Date No. 1
It is said that when you ask the Universe for something, you generally get it. But you’ve got to be careful about the details, because most of the time, it can just belt out any old trash. So even though my heart said, ‘give men a shot’, most of the men that came my way made me think, ‘just shoot him!’
For example, there was this banquet manager at a posh hotel whom I used to meet quite often, since most of our international conferences were held there. He would discuss the arrangements of food, beverage, layout of chairs and stage with me. Not once did he try to ask me to have lunch with him. Then just as I told the Universe, I was ready, he asked me out to lunch. We were going through the layout when he casually dropped it, ‘Do you want to continue this over lunch?’ And I said, ‘Okay,’ even more casually. But honestly, I was quite excited! I noticed him a little better. Brown eyes, rugged jawline, tall, bespectacled, bony fingers and a very impish smile. All in all—a cute package! I could see myself liking him. We had in fact shared a lot of conferences together and we knew what we both thought about the flower arrangement and menus. See, I needed to feel that I had something in common with a guy. Otherwise I could never go out with him. I had to believe that somewhere we connected, even if it was over something small.
So we went to the coffee shop where we sat and had a lovely lunch and went through the plans for the conference. After that he asked me out for a drink, but I said I would be too busy with work over the next couple of days. Then I hinted that I was always free for breakfast. He caught on and asked what time would I be here in the mornings. I said eight because the conference would start by 10. So he said he would see me the next day for breakfast at eight. I believed that my romance had begun. Before I could call Aditi and tell her she need not bother about finding a man for me, I figured that I should go on at least one date first.
When I reached the lobby the next day, he was nowhere to be found. So I
called him up in his room.
‘Hello,’ he spoke in a sleepy voice. I could make out that he had not woken up.
‘Hi. Did I wake you up?’ I asked tentatively, not knowing what to say.
‘Ya. I’m so sorry. Let’s catch up tomorrow okay?’
‘Okay,’ I said a bit disappointed and hung up. If he had really been interested, he
would have been here. I didn’t want to be a Betty in someone’s life. I wanted
to be a Veronica. So I went off grumpily to the conference room and just as I
got into the lift, I saw him. He was there holding a daisy.
‘A rose is too corny,’ he said as he gave me the flower. I smiled and walked
with him to an empty banquet room where a single table had been set for us.
We sat down and then the most unexpected romantic surprise awaited me. A host of bearers entered with every form of food that was available for breakfast and dessert from all the restaurants. It was absolutely lovely and I gorged out. My dietician would have killed me but she would have understood that it was for gaining the love of a man!
I looked at him and told him, ‘You know I’m most happy when I’m fully fed.’
‘Most people are,’ he said sipping coffee. His eyes were dreamy. I felt we could have a real connection. But there I went again thinking long term when the focus was to keep it to the ‘current mission’.
‘And this coffee is absolutely delicious!’ I said holding up my empty cup while a bearer came and refilled it. ‘I’m so used to making rubbish, packet coffee that this decoction is heavenly.’ He nodded and poured me some more, lightly resting his hand on mine.
‘You smell great,’ he whispered. I felt all shy. Wasn’t this too forward for a first
date? And that too in front of so many people? But I didn’t stop him so I looked back and smiled my most charming smile and lightly kept my hand over his, resting on the table. I hadn’t had romance in years. I needed this. But instead of going with the flow of the moment, I went the other way and made a complete blunder in changing the topic. In my defence, I wanted to get to know him better.
‘So you’ve done hotel management?’
‘And where did you go to college?’ I inquired.
Then the bomb dropped.
‘Oh I didn’t. I went straight for hotel management after my 12th standard.’
‘Oh,’ I said a bit disappointed. I shifted back my hand and body. I suppose it was too harsh a gesture from a moment ago. He picked up on it.
He tried to cover up, ‘Well, I think higher education in this country is a joke.
We spend three years learning a subject we’ll never use like history or English
and then another two years doing an MBA or some other post graduate degree.
But after all that education, we’re still unsure if we’ll get a job. You know what I mean?’
I did know what he meant. That was a reason for not studying. But I came from a
family who believed that knowledge was power. And I studied for fun. How could I possibly be with a man who had just passed his 12th grade and not even done a BA? What could I have possibly talked about after a few more meetings! He was definitely not my Great Love nor good enough for a first date.
It ended then and there.
I got back into the conference and over the next few days I didn’t reply to any of his SMSes, even though it killed me to correct his spellings. They’re means they are not there are!
