It was one of my last evenings in Delhi. I was spending most evenings packing, and wondering how to rid myself of all the proverbial baggage, before I re-entered Mumbai.
Around that time Sarita asked me out. I had known her for almost as long as I had been in Delhi and we had been planning an evening out for what seemed like forever. The evening had finally come on the eve of my departure.
We planned a movie because that was the original plan. We saw a movie that evoked a lot of contrary response in both our minds but I didn’t want to argue on my last evening with her.The movie, in a phrase, is something religion can be. Open to change.
She insisted we do dinner after the movie and I was getting more and more hooked on to conversations with her, so I agreed. On one level, she was a typical Delhi stereotype and on another she had such diverse opinions on everything that I kept wanting to provoke to see how she would react. She was a widow, and though not in my age group, she was far more engaging and non-judgemental than most of my peers then.
Our dinner plans slowly turned to just going to a club and getting drunk. She still lived with her in-laws and never really went out with girl friends to get drunk. I obliged. After all, one of the best uses of girl friends, is as company to get drunk with. In retrospect, I don’t she had ever gotten drunk.
We went to an almost-sleazy club near the East of Kailash’s Big Chill (Storm?). As we got ready to order drinks, she decided to follow my course and order a Long Island Iced Tea. Despite my dissuading, she did order it (chai hai na, kitni daru ho gi usme [It's only tea, how much alcohol can it have]) and that’s when we entered our twilight zone.
Halfway down her 1st LIIT, she started talking about how lonely a life she lead. Her husband left her in her life’s prime and despite all the ‘loving’ of their years together, she still missed him. There was nothing I could say and thought to myself, why the hell not! She was never going to see me again and if I could act as a sounding board, why not!
Talk would start in fits and starts and I tried hard to levitate the paneer tikka from the platter instead of contributing to the conversation. She had invited a student of hers too. Earlier I figured it was to generally have some token male company on the table. The club would have hardly left two women in peace.
But turns out I was wrong. She sent this fella on an errand and while he was away, quickly pulled me closer to tell me, ‘Why don’t you get together with him?’
‘No, no,’ I shrank back, he isn’t my type.
I added, ‘ Yes. He is not.’
‘So what is your type’
Before I could come with an appropriate answer, she found something else that struck her fancy. And I was getting tipsy enough to actually formulate a nice, close-to-the-truth answer.
He came back and joined the conversation. She kept trying to get us to dance. Now I had almost moved to the next table in a bid to get away but she wouldn’t listen.
Somewhere along the way she had even ordered herself a second LIT. I was beginning to dread the effect. It’s only now when I think back on that evening and realise what an evening.
Into her second LIT and she started to play footsie with her student, in my plain view. But I was drunk enough not to care, but not drunk enough to realise she is flirting with him. He was either dense to not understand or didn’t mind it. It was getting a little strange as I knew her in an entirely differnent context. I was actually thinking, good thing we weren’t going to see other ever again.
At this point, I start to pray that she finished her drink quickly, and I could make some excuse of driving back alone and get out. But she wasn’t done with her questions.
‘Are you a virgin?’ she asked.
Why does it matter, I asked her back. She was a mother of two grown sons and would it matter to her if she knew her sons had sex?
She ponders about this for a while… the while stretches into me thinking she didn’t hear the question above the din. Good thing, only.
Then, she turns to me and says, ‘Haan.. I think mere beton ne sex ek baar tho kiya hoga‘ (Yes, I think my sons must have had sex once).
Is that right, I feel like asking her. But I wasn’t sure if I was ready for her all-too frank attitude. Seeing her get drunk and flirt was a memory enough.
Chalo, let’s go to his (the student’s) house and drink some more, she suggested.
No no, I almost whined. I have to head home (it’s worse when you live alone because you can’t say your roommates will get angry if you reach late, unlike mothers who make for great excuses).
Oi, no no. You cannot go home. We have to chat all night, she insisted.
I wasn’t so sure.
It’s at that point, that the LITs consumed by her came to my rescue. She was horribly and irrevocable drunk and attested to it by throwing up. It was a first for her, I think. That convinced her. Her student and I took her home, amidst great declarations for LIT and mankind in general.
That was the first time I had to lie to people of that house because they could not know how drunk their bahu was. And I spent the night by her side, convincing her she had not misbehaved.
And, that people, was my (by then ex) boyfriend’s mum who I spent a memorable evening with.
I don’t know if she ever remembers that night but she asked many more blunt questions which I had no heart of putting up here but it was, by far, one of my more enlightening evenings spent drinking.
* Her name isn’t Sarita.