Sunday, January 31, 2010


My brunch date lives outside the City. He offered to pick me up, but I wasn't comfortable giving out my address or accepting a ride from a stranger.

I arrive first to the café. I’m wearing slim fitting black pants and a black and white printed Ann Taylor wrap shirt. My pumps with a ribbon across the vamp are A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E, yet devilish instruments of pain. Good thing I will be seated soon.

When I hear my name, I turn, look at my date and consider saying, “I’m sorry, my name is Juanita Florez.” Most probably, I could get over my date’s average looks and plumpness. I could even help him update his current wardrobe of tennis shoes, blue and white checked shirt, navy pleated pants and red wind breaker (much like Rosario’s Members Only jacket from Will and Grace). I realize I didn’t request a photo (I don’t know what I was thinking), but I can’t deal with his mustache, which is one part Hitler (short and clipped) and another part Tom Selleck (bushy). I don’t even KNOW how one goes about sculpting facial hair into that shape.

The host takes one look at us, and even he thinks we’re mismatched. But it is too late to run away, and I doubt I'd get very far in these shoes. Once seated, we order Diet Cokes. Mr. Mustachio tells me he is diabetic and then orders tableside guacamole.

He talks about his interests, job and family. We have nothing in common, so I drown out the sound of his voice by crunching on chips, the only saving grace of the date thus far. I am on my third maybe fourth chip when Mr. Mustachio says, “You should stop eating those.” “Why?” I ask. “You have to save room for lunch!” he says excitedly. Another hour of this? I think about saying the guacamole is too spicy and upsetting my stomach. But it's not his fault. Had I asked for a photo, we wouldn't be sitting here and I should just be gracious.

After lunch he wants to walk around the Upper West Side flea market, which is fine, it’s on the way to the subway. I should be able to hobble my way there. When Central Park comes into view he says, “I was thinking we could walk through the park.” And just like that, my salvation comes! “Actually I was going to hop on the train, I don’t think I can walk much further in these shoes,” I reply.

He nods. I shake his hand, hoping he understands the subtext and wince my way down the subway stairs. I have never been so joyously happy to impair my own ability to walk!

Saturday, January 30, 2010


My mother has unbelievable culinary skills. When she cooks, my friends drive from all corners of the Twin Cities for chicken curry, naan, and saag paneer. On a few occasions the spice level has set some of my girlfriends on fire. But when it comes to her samosas (ask anyone who has had them), you’d almost engage in criminal activity to enjoy these pastries stuffed with spiced peas and potatoes then deep-fried into deliciousness.

My brother and I have often thought to submit her recipe to the Minnesota State Fair and get a food stand. Against the backdrop of livestock competitions and the promise of the world’s largest soybean, we could make a fortune selling samosas dipped in mint chutney on a stick.

Lucky for me (and my impending husband), I have inherited some of my mother’s talent. However, my unnatural fear of pressure cookers limits my complete mastery. And because Indian food takes time to prepare I don’t cook often. This is why, despite being a bit of a foodie, I love the $2 cheese slices found in Manhattan pizza joints. I averaged a slice a week until I imposed a pizza moratorium.

I used to frequent Prestige Pizza owned by an uncle. Not my actual uncle, but an Indian man my parents’ age. One day as my slice heated up, Prestige Uncle asked, “Are you married.” I shook my head, did he see a ring on my finger. “Do you want to be?” he asked. I had never considered the option of not getting married. And thinking myself funny I replied, “Well my mother wishes I was!” Prestige Uncle in his tomato sauce stained wife beater with a gold chain nestled in a tuft of chest hair asked, “We should go out sometime.” CRAP! I had to think, think, THINK, how to get out of this? “Where would we go?” I asked, the question surprised him more than me. “Do you like the New York Jankees?” Not Yankees, but Jankees, he asked in his accent. “I’m not into baseball,” I replied, grabbed my slice and left before he suggested a Rangers game.

I’d rather take my chances with the pressure cooker.

Friday, January 29, 2010


At 7:30 am I get into the elevator with my laundry. I push the button for the basement but shoot up to the sixth floor. When the elevator opens a woman in her 50s with short, cropped grey hair and three LARGE dogs enter. The dogs shake and shift, taking over the small space. The overpowering smell of fur fills my nose and ever so slowly I inch away.

Now might be a good time to mention I’m not a pet person. We didn’t have dogs, cats or hamsters growing up. Well, once we had gold fish named Bo and Luke, after the Dukes of Hazard. But they died when my brother and I decided to make them smell nice by adding Old Spice to the fish bowl. In retrospect, it was a cruel death, but we were 5 and 8 years old and obviously stupid.

I think the reason my family doesn’t have pets or an affinity for them is because of my parents’ upbringing. Due to the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan, both of my grandfathers moved their families to Mori Gate in Delhi. From my parents’ stories Mori Gate sounds like the Lower East Side Tenements: entire families living in poorly ventilated two-room apartments and shared bathrooms. At nine years old my father joined his elder brothers and began working to support the family. So pets were an inconceivable luxury and that perception migrated with my parents.

And in Manhattan, where life is harried and lonely, I understand having a furry bundle of dog who loves you unconditionally. Every now and then, I think, (if not for the doggie doo-doo) it would be fun to have an eight-pound pooch I name Killer, dressed in designer sweaters and toted around town in my pink purse.

Back in the elevator the dogs and the Crazy Lady stare at me with flat eyes. I find them unsettling and press my back against the wall, positioning a 100-ounce bottle of Tide and life-sized laundry bag as a shield. “You don’t like dogs do you?” she asks with a taunt in her tone.

I should have pretended I don’t understand English. I should have wondered how she and three dogs live in 500 square feet. I should NOT have said, “No, they’re fine.” Because that is how I became her friend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


You Taste Like Chicken is my next date --- a good-looking financier in his late 30s from Bangalore.

He enters the French-fusion Midtown eatery attired in jeans, while I am overdressed in a brown sweater with gold beading and dress pants. We grab a table, order drinks and begin chatting. His bald head is very nicely shaped, which leads me to wonder if he is hairless by choice or if he has performed the Hindu ritual head shave to mark his father’s passing. I don’t ask. And in either event, the look suits him.

