Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A man who wears a fantastic cologne could almost get me to rob a bank. Sitting this close to Town and Country I don’t smell a signature scent but it’s okay. I like him enough to almost, almost, almost rob a bank. I shift to face him and ask, “Where did you get all this stuff?” “Antique stores, flea markets, my travels,” Town and Country replies.

Purchasing used things is something I cannot do. And it has everything to do with being my mother’s child. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to borrow clothes or books from friends. It wasn’t simply that I should be content with what I had. It was because my parents were kids during the Partition of India and Pakistan. And they lived through a time in India’s history where 12 million people were displaced and over a 1 million died as Hindus and Muslims killed each other.

Whenever I acted like a bratty American kid (which was often) my mother would tell me how tough life in post-Indian independence was. My maternal grandmother got up at 5:00 am to walk miles to the Old Delhi Railway Station and retrieve left over coal from the train tracks for the days’ cooking. My grandmother often told my mother and her siblings she was fasting for this festival or that festival so her four children didn’t go hungry. To get food on the table, my grandmother endured long waits in ration lines. So my mother most certainly never shared her two pairs of shoes or her two salwar kameezes (Indian tunic and pants). America, for my parents, symbolized the life they had desired from a far. And in this new life there were no hand-me-downs, garage sale items or antiques.

“I thought I heard voices,” a man says. Town and Country and I look over and see the co-worker enter the room. Town and Country makes introductions, “Desi Girl, this is John. John, Desi Girl.” “Nice to meet you,” I reply. Normally I would get up and shake his hand. Except I currently don’t trust my balance.

Immediately Town and Country pours John a plum brandy and the three of us chat about politics, sports and art. It is a fun and engaging conversation during which time the boys drink ALL the plum brandy. My glass is full and they are fortunately too drunk to notice. Town and Country gets up and leaves the room. John and I begin talking about Hong Kong’s handover in 1997, which segues into Singapore’s tough laws and military service requirements.

Town and Country returns with beer. Man these guys can drink! And wait a minute, who I am to judge. “So what do you do for work?” John asks. For some reason, I playfully say to a drunken man, “Guess.” Clearly it never occurs to me how dangerous this scene could become – alone in a big, old house where I am sure the neighbors cannot hear anything through the heavy stone walls. This date could be a scam to lure a woman into a compromising position, or worse, death.

“Lawyer!” John says. This is heartbreaking to hear. My lady lawyer friends in the City tell me men fear female attorneys. “Really? Do I give off some bitchy vibe?” Because that is NOT what I do." John laughs, “No, not bitchy. Especially not in those come-to-papa-boots! You seem overly-educated.” Is that a compliment? Or an insult? “Man I’m tired and we have a long day tomorrow. I’m off to bed,” John says and leaves.

With that, Town and Country and I are truly and completely alone for the first time since meeting one another six hours ago.

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