The Single Life
A man walks out of a bar. He’s downright gorgeous in an understated, unselfconscious way. It’s the peak of Delhi winter and the weather outside is frosty and foggy. He wraps his muffler around his neck, and makes his way towards me.
I’m standing at the edge of the footpath next to 4S in Defence Colony Market, waiting for friends to arrive, when I notice him. He seems undecided; like he’s still debating whether he should or shouldn’t approach me in broad moonlight.
“Excuse me Ma’am,” he says.
Before I can muster a reply, he rushes on, “I just have one thing to say to you after which, I promise I shall take your leave.”
“Okay,” I say, half reluctant, half curious.
“You make a very fine lady,” he says, with a stress on the last three syllables.
Then he pauses as if for effect.
“And now I shall take your leave,” he says and walks back to the bar. I watch him through the glass door. He takes his seat, rummages through a bag, fishes out a notebook and starts to scribble in it.
This was the first time since I moved to Delhi that a man approached me, and it certainly wasn’t the last. In the four years that followed, I expected to meet more than my fair share of rich, flamboyant, misogynist “Delhi” men. Instead, I seem to have stumbled upon some of the most interesting men I could ever hope to find.
I’ve decided it’s because Delhi is a remarkably good wingman, which makes it far superior than Mumbai for the single man or woman. The city is an almost invisible force that facilitates the meeting of two complete strangers through a combination of various elements: weather so extreme it will never cease to be an immensely relevant conversation starter; a sprawling landscape speckled with tombs, tanks, ruins, parks and gardens that provide an ambient setting for any potential encounter; a thriving arts and literature scene with regular art openings and book launches that encourage insobriety and seduction.
Markets in Bombay are purely commercial avenues. In Delhi, markets are potential pick-up points. If you’re a woman on the prowl for a smart, geeky, good-looking, chess playing “dude”, drop in at any café at the SDA Market opposite the IIT Gate. If you’re a man in the mood for a hoity-toity, high-heeled, uptown girl, park yourself anywhere in Khan Market. If you prefer someone intense who’d pick high literature over self-help, spend a few hours at Fact and Fiction, or Midland, two of the country’s finest independent bookstores, and you’re sure to meet your match somewhere around the shelves that house Henry Miller and Bukowski. Fancy exotic, occidental blood? Rescue a hapless firang from being fleeced at the flea market at Janpath and he or she will be yours, if not for keeps, then for at least a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
Speaking entirely from experience, the chances of scoring are at least eight on ten. All you need to do is initiate conversation. Delhi’s a city with a loose tongue, and whether you’ve lived here for 50 years or five days, you’ll find you share the penchant for small talk. Because, here in Delhi, there is time. You may be in a hurry to get somewhere, but it’s not like you have to catch the last train to Virar.
Delhi itself is a seductive city. It’s brutish and maverick, to begin with, but it creeps up on you when you’re not looking and steals your heart away. Delhi embraces you almost against your will and before you know it, you’re a convert: a Dilliwalla. It happened to me about six months after I first moved, when I was still adamant about my passion for Bombay. It was an accident. Rife with hunger, I stepped into Khan Market. It was my first time there and I knew nothing about where to go and what to eat. There was this overwhelming aroma of marinated meat being grilled on coals. I followed my nose and found myself in front of a modest little joint called Khan Chacha’s. As I sunk my teeth into the juicy, fleshy seekh roll that was handed to me after much anticipation, a choir standing inches away began to sing an a capella version of Seal’s “Kissed By A Rose”. It was my first Delhi moment.
A few days ago, I was traveling in an auto, en route to a meet a date. I lit two cigarettes, one for me, one for the driver. We then indulged in small talk. He asked me where I was from. I told him I was from Mumbai. Then he asked the much-awaited question, which city I preferred. He was surprised when I said Delhi because “few people from Bombay ever do”. Then he looked at me point blank through the rear-view mirror, smiled, and said, “Madam, Mumbai to paisewalon ka shaher hai, Dilli dilwalon ka!”
I couldn’t compete with his logic. I took a drag from my cigarette, blew forth a gust of smoke, and
Rosalyn D’Mello is a Delhi-based freelance writer. She is currently editing an anthology of women’s erotica for Zubaan.Dating, Mumbai vs Delhi, Special Top Story