I flag down the waitress and order an appetizer. He orders nothing and I wonder if he’s not hungry or cheap. My guy friends have told me they resent paying for dinner. But I feel if a man invites you out at 7:00 pm on a Friday night (like You Taste Like Chicken has) then it is required by dating laws and social graces that the man pay! By the way, I didn’t show up in a bathrobe. And I have ten times the hair than he does so I know I primped AT LEAST twice as long AND held court with THREE of my best friends debating my clothes, handbag and shoes. I did all this because I want him to like me. So I think his willingness to buy a drink or two expresses his return interest. Yes, there are no guarantees, but shouldn’t you go into the night believing this might be “the one”?

I am so ravenous when the waitress returns with my snack that I forget he is there until he reaches for the nape of my neck to kiss me on the lips. When we draw apart, he says, “You taste like chicken.” Really? I’m sure it’s true, but what an un-sexy thing so say. Can’t he lie and say my hair smells pretty?

At the end of the date he indeed pays. However, when I reach for my coat, he says, “Wanna come back to my place?” I am pretty sure he is not inviting me over to help balance his checkbook. But a glass of wine and four chicken strips doesn’t entitle him to sex, and so I decline the offer.

I knew dating in the City, where the rate of STDs is close to 30%, was a competitive sport. But foolishly I thought Indian men were exempt. That they were gentlemen like my father and brother. That they adhered to our Hindu teachings, believing women are lakshmi, the wealth of a household. That the gods look favorably upon men who respect and revere women.

And I guess, if I am looking for a gentleman to respect me, then the groom hunt must continue.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I met Meera in college, when we used to lounge in front of Olin Library, pretending to study. In fact there are eight of us who, despite having busy lives, still keep in touch.

Meera and I were not close as undergrads. But I admired her smarts and out-going nature. After college, both Meera and I were peripheral members of our group. So when I moved to New York, I sought her out through the grapevine and we agreed to have dinner near her Upper West Side apartment.

While I had mastered the subways, there wasn’t much I could do about train delays and get stuck at 125th Street. When I reach Central Park West I race to Amsterdam Avenue, wishing I had Meera’s number to let her know I was en route.

Just as the awning of the Thai restaurant comes into view, my phone rings. “Meera!” I say, “I’m seconds away. “ “Sounds good, I’m at the bar next door.” When I see her, she is still pretty and slim, with beautiful skin tone, warm brown eyes, and a photogenic smile that could light up Times Square. We do the standard hug-squeal and sit down to catch up.

She married Rohit two years ago and moved to the City. Even though Meera and Rohit are from the same town, they re-met online. She works as a doctor in New Jersey and finds making friends hard. I ask how she enjoys her job and she says, “I love it.” This is the Meera I remember --- a self-assured student of life.

“What about you?” Meera asks. “Love life?” I groan and reply, “Deplorable. I’m a serial FOB dater.” (Remember in Post 17 I talked about Indian-born Indians calling us ABCDs? Well, ABCDs refer to Indian-born-Indians as “Fresh Off the Boat”). Meera laughs at the FOB comment and I continue. “I am not joking! If there’s a FOB within 50 miles, he will find me, I will date him and he will dump me.” She nods sympathetically, “I’ve been there. It’s why I checked out after college, to focus on myself.”

All these years later Meera is still determined. On one hand this makes her intense and rigid. Yet, she embraces her limitations and seeks balance. I appreciate this quality about her. I sip my wine and sigh, “Meera, I made bad choices and need to get back on track.”

She nods. “Good, then only look forward. When I decided to meet the man of my dreams, not just get married, I set a very serious plan into place. I can help, if you like.”

Yes, I like.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


From his photo, Mute is a standard desi man --- tan skin, average height, brown eyes. At 43, he is an Indian-born engineer who has lived in the US for 20 years. He describes himself as, “an intellect, curious about the world with a penchant for language.” He sounds engaging and I accept his invitation to meet.

Because I am one of few Indians who can tell time, I arrive early at a café Zagat rated as “to-die-for”. The bistro is chic with warm yellow walls, skylights and square tables with white linen. Yuppies from all corners of Manhattan converge, wearing premium denim and black turtlenecks, carrying oversized bags stuffed with urban survival gear --- books, Ipods, Evian, running shoes.

Mute arrives a few minutes later, sipping coffee and wearing a black pea-coat and beret. “Hello,” he says. “So the wait looks long. Should we try another place?” I agree and he leads me in and out of vigilante Midtown traffic. It requires our complete concentration to stay alive so we don’t speak until we sit down and order.

To my dismay the new restaurant is no longer serving breakfast. Like a disco-dancing, LSD addict at a key-party, I am jonesing for bacon and order a BLT, fries and a Diet Coke. He does the same and removes his beret. Dear God, his hair is in that stage before bad comb-over, scraggly like tufts of dying weeds in some places and completely missing in others. Now I would never hold hair loss against anyone. But I don’t understand why he doesn’t wear it short. It’s like skinny jeans, just because they are in fashion doesn’t mean everyone should wear them.

More troublesome than his hair is the silence. In an effort to engage him, I ask who he plans to root for in the upcoming Super Bowl. “I’m not into football,” he replies. What? Then again he is from India and perhaps he enjoys 4:00 am cricket matches between India and Pakistan. I move onto politics. Nothing. Darfur? Nothing. Hollywood? Nothing. Weather? Nothing. The man has LESS THAN NOTHING to say.

Hhmmm. Last week I read a book called “Planet India” unsurprisingly, about India. I scour my memory banks and ask, “What do you think about the opposition Lakshmi Mittal faces in his bid to acquire European steel companies?” Mittal is one of the richest Indian men in the world, yet Mute says nothing. “Do you think Aishwarya Rai, can break into Hollywood?” Rai rules Bollywood and is one of the most beautiful women in the world, again, Mute says nothing. “Don’t you think Prime Minister Singh is doing great things for India?” Finally, finally, finally Mute says, “Wow you know a lot.” The fact that an Indian man from India cannot dialogue about India, motivates me to stop talking, eat fast and leave.

Does anyone else find it ironic that my “penchant for language” desi date was a full-blown mute?

