The Love Trip – Part 1: I met Adrian.
Not too long ago, I found myself in Bali. It was the first time I tried, what my friends had been raving about for years – CouchSurfing. It was the trip of my life.
When I got home, I decided I'd list my couch, and open up my home for other CouchSurfers. I figured the point of CouchSurfing is not just to score a free stay, it's to meet interesting people from around the globe and exchange world views.
I scanned through the many different CouchSurfers who were interested in staying with me. And then I came upon Aidy's profile. Oh Adrian Booth, you tall, ginger, investment banking, English beauty. Not that I was interested in hooking up with someone on CouchSurfing, but a pretty face is a pretty face. Colour me superficial, it was one of the filters I was looking at. Anyway, he was 25 then. I was 30. Perfect. No chance of hooking up at all, I said to myself, I'm not into younger men. Right, I decided, I'd host him for a night and show him around the city the next day.
The day of his arrival, I picked him up at the airport – Bombay can be overwhelming. He was cute! “What first?” I asked him excitedly – hoping we could do something Bambaiya right off the bat. “Maybe rest a bit? I'm really jet-lagged,” he bummed me out. We headed home.
Aidy at VT (not CST)
When we reached, he made a beeline for my bookshelf, and we started discussing books and authors and writing genres, and I was falling... calm down, I was falling for him platonically. We were going to be friends. Later, I tour guided him around the city. Meetali's Mumbai Darshan – from Versova to South Bombay in a cab ride as long as a Bom-Del flight. We could only cover half the city. Haji Ali, Siddhi Vinayak Temple, the sea link, VT (no, not CST – VT) and the old Brit architecture around Colaba – we did the usual.
And the unusual - “THAT'S where the richest Indian in the world lives? THAT FUGLY BUILDING?” God, he was saying all the right things.
While we had lunch at Leopold, Aidy confessed he expected a little more attention in India. He was told people would want pictures and selfies with him all over the country... that he'd be a bigger attraction than the attractions themselves. “Also where are the cows?” he was puzzled, “I haven't seen a single cow holding up traffic yet!” This was not the India he was expecting.
After a walk down Colaba Causeway, I treated him to his first 'meetha paan'. “What is this? It tastes like shampoo.” And then for the rest of the walk, he tried different things, trying to rid himself of the shampoo taste.
For the trip back, Aidy insisted we take the Mumbai Locals he had heard so much about. “No, no first class, I want to do it like everyone else.” I tried to explain how first class is like everyone else too, just a bit better. While marvelling at how massive VT station is - 18 platforms - Aidy finally had his moment of glory. A family of four wanted a picture with him. Yes, after every Bambaiya thing we'd done that day, this got him to smile his widest.
But that smile was soon gone when the train wasn't as full as he expected. “It's empty, Meetali? Are all the stories about India more myth than fact?” And just then, as soon as he said it, it was Dadar. A tsunami of people entered. Crotch to butt, crotch to butt, he was stuck, he was uncomfortable, he was almost in tears.
“Myth enough?” I asked him, his face contorted to a state of shock.
The quiet dinner at home helped him recover from the train ride. He talked openly about relationships, monogamy, polygamy, infidelity, politics, books (he loved his books) and I quietly listened. He was me, or a version of me from five years ago – still not battle-ravaged by the big three O and the pressures of simply being that age.
He was...fun. And I dare say, he was the most fun person I had hung out with in a long time.
The next morning I dropped him off at the rickshaw stand. He was off to Goa by train. “It's not crotch-butt, crotch-butt again is it?”
“No, you have a reserved seat. Enjoy the ride.”
I couldn't help but feel a little 'break-uppy' about this goodbye. But I quickly, and by now, expertly discarded these feelings – it was stupid to have any attachment to someone I barely knew for a day.
I went back to my now empty apartment. I missed him. I'm going to assume he missed me too, because the next morning when he reached Goa, his non-stop texts started. Location shares, Snapchat pictures, videos of the calm Goan evening sea, selfies of him dancing with the random women he was meeting along the way... my heart sank.
Here I was, still swooning for the man, and there he was having the time of his life. I was just a layover on his connecting flight to everyone else. But why was he texting me if he didn't care? He had to care. I put this to test. I asked him if he'd be game to have me tag along on his backpacking adventure around India.
He said yes.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Meetali Meshram
Photographs by Meetali Meshram