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?