Monday, January 25, 2010


On Saturday I have my first REAL date as a New Yorker!!!

Accordingly, I must get my nails done. Actually, I am a little obsessed with perfectly shaped and polished fingernails. So much so, I am willing to cut back on eating, drinking and shopping to ensure regular manicures. I am guessing it will take the threat of life in a cardboard box under the GWB (George Washington Bridge) to suspend the manicures. Until then, long live the nail salons!

Interestingly enough, in a town where an apartment costs $1.4 million, a manicure can cost as little as $8. It takes a few calls for the planets to align, but eventually I find a salon on the Upper West Side.

Now, if you have Indian friends you know our names can be difficult to correctly pronounce: Aishawarya, Bhupinder, Chaaya. And these, like mine, are not fun to disclose over the phone either. Which I am guessing, is the reason the salon receptionist responds in silence every time I repeat the spelling of my name. When she finally speaks, her reply does not at all resemble my name.

Gently I say no, and very slowly, again spell my name, wondering if our accents are colliding -- a Hindu Valley Girl and a Korean immigrant. She apologizes and re-slaughters my name. This time in a whole new way. Seriously? In the mean time she SIGHS, like she’s annoyed? Really?

A similar situation arose this morning at Starbucks when I ordered my skinny latte. They asked me for my name and I supplied it. Then they looked at me as though I made it up. Trust me, I grew up in Minnesota, if I was going to MAKE UP name, I’d pick Amy, Kate, Lisa. Hell, I’d pick Apple or Moondust, before I picked something Indian!

Fearing this conversation could go on all day; I relent and tell receptionist my name is Sophie. It is the first non-Indian name that pops into my head. Again I hear the receptionist sigh, this time in relief. With joy she says, “Great, Sophie. We’ll see you tomorrow at 6:00 pm.”

I guess you make concessions to advance your agenda.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


While I wait for my husband to contact me via the matrimonial Web site I am learning you can have anything and everything delivered in New York City. I no longer have a dependence on sprawling strip malls in suburban St. Paul! Hooray!

Currently I wait for the delivery man to bring shrimp lo mein. Yesterday the sushi place brought chicken udon noodle soup in less than 30 minutes. That is faster than Dominos!

The bodegas and grocers at 187th Street deliver. As do the dry cleaners, who will drop off your pressed clothes and pick up your dirty laundry and wash it at $1 / pound! If I buy more than 5 bottles of wine, the local vintner will give me a 10% discount AND deliver.

While I have seen everything from lamps, drums, and air conditioners get lugged onto on the subways, who really wants to drag that stuff on public transportation? Not me!

Saturday, January 23, 2010


The other ODDB I had the misfortune to “meet” was Long Duck Dong, 38 years old, 5’-8", Punjabi and in finance (along with engineering and medicine these are the professions Indians gravitate towards). When I accepted his correspondence invitation I requested a photo, which seemed to offend him as he wrote, “After your review, contact me if you like.”

Once on the phone I had to crank the volume and strained to hear Long Duck Dong, the soft talker, dominate the conversation with his partner requirements: intelligent, without being overt; communicate physical and emotional needs, without being needy or playing games; attractive, but shouldn’t show it; and have her own interests. He should get a dog. It would be easier to train than an educated Indian woman with self-respect.

Because I wanted to participate in the conversation I asked about his family, which seemed to annoy him. But he relented and shared he was the youngest of three and both of his siblings were ready to settle down with non-Indian partners. His tone implied he was doing me the favor for selecting me, an Indian mate. He ended the call by instructing me to consider my interest and get back to him. I hung up incensed. I had every right to ask about his family. An Indian woman didn’t marry only the man. She married the entire Motley Crew, from the uncle with the lazy eye, to the mother who bribes the phone company for free international calls.

Two days later while I was debating my interest, Long Duck Dong called. In this round he retold his experience with Indian women born in the US, i.e. ABCDs (American-Born-Confused Desis as we are labeled by Indian-born-Indians). Evidently ALL US BORN DESI WOMEN were bitter, hated their fathers and resented being Indian. This DID NOT describe me. And if he felt this way why was he calling?

Perhaps aliens stole my mind and replaced it with chutney, because I called him back. Unlike previous calls, I controlled this one with an unabridged story of me. I was not tolerating someone who belittled and demeaned me. I hung up confident he would not call back. He struck me as too insecure to be challenged by an ABCD with opinions and the belief she was his equal.

Wrong. When he called back he was coy and flirty, telling me, “I know what you’re about.” His arrogance was maddening. So I said, “In three phone calls you don’t know me.” “You’re compassionate,” he replied. “You have a flair for life and that passion comes through the conversations.” Hhmm …

Then Long Duck Dong ruined the moment by asking, “What is your best feature?” I responded, “I have great hair and excellent teeth.” “What else?” he asked, “What is your best body feature?” I didn’t like how the conversation was going so I said I was curvy, which he knew from my photos. He said, “I am well-endowed. My penis is eight inches long by three inches wide.” Holy crap, he could impale a woman with that thing. He continued, “I like to grab tightly onto a woman’s butt when ..."

Okaaaaay … just because Indians invented the Kama Sutra doesn’t mean he has to share his bedroom behavior. Is it possible that Indian men raised in India don’t know about dating etiquette? Perhaps I should start teaching classes.

Friday, January 22, 2010


While my profile undergoes the 24 hour mandatory review, I worry. Are there more ODDBs (old dirty desi bastards) like Elvis lurking in cyber space?

When I first spoke to Elvis a few years ago he gave me seven ways to contact him: mobile, landline, office, 1-800, email work, email home, and im. I was the opposite of techie so this overwhelmed me. As we conversed I learned he played racquetball and built his company from the ground up, which I admired. I came from a long line of determined and steely self-made men. I knew they could be intense --- but success required risk. And I liked that Elvis and I were from the same caste. While I was an equal opportunity desi dater, there was a part of me that appreciated sharing being Punjabi.

I requested a photo several times. And each time Elvis had an excuse “my laptop is at work”, “I am not in the office tomorrow”, “I don’t have photos on this computer”. Because our conversations were amazing I let it go. Yet, I was DYING to put a face to the voice.

