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Pragya Trivedi



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 means.

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.

He laughs.

I eagerly exclaim I like the drink. My dateís friend, the owner, comes in and stands beside me. I play a flirtatious game with him.

"Bombay or Delhi?" I ask.

"Bombay," he says, turning his nose up against Delhi. "No comparison".

"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 studies.

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