We sit down a table for four in the middle of a very bright and sunny dining room. This is much nicer than standing in line to get a table at Sarabeth’s. The waiter comes by and pours bottled water into our glasses. I shudder. I wonder how much that is going to cost. I never order bottled water. I barely even buy bottled water from the store for my home use. It seems like such a waste of money, especially since New York City tap water is clean. I clearly don’t make the kind of money required to run with Bhaiya. Besides, now that I live in a walk-up, there is NO WAY I am carrying water up the stairs.
“Can I get you coffee or tea?” the water asks. Bhaiya nods and I order first, “coffee please.” “Green tea,” Bhaiya says. “Any juices?” the waiter asks. “I’ll have an orange juice,” I reply. Why not? If I am dirnking overpriced water, why not get some juice too.
“Let’s have some baked goods,” Bhaiya says. We get up and survey the massive assortment of freshly baked croissants (chocolate, almond, plain), muffins (banana nut, chocolate chip, cranberry bran, apple cinnamon, blueberry), breads (whole wheat, white, rye, pumpernickel) and the sweet breads with icing (pumpkin, zucchini, lemon poppyseed). I half-laugh and he gives me a funny look. “What?’ he asks. “Do you remember when I visited, the girls were about 4 and they were mad crazy about chocolate crossies?” I ask. They could say chocolate but not croissant so every morning there was the renewed and frenzied request for chocolate croissants. He nods and piles a few onto the plate. I sure hope he is eating them because I was thinking about having an omelet for breakfast. I am ravenous from working out and need some protein. And some fruit, which I pile onto my plate.
We return to the table, the fastest waiter in the world returns and I order an omelet. And some bacon. Bhaiya orders an egg white scramble with veggies. Okay, well, at least that is better than wheat germ and flax.
“So how are things?” he asks. Hhhmm. I never know how to answer this with family. I get the feeling that Bhaiya disagrees with decisions I have taken in life. Not that I blame him. I guess right, he cares about me? Right? We are cousins. And his mother, Massi, is like a second Mom to me. And though he has never said anything, I think he thinks I should have never worked in a family business, but I don’t really think there is a lot of choice about such things. To be a card carrying member of the peace in my immediate family, it is best to not muddy the waters. It is best to tow the party line and do what it is expected of you. I think this has come more easily to Desi Brother than me.
And the subject of marriage is a hot one. Bangalore Cousin has really pushed me with the desi dating. Bhaiya, on the other hand has asked a few times why someone living in Minnesota was resigned to marrying a desi, when the state was filled with blondes. While I know Bangalore Cousin was really pleased to see me move, Bhaiya seems to have mixed feelings on that. I think he thinks I should have just gotten married 15 years ago and had some kids. I sometimes think he cannot relate to me.
“Things are okay,” I reply. “I love New York – but I am thinking that I need to find a new job. Can you help me? I know you are pretty connected in the finance community and I’d be willing to do something entry level, like answer phones or be a receptionist – the security of getting a paycheck and health insurance is worth it,” I say quickly. It makes me uncomfortable for some reason. I give help. I actually am the first person to offer help. But I am the last to take any. So it is killing me to ask him for help. And I am not asking him to fund my lifestyle or pay my rent. I am just asking who he may know and can help me network.
He nods. I can tell he is thinking. He wipes his lips with the napkin and sets it to the side. “I can see what I can do,” he says. Even though he says it, I don’t believe him. “But I think you should leave New York,” he says.
The look that must come across my face must be one of horror, terror and pain, because he quickly says. “Look, I understand the appeal of big cities. They are alluring. Exciting. Addicitive. But these are not places to live,” he says.
Really? Tell that to the 8 million people who live in New York City and call it home. I think they would disagree.