Eight days later, photos arrived. EXCITEMENT. Download. Click. Open. DISAPPOINTMENT.

To call him unattractive was an UNDERSTATEMENT. His face was squashy, greasy, with a fuggly nose. He didn’t look fit enough to play racquetball. And my attraction evaporated. He sensed it and stopped calling.

The weird thing was I missed him after his calls stopped. I regretted being judgmental. And just when I stopped thinking about him he sent me an e-Valentine. Delirious, I emailed him and we returned to our routine. This time I learned he liked martinis, had 100+ shirts and believed sandals were for women.

Then he suggested we meet in a neutral place. I was in Minneapolis and he in DC so I suggested Memphis, Chicago. Elvis suggested Vegas. Fiddle faddle. I wasn’t a fan of all-you-can-eat-buffets or gambling. But I didn’t want to appear negative and said I’d be up for seeing the Hoover Dam, but what else would we do in the middle of February. Elvis responded with: see the sights (it’s the desert), play the slots (boring) and have sex (okay, now I’m scared)!

We stopped speaking after that. Any man who gets on a matrimonial site and suggests sex in Vegas needs to sign up for remedial dating classes ASAP!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The next morning I sit at my desk and sip coffee, waiting impatiently for my computer to boot up. In addition to bubbles, baubles, bags and books, caffeine is one of my most glorious addictions. And I take it in all its forms (lattes, Darjeeling tea, Diet Cokes, and of course, chocolate).

It has been about a year since I was on this matrimonial Web site. I took my profile down after not one, but two Punjabi sex freaks (Punjabi, Indians who hail from the state of Punjab, like my family) solicited me. My last round was not all gloom and doom. I met a nice and polite Wall Streeter. He flew all the way from New York to meet me in Minneapolis. Unfortunately he decided to spend 36 of the 48 hours that weekend avoiding me. Any guesses as to why that didn’t work out?

The matrimonial site loads and prompts me for information. Create a profile id. Supply an email address. Select password. Choose religion. Under “compulsory” information (compulsory, like batch mate and auspicious are words that only Indians seem to use) I enter my birth date and gender. Unlike Western dating Web sites, the Indian ones ask who is establishing the profile: self, parent/guardian, sibling, friend or other. I personally would never allow “other” to post my profile. God only knows what qualifies as “other” --- a third cousin, twice removed? This isn’t a person you should lend money to, much less have finding your spouse!

Under marital status the options are: never married, divorced (also known as Indian scandal), widowed, separated, annulled. If you are anything other than “never married” you are cued to list any children. It seems a little presumptive thinking “never marrieds” don’t have some illegits lying around. Then physical attributes are requested: height converted in inches and centimeters, along with body type: slim, average, athletic or heavy. Indians are also color obsessed so we have to pick if we are: very fair, fair, wheatish, wheatish medium, wheatish brown and dark. Color is stupid for obvious reasons. But mostly because what is considered “dark” in northern India is “fair” in southern India.

Then there is the egregious section, special cases: physically challenged from birth, physically challenged from accident, mentally challenged from birth, physically challenged due to accident, physical abnormality affecting looks only, physical abnormality affecting bodily functions, physically and mentally challenged and HIV positive. So in the event your son is “defective” i.e. blind in one eye, you can find someone’s “damaged” daughter who lost her hearing and arrange their marriage.

Since I don’t know my blood type I leave that blank. From a list of over 60 languages spoken in India, I select English as my mother tongue. Then I share my caste, level of education, who my family members are and their occupations, and finally my profession. I am asked if I smoke, drink and my diet: non-veg, occasionally non-veg, vegetarian, eggetarian. And then I choose citizen as my residency from the list of: citizen, permanent resident, student visa, temporary visa and work permit. I will decline men with the latter three statuses. When I was growing up I saw too many plain homely girls get married to really attractive students only to get divorced five years later when the men were granted green cards. Finally, I reach the part where I can describe myself in my own words, which I do. The last thing is upload photos!

Sheesh! Is Indian matrimony a competitive sport or what? So I say let the games ... I mean ... desi dating begin!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


After two weeks, my mother returns to Minnesota. By chance, Jack and Jane are on the SAME flight to Minneapolis, en route to South Dakota. How destined.

The four of us pile into a town car and head to LaGuardia. Somehow I am strong enough to say good bye to my mother without wilting into a weeping puddle. I watch the three of them clear security and something inside of me cracks. Through my haze of tears, I watch the image of my mother get smaller and smaller until she blends into the throng of passengers and disappears from sight.

Air. I need air and rush outside the terminal. Slowly I release breath from my lungs, trying to calm myself. I call Dad letting him know Mom is on the way back. If he hears the breaks in my voice, he never lets on. I board the M60 bus. In Harlem along 125th Street I realize I am not ready to face an empty apartment so I take to roaming the streets and getting lost. Hoping the city I coveted for so long, would romance the sadness out of me.

I get home and think I should write my online desi dating profile. After all, one of the main reasons to uproot my life was to meet an Indian man. But I cannot get witty today. So I crawl into bed. Sleep eludes me. Every noise is startling. Since I have the ability to freak myself out, I wonder, if I fall asleep, will I wake to the sound of crashing glass and dark figures lurking in my apartment? Oh dear, I watch WAY too much Law and Order ...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I’ve been in New York for a weekend and there are several little old ladies who live in my building, defying the stereotype that Manhattanites don’t know their neighbors. I’ve seen them curiously staring at me, I suspect because I have an international Indo-Persian-Greco-Dominican-Mediterranean look, I look everything but Indian. Upon hearing my accent, which sounds Midwest Valley Girl, they seem relived to realize I speak English, smoothly and fluently.

“Hello dear,” says little old lady number one. “Where are you from?”
“Minnesota,” I reply.
They both have this look like “oh dear, I hope she can handle the big city.” As if I have never been outside Minnesota in my entire life.
“Do you have a gate on your fire escape dear?” little old lady number two asks.
“No,” I reply. Mom thinks I am getting sundries from the bodega.
“Oh really? A single girl needs gates. Especially in this neighborhood, it is getting nicer but break-ins are on the rise. There is a locksmith on the main street. Youd should call him.”

