With the Writer Over Tea

4 of 101: June 6th 2017 at Tea Trails

The Person

When a woman says, “I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”, you don’t want to do anything but listen to the story of her life as if she were an Audiobook. Allow me to introduce you, dear reader, to my delightful date number 4: Brinda, the Editor and Head of Marketing & Communications of Hidden-Pockets.

Smart, driven and sensitive, she is a woman who has a delicious way with words and a boundless repository of strong opinions – a combination that makes you realize how much more colourful the world is, thanks to writers like her. Although we had known of each other – I had seen her posts on Indian Feminists and she had seen a picture of her friend and me at one of Bangalore’s Pride marches – it was only now that we really got to know each other.  Sometimes, two people can be strangers for a while, walking down the same streets before their paths decide to converge. And ours did, so very serendipitously, on a date.

It all started when she reached out to me saying she wanted to learn how to ride a bike. After a day’s session of riding lessons, we didn’t really stay in touch, save for a couple of WhatsApp messages. I had all but forgotten about this brief encounter till she texted me on the morning of June 6 about moving back to Chennai.

I decided to give her a call, which set off a chain of events that led to a date to remember. I’ve forever been wary of causes and spaces being appropriated by people who are not part of the cause themselves. And when Brinda invited me to Chennai Pride, it rubbed me the wrong way as I had always assumed that she was a straight ally. The last thing I needed was a straight ally extending me, a queer woman, an invitation to attend an event celebrating my identity; an event I had already attended twice before. Before I decided to morph into the big green fellow, I decided to ask her one simple question: Was she from the LGBT community?

Her reply shut me up. And I had my epiphany for the day – I, who considered myself to be open and accepting of all people, could be narrow-minded and illogical at times. Once this realization dawned on me, like gorgeous sunlight streaming through gaps in a gloomy sky, my walls came crumbling down. We continued talking, much more freely than before. I told her about the 101 Dates project I had ambitiously embarked on, and asked her if she would like to be one of the dates. I had wanted the first 25 dates to be with people I knew well, so I obviously was thinking of a date with her in the distant future. But life has a way of rushing at you, sweeping you up in whatever it has planned for you.

Brinda’s response took me by pleasant surprise. She asked, “Can we go on a date tonight? Dinner at Tea Trails in HSR?” I could not help but smile to myself. And I could not help but say yes. Here I was, reacting instead of acting. I was so used to being the one deciding the time, the place and the logistics of a date. And here she was, setting it all up in a few sentences. I guess that’s what writers do – arrange chaos into order with their words.

But Brinda wasn’t the only one surprising me. Considering I live in what qualifies as another city, that is, Electronic City, I rarely make plans to get out of my house on a weekday. And tea has never been, well, my cup of tea. The fact that I had so casually agreed to step out on a Tuesday and that too to have tea with a woman I barely knew, was a bit of a shock to me. I confessed to Brinda about how coffee had my heart, and asked her to be my guide when it came to ordering. She immediately suggested changing the place, but damn it, I was committed to having a hot brown beverage that was not coffee. So that was that and tea it would be.

Given that it had been a tiring day at work, by the time I reached Tea Trails, my energy levels were dipping. Brinda arrived a few minutes after me, and along with her came her unmissable liveliness. She handed me a bottle of Amul Kool Café and a packet of Coffy Bite – her way of making up for taking a coffee lover to a tea place. The date had not even begun, but this woman had already won my heart.

After that, there was no way the date could have gotten better. Brinda was the guide she had promised to be, ordering an exotic tea and showing me how to have it. And our conversation flowed, just like tea. Before we knew it, 4 hours had whisked by. We decided it was time to go home, not because we wanted to, but because Tea Trails almost kicked us out as the place was closing for the night. I dropped her off at home but before we said our goodbyes, we both agreed to meet if we found ourselves in each other’s city.

It is funny how you often have nothing to say when you meet people you have known for donkey’s years. And yet, someone on a first date can make you feel like you can tell them anything and everything. I guess she does have a way with words.

Brindaa’s Experience and Version of the Date

“Will you go on a date with me when I come down to Chennai?

