Alankar was a journalist with a reputed Indian newspaper – The New Indian Express – and known to hob-nob with the best in showbiz. Now, you may suspect that I tried to get closer to her for her money or contacts but no, mine was pure love. And some lust. She was pretty and this explained my affection for her. That was all. This is the story of my first date and why she never answered my call again.
We had got talking and I was trying to persuade her to a date. With much difficulty, she agreed. The condition was, I was not to touch her, and try any ‘funny tricks’. These were the days before Facebook and Whatsapp, that is, every conversation was in-person. So when she said ‘funny’ tricks, I could see her expression and knew that she was serious.
We met at Spencers Mall at Anna Salai, Chennai. We spent time breaking the ice. Soon we were talking about our relationship. Well, at least I was.
Sometimes I got the impression she wanted to get over with this whole `Date` thing. But I was not going to give in. After all, she had agreed to this meeting after a persuasion that lasted nine months. You may think that I was patient with her but the truth is I never found another girl.
During our conversation, I told her how hard I worked and how all my colleagues loved me. And how I was likely to be promoted. I think she was pretty excited about this as she kept nodding her head, even as she stared at the people walking in and out of the various shops.
Finally, she asked, “Are we going for dinner?”
To be honest, it was my mistake. It was seven already. Maybe she was used to an early dinner.
We walked up to my Yamaha RX 100 which was parked outside. The happy young man in me gave away five rupees to the parking attendant. By the time I realized the financial folly, it was pretty late.
She started giving me indirect hints that she wanted to sit on my Yamaha but circumstances didn’t favor her. She said, “I don’t want to sit on your bike.”
Being a gentleman, I understood what she was going through. I mean, not all girls like to be spotted with the guy they intend to marry – before the marriage. But as the restaurant was at least 14 kilometers away, an autorickshaw was not a logical solution. I had already paid five rupees to the parking attendant as a tip and could ill-afford Rs 50 for the auto.
With a little bit of convincing, she was on my bike but she sat far behind on the seat. I was a bit disappointed for I was expecting her to hold me by my shoulder. The cool breeze from Marina Beach was hitting my back – the same back which was to feel her warmth. We had ridden less than 100 meters when my disappointment turned to ecstasy for I realized that she was just the right kind of girl I wanted to marry – she was cultural.
After half an hour of riding, we were at the restaurant.
Her first words at the restaurant were, “Eeeks! This place smells of chicken.” That’s when I realized I hadn’t asked her if she was a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian.
We choose a table next to the window so that she could occasionally stick her neck out for breathing. It was time to place our order. The gentlemen that waiters are, the man standing us asked her, “What would madam have for dinner.”
“Vegetable noodles,” pat came the reply. Then she turned towards me and quipped,”I just love noodles.” This got my testosterone flowing. If she loved noodles, I should love noodles too.
I just raised my two fingers and blurted out,”Make it two!” There was a smile of victory on my face as I watched the waiter go back with our order.
The plates arrived and we went for our forks. When I first saw the fork, I knew I had seen it somewhere before. One thought led to another and I finally landed on Lord Shiva. He holds a fork like trident (trishul, in Hindi). “Ah! So this is a fork!” I muttered to myself.
Blame it on my mother, who never cooked noodles or blame it on my father who never taught us to use forks but till now I had neither eaten noodles nor used a fork.
When I looked up from my plate, I noticed that she had already started. I stared at her for a few microseconds, for those elusive hints on how to eat noodles. She was fluent and went about the task at hand with a surgeon like precision. I was stranded. This was the first time in my life, I was having noodles and that too with a fork.
I tried. I tried again. I innovated. But nothing seemed to work. Girls being slow eaters, I could keep pace with her for a while. But as she warmed up my inability to pick up the noodles with a fork was exposed.
Twenty minutes later, she had cleaned up her plate. Mine was still half full. Being an optimist, that is how I saw it.
I was already feeling the pressure. Here I was sitting before a girl well-versed with the ways of the world – and of course, the use of fork and I was not even able to finish a plate of noodles.
Through the corner of my eye, I noticed, she was looking at me. After what seemed like ages, she said: “Why don’t you try your hand. It might be easy.”
I didn’t say a word. I put aside Shiva’s trident and started eating with my hand. She watched me eat all the way.
After the date was over, we got onto the bike again. The gap still remained. The breeze still hit my back. Only this time it was colder. We didn’t speak much on the way back.
We haven’t spoken since this dinner date – it has been 16 years since. I had called her a few times, but every time her friend picked up the phone and said Alankar had gone out to buy dinner. Once the friend also added, “I think tonight she is planning to have noodles.” This was followed by lots of girls giggling, which I found cute. So she still discusses me!