I step into the restaurant and immediately smell warm sesame oil, peanuts and vegetables. My ears drink in the delicious sound of an indoor fountain. Wooden Buddha sculptures and exotic metal statues of Thai women line the walls. I walk up to the host stand, a teak table shaped like an elephant offering up mints and toothpicks and say, “I have a reservation under Desi Girl.” “Yes, I seated the other guest. Come with me,” the host says and escorts me to my awaiting date, Virat.
He rises to shake my hand. In my 3” tall boots we’re the same height. Interesting. His profile said he was 5’-8” but in these shoes I’m 5’-6”. Because I am a sighted woman who can visually determine things like obesity and height, I don’t like feeling deceived. Then again, what if he is the one desi engineer who cannot do math.
Virat has round pockmarked cheeks and a broad forehead pitching towards the top of his head. He has a small gap between his front teeth and huge eyeglasses that not only hide his eyes but his unruly eyebrows. His shirt has more wrinkles than an old fisherman’s face so he must not own an iron or live near a dry cleaner (remarkable since there are on average four dry-cleaners per block in Manhattan). Then again I am not Miss World; he doesn’t need to be Bollywood hot. Besides, in my experience the painfully good looking Indian men also have the I’m-too-cool-for-you attitude and prefer white flesh to desi.
“Hello Desi Girl,” Virat says. Oh it is N-I-C-E to be on a date with a desi man who can properly pronounce my name. Even though I complain loudly and often, there are benefits in having a name that does not occur naturally in the American vernacular. It allows me the opportunity to screen calls from telemarketers, who routinely slaughter the pronunciation of my name and then ask if I listen to Christian Gospel music (no) or if I want to upgrade my cable package (again, no).
“Have any trouble finding the place?” I ask. “Not at all,” he replies and I try to place his smooth, almost-but-not-completely-Indian accent. UK maybe? “I love Hell’s Kitchen. If I stay out too late, I can easily catch a cab from here home,” I share. Virat curls his lips. “You must like to vhaste money.” I swallow my water quickly. I misheard him, right? “Sorry?” I ask. “Don’t you take the subway?” “Well yes, but not when it’s late.”
From the way he says ‘vhaste’ rather than waste, he grew up in India. And from the way he can control his accent, making only one minor slip, I can tell he has studied in the States as well. Accents are funny that way. Mine is a little Midwestern, a little California, and then there are some rogue words like paprika I pronounce like a Delhiite. No matter how hard you try and change yourself, telling parts always remains. My mother still, after forty years in America, falls into the Delhi habit of rhyming.
To be cont.