The voice on the phone was that of a woman. Though I had met Dolly just once before, it felt absolutely right and I said yes. Strangely enough, not only was it my first date with a woman but in fact it was the first one I was going on, ever! I had only ever been in relationships with men before, but had not gone on a date with any of them. Dolly had explained to me about her 101 dates to find her partner. But she had asked to go on a date with me in Chennai because I was moving to Chennai from Bangalore. That would take some time before she got to Chennai and actually went on a date with me. What if she changed her mind about it by then? What if she found the one by then and decided to not go on a date with me?

I was leaving Bangalore in another two days. And something that hadn’t happened in my 8 years in the city, was happening two days before I was leaving. I decided to be my impulsive self and asked her if we could go on a date that evening instead. She said yes. The next question that she popped at me was where to go. I chose my happy place. Dolly is a coffee lover and that place was a tea place. I felt awful about it. But she seemed accommodating. She said she’d drink just masala chai. Please! Not masala chai in a place that sells over 20 odd varieties of tea. But I didn’t say a word about it. I just kept quiet and thank you for agreeing to the place.

I wanted to know more about her little (yes 101 people is too small) project. She sent me the link to her blog. I looked it up and found the list of 61 activities that she wanted to do with the people that she went on a date with. Going through the list, I saw a coffee date. I promptly texted her saying we are going to go on a coffee date except at a tea place. She laughed. But that gave me an idea. I wanted to make it up to her. She was willing to go some place that wasn’t to her liking to just be able to spend the evening with a woman she barely knows.

We became friends on Facebook because I would post articles from Hidden Pockets regularly on a Facebook group that she managed. I network on Facebook. She sent a request and I accepted it. I should admit though I have seen photographs of Dolly from different Bangalore Prides along with a friend of mine. There was something about her even then that I liked.

Then years later, we became friends on Facebook. But we never spoke until one day someone else on my Facebook friend list wanted to know how she could meet women. Remembering Dolly’s post on Facebook about her story of being out in a publication, I knew that I could ask her about it and she would probably be able to help. Then I pinged her on Facebook to ask her for help. I was quite intimidated with the initial response I got. But I sent her the message that I wanted. She told me how the person I know should go about it and I said thank you. But then I realized that I wanted to ask her about something else that I have been meaning to do for a while now. I asked her if she rides a bike. She said yes. I wanted to learn.

So we met one weekend and she taught me. And I think I did decently well. However, we didn’t meet again. I was travelling for months. I really wanted to learn. I messaged her in between to let her know that I was travelling and I would meet her once I was back. I didn’t have something very big for her then. But I won’t lie; a biker always has my attention.

So when she asked me out I wasn’t going to say no. It all sounded perfect – first date, first date with a woman, a date not a relationship, 100 other people so I will be forgotten. But I would be lying if I said that I was completely ok with being just a number. I still wanted to make it special. I decided to do that by getting her something. I wanted to make it up to her for sacrificing her coffee. I bought her Amul cold coffee and coffee bite.

Tea Trails was walking distance from my place. We were going to meet at 8pm. I’m usually early or on time. It was 7:51pm when I reached the place and I was confident that I would be there earlier than her. But Dolly was already there waiting for me. I got there and we got talking immediately. I gave her the coffee and the coffee bite.

Dolly doesn’t like tea but she was open to trying something that I recommended. I wanted to live up to her trust. So I ordered a Kashmiri Kahwa which I knew wasn’t too adventurous for a non-tea drinker. I think she liked the tea and the place. We started talking and shared details about our lives that I know for a fact we wouldn’t on a first date. 8 PM turned into 9, 10, 11 and then at the end of it, she asked me, “Would you like to be in a relationship with me?”

I was shocked. I was certain we wouldn’t meet again. And she was asking me if I wanted to be in a relationship with her. I wanted to jump in and say yes. And then what happens? I leave for Chennai! The End. I was in such shock and also pleasantly surprised. I was moved. I was in tears. I think my emotions frightened her. I needed a hug. I think she wanted to give me a hug but she didn’t. After all, we were just strangers who had shared our lives or at least so much of it over tea and dinner. How could she hug me? I wanted to say yes. I so badly wanted to say yes.

We left the restaurant and she dropped me home. I got off her bike. Looking at my face then, Dolly said, “Forget that I asked you that question.” My heart sank because I didn’t want to forget it. I didn’t want to scare her further. So instead I told her, “I want to say yes to you but I want to also get to know you more.”

I gave her a really tight hug like the one I wanted and walked up to my door.

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