At the bodega I ask about locksmiths and the cashier looks confused. I pay and don a Sherlock Holmes persona and walk up and down the street until I find the locksmith. I call him and he says he’ll be over tomorrow around 10:00 am does that work? I say sure and hope he is more agreeable than Time Warner Cable who is going to take two weeks to finish installing my cable and phone, despite the fact I needed high speed Internet yesterday.

That night Mom and I are exhausted and we crash out around nine p.m. I’m almost asleep when I hear noise, and bolt up in bed. It takes a few seconds, but I realize the printer has come. I throw back the covers and hurriedly turn it off, which interestingly enough has not woken my mother. Unlike the water that rattles through the radiator pipes at 6:00 and alerts Mom to the morning.

I crawl back into bed and stare at the printer. It is the size of a small space ship and has been nicknamed Rosie, as in the robot from the Jetsons. Yes, it is ridiculously huge to store in a Manhattan apartment but I need it for work. Just as I fall to sleep I remember that turning on the printer requires you to physically push a big one-inch sized button on the lower left side near the cord. I wonder if a ghost haunts my apartment. I don’t know if I am emotionally equipped to handle roaches and ghosts.

My last thought before falling asleep is, soon when all my windows have gates and I will live in my own prison, ironically, like they do in New Delhi.

Monday, January 18, 2010


My pocket sized mother, four suitcases and I board a Northwest Airlines flight bound for New York’s LaGuardia airport. We sit on the tarmac for hours, as the flight is delayed, delayed, delayed. Eventually we take off, collect our things and wait in line for a taxi. Our Asian cabbie driver is not at all nice and has the audacity to be ANNOYED by our four bags.

We cross over the Tri-Borough Bridge and head up Harlem River Drive, as we exit for 179St and Amsterdam, I turn and study my mother’s face. Before entering my neighborhood, which remarkably resembles suburbia or as suburban as Manhattan gets, we cut through a section of Washington Heights, which resembles New Delhi. The stores spill onto the sidewalks, vendors deep-fry carbohydrates on street corners, and people lumber along the sidewalks, unlike the typical impatient, fast-paced New Yorker.

My mother’s eyes seem to widen. After spending more than half her life in Minnesota, I’ll bet she didn’t think there were parts of America that would remind her of India. Her eyes resume their normal shape when we stop in front on my very clean building with a fantastic art deco foyer.

We are so exhausted that all we can think of is sleep. As my mother readies for bed I stare out the window, across the airshaft. My apartment is located at the back of the building, on the first floor with my eastern light blocked by the neighboring brick building. For the next year, those apartments and people are my view, if I survive the year. I am getting a little nervous about my decision. But it is way too late now. I have arrived. And more importantly, all my belongings come tomorrow.


The following morning the movers drop off my things and fuss about putting the bed and tables back together. Ugh, after they leave, because my mother and I can’t stand a mess, we begin working. Unlike my mother who paces herself, I like to start a project and not stop until I am done. So around 2:00 pm my mother tells me she’s hungry, break time has some. Immediately after eating we resume working and don’t stop until 8:00 pm for dinner. Because my mother is jonesing for a cup of tea we go to the only Indian restaurant in the neighborhood so she can get her fix. It is rather amusing to think of her as addicted to anything since she and my father are hard and fast teetotalers.

The following morning is Saturday and Jane stops by. She had offered to help us unpack, God bless her, but we only have the kitchen to assemble. She is impressed by our industrious pace and we decide to go to the Bronx Target, where I fill the cart with Kleenex, laundry detergent, Dawn, toilet paper, Lysol wipes and fantastik. With raised brows Jane asks where I intend to store all these items. Under the sink and in the closets; and the paper products are going under the bed, I reply.

She tells Mom and me that Jack does not allow her to buy anything in multiples. I tell her that I don’t live with Jack. And there is the small issue that I am a complete clean freak. As I push the cart down the next aisle, I remember Jack saying New York City has more rats than people and that he spent months killing roaches.

The thought of roaches sends shivers down my back, knowing they lurk, waiting to lunge out of dark cornered. So I get some Raid for good measure.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I follow John, he’s with Berger Moving Company, around my condo. He is surveying my belongings in an attempt to give me a price quote. A new emotional terror has kicked in -- pack up my life, leave my hometown and say good-bye, for now, to my friends and family. Panic subsides when I remind myself that I can always move back. My hometown is not moving anywhere.

“When do you want to accept delivery on your possessions?” John asks.
“December 1,” I reply. I have already booked tickets for my mother and I to arrive into LaGuardia after Thanksgiving. God willing a snowstorm won’t paralyze Minneapolis that day and delay our flight to the next day.
“It takes about a week to truck out to New Jersey. Then they load your things into a smaller truck. Semis aren't allowed in Manhattan. Then there’s Thanksgiving coming and we lose about five days, so can you have everything packed in about ten days?”
“Yes,” I reply.

I already have moving boxes, a dozen rolls of tape, Sharpies, and bubble wrap. I almost moved last year when I didn't think I could live here anymore. While I liked her personally, I had some issues with the Condo Board President who didn't think all the rules, like don't do laundry afte 10:00 pm and before 7:00 am, applied to her.

For the next week I live a very simple but harried existence. I go to work, rush home, work out and pack until 2:00 am. I begin with the kitchen cupboards, wondering why a single woman has 60 drinking glasses, two sets of tableware, 14 pots and lids, two sets of cutlery, and two coffee pots. I rifle through the linen closet and realize I have nine vases, some of which I don’t remember buying. The coat closet has a dozen jackets, which is the only thing I don’t groan at. It’s Minnesota. I don’t bother counting the shoes, I simply toss them in a big box and justify this addiction as a girl thing, reminding myself that Imelda Marcos had over 300 pairs. So what if she was the First Lady of the Philippines.

In the spare bedroom I toss out piles of papers acquired in the ten years I have lived here. I sort through scissors that cut squiggly lines, scrap-booking supplies, unmade scrapbooks, dozens of frames photos of friends and family. In the bedroom I stuff clothes into wardrobe boxes and note that I have 12 pairs of black pants and 15 black sweaters. Have I heard of color?


