Hope springs eternal with me that in getting to know someone I discover more facets to their character as respect for their integrity and accomplishments just increases. It’s always a bit disappointing when prolonged exposure to someone just reveals how shallow they are.
One thing I know: Just because someone talks about “purifying their life”, devotion to yoga, meditation and their guru, and puts posts on facebook about the “spiritual experience of living every minute with respect, love, grace and gratitude”, doesn’t mean they can’t be a hypocritical sleazebag.
I returned to India’s only planned city to visit a friend I’d stayed with before. For two months he had repeatedly asked me to come back and visit, saying he missed my sense of humour and our chats about the world. As an Indian who had lived in the West for a while, he liked spending time with people from different cultures. Or so he said.
He is a senior civil servant, with an MBA from Canada. He was a bit inconsistent – one minute he would tell me how important his career was and that he lived like a king, next he was expressing his boredom with what he does and a neverending round of social engagements with other civil servants he said were friends but he called “sir”.
One night he told me he wanted to use 7 acres of family-owned land to grow organic food that he would then process as a business venture and contribution to society. I said people who bought organic food were probably more interested in fresh food, and a few minutes later he was ranting about his processing plant. “I’ll process anything!” he panted, acknowledging 7 acres were unlikely to produce enough raw materials to keep this enterprise engaged for more than about half an hour. “The important thing is to keep the plant busy and MAKE MONEY!”
“Imagine being involved with someone who talks so much rubbish,” I thought. “He would drive me mad.”
He scurried off one morning because he had a last-minute crisis at a hospital – I thought someone was dying – but it turned out someone’s mother had a dodgy knee and he had to assist with queue-jumping so she could get a room. It was all a bit Godfatherish – his days seemed to revolve around doing favours for friends with occasional stints in the office and a meeting every now and then.
When I first knew him I wasn’t very well and had no appetite and he was very concerned that I ate very little. Eating loomed large in his forebrain, as he obsessed over his diet and body shape quite frequently. And his 5am jogs. And his milk-drinking habit. As I have a degree in physiology I tried to explain a few things about nutrition.
“I am learning so much from you!” he exclaimed from time to time.
He was drinking litres of milk a day and wondering why he wasn’t losing any weight. From his short-sleeved shirts and ill-fitting, too tight trousers, I didn’t think appearance was very important to him, but I was wrong. Apparently he wanted to look good naked, which was surprise to me, and not a good one.
I was a bit shocked to find he’d never heard of Jackie Kennedy – obviously, despite reasonable intelligence and two years in North America, he never read anything. I know who Indira Gandhi is. Even Sonia Gandhi. Not to mention Mayawati, former chief minister and colossal money waster of Uttar Pradesh.
That first time I was in Chandigarh towards the end of my stay, he had asked me, extremely nervously, one night if he could kiss me. I declined, rather surprised, as there was nothing remotely flirtatious between us. He was not even a remotely sexual being to me, as he seemed more concerned with his meditation and yoga. I said, truthfully, that there was someone else, though the truth was also that I was simply not attracted to him.
Despite a degree in business administration, his grasp of detail and time management skills were non-existent. There was always some last-minute crisis that needed his presence and would take three times longer to manage than he said it would.
He had told me on several occasions what a good organiser he was, but when we went on a short trip to Shimla we left six hours later than we were meant to, because of more last-minute crises. He wasn’t even clear about how long we would be there. My one morning in the place was wasted because despite supposedly organising breakfast, the cooks took an hour to produce an omelette and having got up early for one of his jogs, when we supposed to be going out he fell asleep. I spent most of my time there waiting around.
After finally encountering the Oberoi Hotel, which he claimed to be familiar with though in truth had never entered, he ordered some nasty milky drink, then sent it back because this cold drink was, well, cold. And he was rude to the waiter about it.
But he had a good heart. Or so I thought.
After I left he kept calling and emailing me, eager for my return. The first evening after doing some errands (and missing his dental appointment) he asked me if I wanted to kiss him. Er no. Sitting on a chair opposite him, I wondered where that came from. He wanted to talk about feelings and my moods and whether I wanted a relationship (maybe, but not with him), and then he concluded by saying he wanted something casual with me that was a “notch above friendship”. OK, nothing contradictory there.
Notches, above friendship or anywhere else, are not my thing. The next evening he tried to resume this conversation and I reminded him that there was someone else in my life, while he talked on as if my acquiescence to having sex with him was a matter of me being in the right mood. The next night, apropos of nothing while I checked my email, he asked me again if I wanted to kiss him. That would still be a no.
These requests were starting to get a bit irritating.
“I used to drink like a fish,” he told me one night. Ignoring this cliché, I asked how much this fish consumed. “I used to have three or four drinks and then I’d be tipsy,” he replied. It’s not a competition, but when I was on the party circuit, three or four drinks barely touched the sides.