Date No. 2
My ‘close friend’ Aditi who knew me so well fixed the next date. I say
this sarcastically because it was a complete disaster. Her co-assistant director had been single for a long time. I could figure out the reason as soon as I saw him. But she had taken pity on him and me and fixed us up. He came to pick me up an hour late because he had got caught in a traffic jam from Andheri to Bandra, which was most likely, but shouldn’t he have at least figured that out? That he could not have, struck me later when we began to chat. He revealed that he rarely moved out of Planet Lokhandwala! All the shooting was done outdoors or in Film City or Filmistan, which was further away from Andheri, in the opposite direction of Bandra, and all the recording, editing and dubbing studios were in Andheri anyway. So why should he ever move the other way, he asked me defiantly? Because there is life outside your little bubble! I wanted to scream.
Anyway, Raj Malhotra (ya even his name was ‘filmy’) picked me up and I noticed that he was only five feet four inches tall and he wore glasses, which were designer trash. But the most prominent trademark was the overpowering scent or rather stink of his perfume that reached me before the lift did to my floor!
‘You did say you wanted him to smell nice,’ Aditi would remind me later and I would reply, ‘Ya but not as if he has walked through the ground floor of Lifestyle mall with everyone giving him a free sample!’
‘Opium,’ he said very confidently half way through our meal when I asked him
what the smell was.
‘It’s really pungent,’ I tried to cough. He shrugged it off and went back to
chomping down his noodles. We had gone for Chinese food and he had ordered
the regular three of his favourite dishes—hakka noodles, chilli chicken and
shredded lamb in hot garlic sauce and then turned to me and asked, ‘Do you
want anything else?’
So I had said, ‘Yah. Mughlai, but thanks for asking!’ He guffawed loudly but I knew he hadn’t got it. I just ordered a soup and let the food be his decision.
When we started talking, the conversation never went beyond him and his
‘You haven’t seen the new “Don”?’ he asked incredulously.
‘No. I haven’t even seen the old one.’ He almost choked on his noodles, which might have been a good thing, but he washed it down with his second glass of ice tea.
‘Okay. What about Karan Johar’s films? Kkho, kank, k3g?’ He used the acronyms as if I would understand what the full forms would be.
‘Are these sci-fi thrillers?’ I asked.
He almost fell off the table. I had heard about them vaguely and I had seen each of them in parts on cable during a boring night alone. But I didn’t remember the full forms or recollect too clearly since all Hindi films seemed the same to me. I had never eagerly awaited a film, to watch it first day of the weekend or what he called, ‘first day, first show’. No I had not done that for Bollywood films. So I told him.
‘Which planet do you live on?’ he asked.
Okay, so I knew I was a freak living in the supposed oasis of Hindi cinema, but honestly, I had never got a chance to love Bollywood with so much passion because most of my life I had been abroad and had grown up on World Cinema. So I would watch films to deconstruct them rather than enjoy them and I could never enjoy the songs that came in vital places of the plot progressing in Hindi films. I was more of a Breakfast at Tiffany’s kind of gal rather than a Break ke Baad one.
‘Well I know the different aspects of the evolution of women in Hindi films,’ I spoke in my defence. ‘I had even done a paper on it for fun, for an online univ course I’d joined. I’ve also been on every set with Aditi, so I know all about film making, not to mention the types of cameras, lenses and Foley sound. So ya, I know films!’ I said gleefully hoping to find some connection with this man.
‘And yet, you don’t go watch films?’ he asked incredulously with noodles stuck between his front teeth.
‘No, not really. I have sometimes…and I watch a lot of it on TV since all the
channels play it within six months of release. I think it’s a waste of time and money to go to watch it in a multiplex where you end up blowing 500 bucks or more every weekend on tickets, popcorn, coke and post movie dinner. It’s all a big gimmick that I’m not buying!’
He then went on to name some twenty more films of the last few years, still hoping I had seen at least some of them. Didn’t I just get through to him? Did my words fall on deaf ears?
So asked him about world cinema. I named a few directors from across the
globe that were famous and had won awards for their films. Raj knew of none.
I suppose since all these films were in black and white, he had never seen any. He claimed that he didn’t get it at his local DVD store and in any case if he couldn’t adapt it to a Hindi film, it was no use watching it.
I decided then that I would have to stop Aditi from fixing me up if this
was the priceless piece she was dishing out.
But the climax of the night was when I said I would take an auto back home
and he said, ‘Okay! But can I call you sometime?’
The date could not have gone worse. And yet the man wanted to meet again?
Why is it that men feel the need to keep pursuing in the hope that a woman might start
liking them? Here’s a hint, if she didn’t ask you to call her, she hopes you
Date Number 3: Read the book! :)