The day the movers arrive I worry about running into my neighbors, I don't want to talk to them because some of them are sooooo annoying. I don't want them to notice I am leaving, despite the fact that they would have to be blind not to notice a giant orange Berger semi-truck in the back parking lot. It takes four movers an hour to load and tag my things.

As they work, I offer them Diet Cokes and bottled water, apologizing for not drinking anything else. They accept the drinks and tell me that some people don’t even let them use the loo, much less offer a glass of tap water. This seems like a dangerous practice, strangers are taking your things for week -- is this how grandmother's china "breaks" en route?

When they are gone, I walk in and out of the carpeted and wooden rooms of my empty condo, my shoes echo a hollowness across what was once my Midwestern desi life.

Friday, January 15, 2010


My first bad desi date in NYC is with Shiva. I cannot EVEN imagine what his parents were thinking when they named him. It is almost evil to name a child Shiva, he is one-third of the tri-murthy, and one of the most powerful gods known as the destroyer and the pure one. Try living up to that name!

I contacted Shiva while I was in Minnesota, knowing I was coming (for good) to Manhattan, because I really liked his profile in which he oozed with wit stating he was back from a secret cover opp, an Indian James Bond. The photo he provided featured him reclining at his desk, giving him a relaxed look. And I simply found his profile unique and clever after wading through an ocean of desi men looking for a slim, fair, tall, mix of East-West, well-educated, six-figure salary woman from a good family who could make millions of dollars by day, and clean, cook, raise kids and sex her man by night. So basically, they were looking for the Indian Wonder Woman, who like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, does not exist.

I meet Shiva at Republic in Union Square but we ended up walking to Dos Caminos on Park Avenue. We order sangria and some appetizers. I chat about life in Minnesota and tell him I am moving to New York with the intent to work in real estate development. I leave out the part of the rusted ovaries. No need to scare him off before the tableside guacamole arrives.


Feeling defeated I stumble back to Columbus Circle. My stomach growls, I’m dehydrated and the coffee I drank eight hours ago has worn off. I debate a bag of chips from the deli but want to return to Inwood before dark.

With a swipe of my Metro Card, I join thousands of New Yorkers in the evening commute. This is much more civilized than merging in and out of Minneapolis traffic. I follow the Uptown signs and board the train. Sinking into the molded plastic seat, I close my eyes for just a minute. I know better than to sleep on the train but in addition to my brain feeling fuzzy, my stomach hurts. The motion of cars, planes and trains has always soothed me and once we get rolling, I feel better.

Riding along, I listen as the conductor names the stops 72, 79, 86, 96. I don’t remember stopping along the Upper West Side on the downtown ride. Then again I am exhausted and Jane and I chatted incessantly. At 168th Street I get a little nervous and ask a woman if this train will stop at 200. She says yes it stops at Dyckman. I want to ask if Dyckman and 200 are the same stop. But I fear she will think I am Dorothy from Kansas lost in Oz and I keep my mouth shut.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


The next morning Jane and I walk down Riverside Drive. The tall trees in Fort Tryon Park still have some leaves and the branches cast shadows across the sidewalk. The autumn air is warm. It must already be in the 50s. I realize no one moves to New York for the weather, but I live in a place where snowfall has been recorded in every month except August. Today damn near feels like summer.

“What time is your broker appointment?” Jane asks and we bound down the steps into the A train subway station.
“Ten o’clock.”
“You have plenty of time.”

We swipe our Metro Cards. It’s rush hour and a downtown train comes within minutes. And since we’re one stop from the top of the line we get our pick of seats. Once we’re settled Jane opens up her bag and starts applying make-up. I am completely fascinated with the way she curls her eyelashes and applies blush at 30 miles an hour without poking herself blind.

Generally speaking, despite running the Silicon Valley, Indians cannot tell time even in the advent of the digital clock and continue to operate on IST --- Indian Standard Time. I however am punctual and arrive early to meet the broker, Kim, a slim, friendly Vietnamese woman. She has me fill out so enough paperwork that I feel certain I have just killed a rain forest in order to rent an apartment.

Kim and I gather our things and take a bus to the subway. In an effort to get my bearings, I am trying to pay attention to the names of the streets and stops. I am transforming from tourist to transplant. Once on the Upper East Side I remind Kim that I am looking for a safe building with an elevator, laundry and I don’t want to be on the first floor or anything called garden apartment. I have seen enough Sex and the City and Will and Grace to know better. She smiles tightly at me, much like how you tolerate a screaming toddler before leading me down streets filled with quaint buildings and trees jammed into metal planters.


My plane touches down, unusually on time into LaGuardia. We deplane and intrinsically my Minnesota nice persona falls away and I blend into Manhattan. I speed walk through the terminal, my rolling bag follows faithfully. I know how many steps away I am from passing the slow couple in front of me. I can read body language and tell if someone is going to dart, left or right at the last minute. I know better than to make eye contact. I have been to New Delhi enough times to know how to handle myself in big cities.

I am half way out of Terminal D, en route to the taxi stand, when the CNN report blaring on the TV monitor in Gate 5 stops me. The image of smoke billowing out of a tall Upper East Side building stops me. Fear paralyzes me. Terrorists are my first thought. My heart tightens. Then the reporter says a New York Yankee crashed his Cessna into an Upper East Side building.

In that moment all my confidence evaporates and I think about returning to Gate 10 and asking about the next flight to Minneapolis. At half past five, in the middle of October maybe God was telling me I was not the type of girl to move to a super-sized city where athletes crash air crafts into high-rises.

My phone is ringing and I scramble to pick it up. It is Jack, Jane’s boyfriend. If I ever become a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, he is the going to be my Phone-A-Friend. Not only is he funny, he knows everything.

“Hey, do you need directions?”
“Nope.” I had been to their place several years ago.
“Great see you soon.”

It was too late for return flights. Destiny was already charting the next course.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Oddly enough, between the Ex, Kehar Singh and Cat Boy, I was not deterred in finding Hindu love.