Although constantly reminding me that he no longer drank, he was always offering me drinks. Eventually I realised he thought if I got enough alcohol in me I would be in a “good mood”, ie I would want to have sex with him. We were supposed to go to Rishikesh, but his lack of organisation and ability to pay attention meant that didn’t happen, which was probably just as well. He also wanted to download music from my iPod – I said he was welcome to it, but he needed to get a cable that I didn’t have. “I’ll have it tomorrow,” he declared. It never materialised.
In the middle of this visit, he went to Goa for three days, supposedly to celebrate a marriage, then it turned out he was tagging along for a 25th wedding anniversary weekend for people he didn’t know, and that he was just going to hang out with his friends at casinos and “look for ladies”. He gloated over all this free hospitality but said he wasn’t going to attend the events planned.
I sensed the “looking for ladies” remark was for my benefit. I guess in some part of sub-conscious I wasn’t really acknowledging, I knew he was getting rather grumpy that I kept spurning his advances. I was rather glad he was going, and when I found my departure was a day earlier than I thought, I was even happier.
At the start of my second visit he told me he needed a woman around the house, and someone to take charge of his wardrobe. I wasn’t sure if he thought I should do this – I’d want to get rid of all of his clothes. His kitchen was a mess, so I tidied that a bit.
There was only one night left after he returned from Goa and he said we should go out, so we did. We went to a large hotel, and he drank lime soda but was determined to get some cocktails into me. I guess I was in the mood for a drink and a chat, and the cocktails were actually good for once, so I had a couple, then we went upstairs and had Italian food and I introduced him to a few things he’d never had before, like minestrone soup, tiramisu and dipping bread in olive oil and balsamic.
“I am learning so much from you!” he exclaimed yet again.
He asked a few personal questions, then talked at length about a girlfriend who whom he was involved for a year. She wanted to get married, he didn’t, though he thought perhaps as time passed he would. He started complaining about how marriage would compromise his freedom, though I reminded him he would get that wardrobe supervisor he wanted.
“It seems to me you didn’t want to marry her,” I said. He was unsure, but I knew he didn’t, especially when he confided that she had a skin pigmentation condition on her elbow and that was a major factor in putting him off. Anyway, she is now married to a neurosurgeon in America so I doubt she misses him though he is convinced she does. Then he took credit for her current situation, saying: “I taught her how to be good in bed, and that is why she has a happy marriage now.”
I would really like to delete this remark from my brain, but I fear it is stuck there forever.
I told him a few stories about silly things I’d done at university – none of them sexual – and we had a reasonably nice evening. Then we returned and as I was catching an early train I got my things organised. He said we should leave at 8.10am the next day to be at the station in time.
Everything done and ready for sleep, I went to bid farewell for the evening. “Give me a kiss good night,” he said. I kissed him on both cheeks as I would a friend.
“That’s not a proper kiss!” he squawked.
“What do you mean by a ‘proper kiss’?”
“A passionate one.” I guess he meant tongues.
I squirmed and said I couldn’t do that. To clarify (and spare his feelings), I said his “notch above friendship” thing was not for me. Which it isn’t. He had indicated that he had feelings for me, but now it seemed all he really wanted was a compliant body.
He went on about wanting sex and how we were both there and we should enjoy it, blah, blah blah. Finally he snorted: “I don’t understand your moods!” Except there weren’t any “moods” … We went out, that was fun, then we came back and I focused on getting my stuff together. What he meant was, that despite consuming four drinks, I still didn’t want to have sex with him. He complained about waiting, saying he thought I “needed more time”. I did the math: Western + alcohol = sex on demand.
I reminded him yet again, that I was involved with someone else, to which he spat: “I have someone else too!”
It seemed beneath his slightly nerdy, milk-slurping, golf-jumpered exterior, there lurked a wannabe sex beast.
I regretted those drinks when I didn’t sleep that well and had a bit of a headache the next day. But I wasn’t drunk, and even if I had consumed an entire Punjabi liquor store’s worth of whisky, I still wouldn’t want to have sex with him.
That night I dreamed I was sleeping and he came into my room and pestered me, not physically, but just by being unpleasant, making noise, not allowing me to rest.
I woke up, wondering for some reason if he was going to turn nasty. Oh well, if worst came to worst, I could get a tuk tuk and take myself to the station. But he was a nice guy, he wouldn’t be like that. I thought we would drive to the station and he would ask again when I was coming back, and how I should live in Delhi so we could chat, etc.
One night he had mildly berated me for shutting the door to my bedroom because he “didn’t shut doors”. I like shutting doors at night as they keep out light and sound. While he was away he locked the door to his room, and the door was shut now.
About 8am when I was thinking of tapping on it, he emerged and announced: “Are you ready? I’ve called you a cab. I’m going jogging with a friend.”
There was something very petulant in his tone – I understood that he he’d decided he wasn’t going to get what he wanted, and now he couldn’t wait to get me out the door. I couldn’t believe how petty he was; if having sex with him was a condition of my return, he should have said so. And in those moments he became as repellent as a man can be.
And that was that: I was dispatched. Friendship over. Though I am left wondering, does a spiritual path encompass being a petty sex pest? I can only think that woman with the defective elbow epidermis had a lucky escape.