I wear a slip of a dress and walk downstairs out into the
street, careful to avoid the dust sifting through the ground. It
is humid and hot, and Iíve left my hair wet. I know itíll turn
him on to watch it dry in dark luscious curls. Iíll let him
touch if he wants. He pulls up in an SUV, says nice things about
my dress, and drives me to a place thatís half forest, half
place. The place seems to grow out of the ground with pillars
made of leaves.
"In Bombay you can do that," says my date, and I wonder what
He comes here often. It is almost like his place, he says. He
lives with the owner.
We stand at the bar and watch the crowd. The young, elite of
the city do their best to dress like American teenagers. They
wear platform sneakers and t-shirts. My date introduces me to
the bartenders, three uniformed men with worry in their eyes.
"What would you like?" asks my date.
Iím afraid of saying something unfashionable, so I wait and
think. I fail to impress him. He hands me a murky looking liquid
called a spicy mojito. I look over at the bartenders. Their
uniforms are too large for them.
"Should we leave a tip?" I ask.
I eagerly exclaim I like the drink. My dateís friend, the
owner, comes in and stands beside me. I play a flirtatious game
"Bombay or Delhi?" I ask.
"Bombay," he says, turning his nose up against Delhi. "No
"Sure," I say, looking at the young and rich filing in the
door, "but thereís something to be said for the old and new, desire
and itís repression. Delhi has it."
My date is perplexed. Iím spending more time talking to his
friend that I ought to be.
"Dinner?" he intrudes.
We walk to a quiet table at the far end of the room, near the
kitchen. Not only does my date know the owner, but heís also
interested in the chef, a tall pretty girl who got her degree
from the culinary institute in San Francisco. I like her, a
fellow American. She drops the right words. Feminist,
progressive, discursive, but when I look into her eyes I see
that sheís scared of being in this dark cavernous place night
after night, and the only way out is a proposal from my date.
Sheís neither rich, nor famous, just pretty. Most of what I say,
she doesnít like. I grow quiet in the face of fierce
competition. I realize my date hasnít bothered with my curls.
The owner-friend comes back, but I donítí feel like flirting
with him anymore.
We stand up, and make our way out. I havenít opened my purse,
left a tip, or paid a single paisa to anyone. I get into the car
and see them looking at my ass.
"Have you heard of Fifty Cent?" I ask.
They laugh. "Tell us," they say.
"Itís your Birthday-," I begin to sing an early hit.
They laugh some more, a secret joke between them. I
remember when Iíd asked, "Should we leave a tip?" for the three
worried looking bartenders, my date had laughed in the same way,
and fixed me another mojito.
Pragya Trivedi received an M.A.
from U.C. Santa Cruz in the History of Consciousness, and a B.A.
from Carnegie Mellon in English. She has also been published in
Cultronix and InterVisons, journals of cultural