In fact I found myself thinking, if I could meet men without trying, imagine who I could meet if I lived in Manhattan? Which I thought was the epicenter of desis in America. I decided that I was going to dive deeper into relationships, heart first further and faster than the time before. I was going to ignore my head when it warned, "DANGER! BAD MAN AHEAD, TWENTY FEET TO THE RIGHT!" I couldn't miss out on loving someone even if it was for a few moments.

So I knew ... I had to get out of Minnesota and into Manhattan ... and now I needed a game plan ...


Despite the Kehar Singh mess, I did not lose faith and agreed to having friends set me up, which is how I met Cat Boy.

Now, when you live in Minnesota where January temperatures can hit -20 degrees Fahrenheit, having friends in warm placs is a must! And it was over one of my winter trips, during a Mexican dinner that my friends introduced me to Cat Boy.

Before meeting Cat Boy, I was warned that he was heavy set, bald, had two cats and a Jain. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that practices non-violence for all living forms, not only avoiding meat/seafood, but also root vegetables like garlic and ginger. So they tend to be VERY vegetarian. But they are also a very learned people, which was attractive about Cat Boy.

Dinner was pleasant and after I returned to Minnesota Cat Boy emailed and expressed interest in getting to know me. Although I found his weight issue slightly bothersome, I decided against being superficial and penned back a pithy note. We began emailing, chatting and meeting up again. In time I learned he worked in finance, had an annoying fidgeting habit, and a card carrying member of P.E.T.A. He did not think People Eating Tasty Animals was very funny. Yet I could not help thinking it peculiar that an adult male in his mid-30s had the cremated remains of his first cat in a box in his house.

A few months past and we were in a long distance relationship, chatting three times a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays and one of the days on the weekend. Since I was two hours ahead of him, he’d leave work, go to Taco Bell for vegan bean burritos and call me. This probably sounds unromantic, planning and scheduling, but it suited both Cat Boy and me.

I was never “in love with him” and didn’t find him attractive. And I certainly never wanted to tear off his clothes and make out with him like a drunken co-ed. But I thought, in terms of a life partner (I know, oh puke!) he’d be all right. Until ...

One evening in our fourth month, Cat Boy informed me he had cleared out some space in his closet for my shoes. Okay, I thought. I mean, we had never talked about getting married or living together. And whenever I visited him I never stayed with him --- which should have been a sign. Then Cat Boy he asked me if I wore black pants at home. I said no. Then he said, if I did, he had lots of lint brushes so I could roll the cat hair off my clothes. Again, I said, okay. Then Cat Boy stated, like he was running for President of the United States of America, if we married I could not keep meat in the house.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My first love interest after the Ex was Kehar Singh, my cousin’s best friend who I actually met when I was 9 and he was 16. It was the summer of 1981 and my family was staying with relatives who lived across the lane form Kehar Singh's family. My architect father, before he left India, actually designed Kehar Singh's family's house! And I remember standing on my aunt’s balcony, this loud-mouthed, brash, fearless American girl taunting Kehar Singh and his friends as they walked home from school.

Back in the time before Indira Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards assassinated her, Kehar Singh was a turbaned Sikh. Some fifteen years later when my cousin comes to Minnesota for a visit, Kehar Singh is now an American educated engineer living in the States. And we’re all reunited on a cold and snowy Minnesota night. He towers over 6’-0” and is slim, wearing a button-down tucked in jeans and a blazer. He has shaved his beard and wears his hair long to his shoulders. He looks like an Indian Jesus.

In an instant, electricity sparks and cracks between us. In a flirty, intimate way Kehar Singh and I shoot words and jibes with surgical precision, with enough tact to remain intelligent, and enough wit to avoid the smart of an insult. You'd think Kehar Singh and I were long lost best friends. He has a presence, his attractive face and dark eyes dance with mischief. He told me I had a way with words and my laugh was infectious. Swoon.

From there we end up in a long distance friendship relationship conducted over the phone --- until we are talking five times a week, conferencing in his friends and cousin. Men don't introduce you to their friends if you're just a casual girl. Because my cousin/his best friend had vetted him, I for the first time since the Ex really opened myself to a man and spoke brazenly about my hopes, dreams, fears. I’ve been described as an intense over achiever, so admitting that I had insecurities was a really big lowering of the guard for me.

We shared and trusted for a couple years, in which time he moved from the East to the West Coast. I visited him a few times. And finally, when I thought he HAD to like me as much as I liked him, with reckless abandon,I hedged my heart and confessed my attraction.

It was November 1999, just before I was going to India to celebrate the millennium (which I know is really the following later) and I couldn't believe his response was something to the effect of, “dude, man...I’m flattered but, dude, man...I have to go for a walk. Okay?”

A month later my brother and I leave for India and I have not heard from him. I am wondering where he walked to? Utah? Mexico? Come on man! When are you coming back? I felt a little slighted that he did not wish me bon voyage. I do understand that attraction can be a one way street and if he was not interested, wouldn’t the adult reaction be, to tell me so? Or could he really be that emotionally stunted?

For what should have been the most amazing week in Goa along the coast of the Arabian sea, with my relatives, it wasn’t. I was heart-broken and forced to put on a happy face. I listened to my cousin say, “Kehar Singh just called.” “I just talked to Kehar Singh.” It was like he knew when I was out of earshot and would call, evidently to torture me. Good thing I had the salty air to blame for the daily tears that stung my eyes. Even though he had the audacity to ask my cousin how I was, I never did ask about him. I didn’t want her caught between her best friend and her cousin-sister.


Before I moved to Manhattan I had dated.

In college, I was a regular co-ed, majoring in architecture, and hanging out with my friends. I had a desi (Indian) boyfriend, who I thought was "THE ONE". We met on a blind date and went to a college sponsored party, where he dedicated the song, “Baby Got Back” to me. Was that sign number one? Or was rap music just that popular in the 1990s? I thought he was nice, but didn’t feel that za za zoom. But when he invited me to brunch the next day (to the college cafeteria where we could use our meal plan, was that sign number two?), I thought I should give him another chance. Which eventually became study dates, dinners and like that he was my boyfriend.

