One of the guys.
Have you ever wondered what four drunk (well.. three drunk, the fourth on Red Bull) college-aged Indian guys do in the early morning hours in the company of an equal drunk foreign girl?
Dance, as it turns out. Dance. And dance. And dance.
I should have figured this out from Harish, back in the states. The guy loves to dance. I should have noticed that it was strange, and I should have related it back to his subcontinent. But I did not, and as a result, I’m still wonderfully blindsided and charmed by the fact that in this country of nearly two billion, I’ve yet to meet a guy who won’t dance.
And not just won’t–that makes it sound like they need to be prodded first. No. These men are born to dance. They pull you back in when you try to sit down and rest. They spin you. And they move, whether or not you’ll move with them; it almost seems involuntary.
So, how did I find myself dancing with four guys I’d just met at 4 in the morning?
It started with only one of them, who slowed down on his bike the night before, after he saw me walking back to my guesthouse in the dark. Did I need a ride? he asked. I looked suspicious. No, I said, I can walk. Are you an Osho? he asked. No, I said. And so the questions continued until we were in conversation, and then I was being invited for coffee, and then I got on the bike and then I was having coffee with a stranger.
Undeniably, this sounds sketchtastic. It’s just another difference in this country that such behavior does not necessarily presume a creepy person. I have written before about the informality of India; this is partially what I mean. He stopped for obvious reasons but his eyes were innocent, not probing. And I was tired of only meeting people who wanted to talk about my aura.
So we had our coffee, I discovered that he was willing to only talk, and he promised to take me to an event at his college the next day before dropping me off. We hung out some more the next day, and that night I met his friends, and we went to his place, and hookah was smoked, and white wine and beer and a tiny bottle of vodka worked their way around the group, and everyone’s personalities became transparent, and before the night was out I was being declared one of them and given an alcohol-saturated pass into their group of friends.
Akshay–the first one I met–is one of many guys I’ve met in India that neither smoke nor drink. I admire his ability to be happily sober in a group of drunk people, something that’s not always particularly fun. But he’s a pretty straight-laced guy, as it’s become clear. His room was plastered with motivational posters that might be available at a teachers’ supplies outlet, and a hand-written sign was stuck on the wall to remind himself, “If I become a successful businessman, a few people will know me, whereas if I become a successful cricketer, the world will know me.”
They all attend a prestigious business school, but A. is apparently a highly prized cricketer as well. In fact, the U.S. is currently forming a team, and he’s in negotiations to join it; the downside being that his future in Indian cricket would be done for, and that’s really where his heart is.
A.’s two friends Kalyan and Sumit were an interesting contrast to his more reserved and polite personality. K., the oldest of the three, discussed movies and books and music and as the night wore on became more and more of a flirt. S., on the other hand, is the youngest, and had no apparent interest in me but chain-smoked, drank like a fish, and was the most wildly enthusiastic dancer. He could have danced all night. Like Audrey Hepburn.
S.’s friend Chetan–a year younger than him–eventually joined us as well, a very quiet guy who nevertheless partook of the smoking and dancing. It turns out that American preteens have no monopoly on Truth or Dare; in fact, four college-aged Indian guys will very happily play the game. This is what followed the hookah but preceeded the dancing, and there was seduction, talk of virginity and the loss of it, and C.’s forced proposal to me (“I love you… I love you.. I love you because you are a foreign.”)
I went to the bathroom and came out to find the four guys dancing to some Hindi pop song. When I tried to sit down, I was pulled back up, but I felt too awkward to dance to whatever was on so I put on Shakira instead. Even I can’t resist Shakira. And then I found myself shaking my hips and working my way around their circle to dance with each one, enjoying the power of being the only girl. I also noticed for the first time the upward tug at the corners of my mouth that comes with wine drunkenness; involuntary and persistent smiling.
All in all it was a very good night, and not entirely unlike time spent with friends back home. Except, of course, being one of the guys, a curious new place for me… but one I kind of like. It teaches me things. For example, I partially understand cricket now.