Critical thinking also serves as an indicator of the presence of adulthood, thereby raising the likelihood that the other things are there too. 

Self-reliance and independence I think again play less of a direct role, but more of an indicating role–if I know you can cook and look after your house I’m reassured that you will likely also display personal responsibility. Also, if you are aware of the effect you can have on other people, through your actions and words, then you will be cautious with their use, and acknowledge your responsibilities to other people, even when they are strangers. So you will not drink and drive if it makes me uncomfortable, for example.

I accept that maturity is not tied to age–maybe it’s just that as we grow older we are more willing to spend time and effort on things like clean houses or sleep, because we have to have boss to dinner, or need to be rested for work. But there seems to be among the men I have met a sort of fetishized rejection of adult behaviour: If I drink I must get wasted; god ya who will keep food in the fridge; of course I stay up till 3 every night and need seven alarms to wake up and am always late for work. Why should I return calls? How can I possibly commit to a plan four days in the future? What if something better shows up? And sadly, the younger you are, the less likely you are to have been forced by circumstance to don the appearance at least of adulthood.

*OK OK, most people period. Though I think women over tend to be slightly better than men. But I have met 23 year old guys who impress me with their maturity too. Still they are an exception, not a rule. When there is the doubly whammy of boy+young the odds become infinitesimal that the person is capable of being an adult.

#16 Redux

Okay, so here we go again. No photo but haan!

#16 was a guy who often showed up on OKC. I don’t know why I never wrote to him because we had a high match percentage–maybe his English felt iffy? We all know I’m a snob. Anyway, one day a message popped up from him. (I appear to have deleted out messages in an OKC cleanup frenzy. Soz yo.) He told me where he’s from–a country that fascinates me, so of course I perked up. We switched quickly to gtalk and then to Whatsapp, and he asked me if I was free on Friday. I couldn’t confirm and told him so, and by the time I could he’d made other plans. Boo. So when Saturday opened up, I texted him and he replied favourably, I was very pleased. And then he made it better by saying let’s meet at Moet’s. Imagine! A decisive guy! Willing to take responsibility for entertainment choices! *swoon*

I get there on Saturday, cray early because I was expecting traffic and there was none, and find that he is also early. Yay. After some confusion I find him at a table and we sit down. He asks if, since we both drink a lot, I’d like a bottle. I shudder a no because well I have to drive and also I am trying to not drink. (HAH.) So I get some BP and he gets a Bloody Mary and we settle down to talk. The first thing we discuss is how bad Indian whiskey is. I cannot argue! (I think I have finally reached the age where Imperial Blue doesn’t do it for me anymore. Eep!) He tells me that in his country, they drink whiskey with Red Bull, something I’ve never heard of. I tell him that here they drink Red Bull with Vodka and whiskey with coke.

Polite conversation out of the way I leap into an ‘interrogation’: How long has he been here? What does he do? Is it hard for him now his living situation has changed? We talk about maids and professionalism. He tells me how he once walked over to a girl in a nightclub who was giving him come hither looks and then was pounced on by some Daali bwoyz. Since he’s black this does not surprise me, but since he’s also very large, they backed off quickly when he backed off.

We have a long and involved discussion about the history and politics of his country. He is impressed and amused by the details I know. I ask if he dances. It turns out he signed up for salsa classes the same place I used to go! But then he never made it to many classes so he gave up.The conversation meanders on. What’s it like being expat. He tells me how he loves Thailand, and I tell him how I’m much more interested in west than east, which is sad because it’s so much cheaper to go east! He tells me a story about how when he’d first arrived in Delhi, he tried to take an auto from Def Col Market to somewhere in the colony and the driver said it would be 1000 rupees, but for him 200. He’s lived in Egypt though and he knows when he’s being conned, so he declined and walked home.

We order pizza and laugh because we want the same thing: a margherita. There are few things yummier than a well-made margherita and Moets does one. He tells me how most of his friends have left Delhi now and he’s stuck here finishing this course. He wants to finish by the end of the year.

We talk about dating and social norms, and he tells me that if I’d changed plans one more time he’d have shut the door. You have to value yourself he says. ‘Never call a guy. Not ever. Let him call you. You’re giving him all the power.’ My jaw drops here and I say, ‘Don’t tell me you’re one those PUA guys.’ ‘I’ve read the The Game,’ he says, ‘though at first I was like “Whaaaaaat? Why do you need a book to tell you how to get girls??” but then I read it and it’s quite interesting. I never have to use those methods though.’ I splutter a bit and talk about how misogynistic PUA culture is and how all these rules and things are so fucked up, because why should you spend time and effort pretending you feel the opposite of what you actually feel and then complain that the other person doesn’t get how you feel? We argue about this for a while. He tells me that if a girl calls him that means she’s needy and he runs away. He will never call a girl for 3 days after a date. I start laughing and tell him I promise never to call or message him first, and he doesn’t have much of a future with me because if I don’t hear from someone for three days every time we see each other I’ll get bored.

In the interests of harmony, I change the subject and we talk a length about his country, his family, my family and my country. He’s very hung up on an idea of what is ‘Western’ and how India isn’t. He seems to think all things Western are best. Again, I challenge him. Poor guy–I don’t think he’s ever been on a date when he’s been argued with so much! To give him full credit though, despite his highly chauvinistic attitude to dating he takes all my criticism well. He also gives me a brilliant idea for a work project.

Moet’s is actually closing so they send us off. He walks me to my car. I stand on tiptoe to hug him and he kisses my cheek. As I get into the car I tell him to text me when he gets home because I worry for foreigners in my country. He laughs and strokes me cheek. ‘You’re cute.’ ‘Of course I am,’ I toss back before hopping in and zipping off.

(PS: He does text me the next morning. And tells me I am part of a very select group of women who hear from him the next day. I laugh for ten minutes.)