We had been dating for a couple of months when the Ex’s twin brother began to pressure the Ex to break up with me. Their parents were very conservative, even for Indians. They didn’t want their sons dating, only studying diligently to become doctors. It didn’t long for the Ex and me to melt down into a hot mess of an Ike and Tina Turner relationship where we verbally and emotionally abused each other in gigantic screaming fights because I didn’t want to eat dinner, study, attend the Depeche Mode concert, go to the mall or hang out with the Brother, EVER. Caught outside hell’s door, stuck between love and loyalty, the Ex would make plans with me and then cancel because the Brother guilted him. Or threatened to tell their parents about me, again. In the Brother’s defense, he was looking out for his twin. But when I was 21, I didn’t see it that way. I just thought the brother was heartless.

As if this was not enough for our train wreck of a relationship to withstand, the Brother had an AWFUL, stinky and gigantically FAT friend. Yes, I really mean he smelled. His sweat and body oil got stuck in the folds of his fat and clothes. As a result no woman wanted to date Fatty and he retaliated by hating women, including me. I think Fatty was like most powerless people. He felt backed into a corner and tried to inflict pain on others, to redirect his inadequacies elsewhere. Fatty happened to be Pakistani and was also very conservative and would encourage the Brother that our dating was wrong, went against the wishes of elders and had to end. You’d think this was 1450, not 1995, but unfortunately, the Brother tended to agree.

This drove me to fight harder. I’m not proud of it, but there were many occasions where I engaged in controlling behaviors, threatened to break up with the Ex, or flat out ignored the Ex. The Ex ended up retreating within himself when the push-pull between the Brother and I became overwhelming. Obviously, this was a very unhealthy relationship and a well paved road to anxiety for all involved parties.

Are you wondering why I would love someone like this? Because when it was just the Ex and me, in the dark and quiet when we shared our demons, he let his guard down and revealed his insecure arrogance. We allowed one another safety, a place to be blurry, raw, and splintered around the edges. It was strange, despite inflicting pain on each other; we really cultivated the good things in another. In hindsight, I think we should have broken up rather than clung to a dysfunctional relationship like a tattered blanket. Most days we couldn’t cover ourselves with it, but there was security in knowing where the holes and loose threads were.

Monday, January 11, 2010


For someone who declares herself a planner, plotting my escape to Manhattan was not at all thought out. And in hindsight, knowing then, what I know now, I don’t think I would have done any of this.

But about three years ago, at exactly 5 pm on a very humid August day I darted out of an air-conditioned office, into the heat, and into an even hotter car. Summer in Minnesota could be as unbearable as winter in January. The warm air is so thick with humidity and the cold air is so brittle that breathing literally hurts. Once I asked my father what possessed him to move from monsoon-ridden New Delhi to tundra-crusted Minneapolis. He emphatically stated snow sounded like fun. Well, sure. Until you have to drive in it, dig your car out from under it, and use gasoline powered blowers to relocate your driveway that insists on playing hide and seek with Alberta Clippers for six months. It gets old --- FAST!

I got home and did my routine --- watched the news, worked out, ate dinner, poured a martini. I then grabbed my phone and went directly into voicemail. I hung up and sat on the couch, doing what I don’t do so well, waiting. To pass my time I flipped through a book. I was re-reading stories about the Indian goddesses.

Just as I got restless my phone rang. Yes! It was Jane, my chum from graduate school who I had not spoken to in three years, calling back! Immediately I picked up and we squealed and shrieked into the phone in that long-lost, high-pitched way women do.

“Hi sweetie!” Jane gushed.
“Jane! Oh my God! How ARE you?” I shrieked back.
“I’m in the car driving back from the Catskills," Jane stated.
“How is New York? Tell me everything!”
“Everything is great! I got a new job and I love it. It’s with one of the 10 best PR firms in the country.”
I mused. This meant Jane was working for the 10th best firm. Much like my sorority rush days when we proudly boasted, “we’re one of the four largest national sorority organizations.” Translation: we are number four.


Nobody. And I mean NOBODY subscribes to an Indian (as in from India) matrimonial Web site thinking they’ll become the subject of someone’s work of non-fiction. Then again, I never thought my Internet groom-hunt would become a conversation that included a flasher, a sex freak or two, a stalker, a mute, an Indian cowboy, and a man with a speech impediment, to name a few. But it did.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So I am either insane or insistent, and spent three unsuccessful years online dating for desis (the slang word Indians use to describe ourselves). Yeah, well ... I don't think I am down with brown any more.

In fact, when I think about it, I resisted the concept of online dating for a very long time. I cited vanity --- I was too good/pretty/smart/young/insert adjective here --- because, really, who other than freaks, geeks, losers, undesirables or untouchables did it? This was followed by my loud proclamations that the Internet was ONLY filled with liars and creeps (this I wasn’t actually wrong about). And finally, with Indians numbering over a billion worldwide, equipped with an international network of sari-clad aunties born to arrange marriages, should getting married really be this hard or become the subject of an entire blog. Yet, it did.

I suppose growing up in Minnesota, where you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting an attractive white boy, didn’t help. The Land of 10,000 Lutes wasn’t the ideal place to set up base camp and date in a niche market of Indian-Hindus, hoping his Honda (driven for fuel efficiency) or Mercedes (driven for status) got stuck in a snow bank outside of my house.

This led to insomnia --- did I really want to marry an Indian man? Or was I doing it to please my immigrant parents? I used to think I was battling being American and Indian, Minnesotan and Punjabi --- but really I think I was suspended between the Indian goddesses Sita and Durga. Sita is considered the perfect daughter, wife and mother who spent her ENTIRE life sacrificing and from my point of view, suffering. And Durga (created by the male fraternity of Hindu gods) restored law and order on earth when the MALE GODS lost control. While Durga is revered for her strength, she is never associated with a male counterpart. Additionally, I began worrying my ovaries were rusting out and that I was giving myself gangrene.

Then one August morning I had to do something before I woke up at 80, a spinster draped in a caftan, with cats, drinking Cutty Sark straight out of the bottle. Then it struck me, if American companies could outsource jobs to Bangalore, I could move myself from the Minne-Apple and plop myself into the Big Apple, home to one of the largest populations of Indo-Americans in America. So I took control, packed up my stuff and got the hell off that iceberg.