I sit on a cosy red couch near the door. I am three minutes late, but she won’t be here for another 15. She hasn’t managed to avoid the Ganesh Chaturthi traffic.
Luckily, Café Zoe has a bookshelf. I walk over and inspect the small library, hoping to find something that will interest me while I wait. Nothing looks appetizing, so I decide to surprise myself.
I walk around to the other side of the bookshelf. The books are anonymous now: from here, I can’t see the titles or authors’ names. Some of the books are tall and skinny and new; others are short and fat and old. My gut tells me to reach out and grab a book that looks about 280 pages long.
The book is titled The Best of Me and it’s by Nicholas Sparks, the author of the Notebook. Is this a good omen or a bad one?
I return to the couch and begin the novel. The protagonist is an oilrig worker who miraculously survives a massive explosion. I resist the urge to pick up a pen and underline all the clunky sentences.
Four pages later, she arrives. We hug. She sits across the table from me, on a red couch identical to mine. Her clothes are fashionably casual, her smiles frequent and endearing. But she can’t decide what she wants to drink.
I tell her that I’ll be having a gin and tonic. She wrinkles her nose at the thought. I suggest a beer, or a girly cocktail, but neither option impresses her. She settles on a Jameson and ginger ale, but the waiter tells her that ginger ale is out of stock. ‘How can you not have ginger ale?’ she says, with a spikiness that delights me.
She eventually accepts a whiskey with soda and lemon wedges. We toast, but she doesn’t look me in the eye as we take our first sips.
She’s funny and self-deprecating, almost too self-deprecating. I instantly feel the need to make her more confident, more trusting in her own intelligence and poise. We laugh over and over again.
But she’s taken aback when she learns that I’m writing about Tinder, and will be writing about her. She pretends to pack her bag and leave: for an alarming second, I believe that she actually will.
She has the most extensive vocabulary of any woman I’ve met on Tinder. I can tell that words come easily to her, and that she enjoys using the right ones. She is well educated, well traveled, and well spoken. She also shows some curiosity about my previous Tinder dates.
I move from my red couch to hers, but can tell that she’s still not entirely comfortable with being so close. We make lists of all the countries we’ve been to. Her list is six countries longer than mine, mostly because of her extensive travels through Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. She asks me what Brasil is like, and I say: “it’s like India, but they seem to have looked after the environment better.” We spend two hours together. Every second is pleasant and effortless. We get along and I like her.
When I pay the bill, she’s flattered, but makes me promise that we will split it the next time we meet. We leave the restaurant and wait for her car. It arrives, we hug, then she slips into the back seat.
In the taxi home, I wonder whether our easy rapport was sparked by genuine romance. Am I attracted to her, or her impeccable upbringing? She went to one of Bombay’s best schools, has seen the world, and is completing her education abroad. I’m charmed by her sensitivity and sense of humor, her love of travel and of reading, her refinement and sophistication.
But do I really like her, or am I simply comforted by the fact that she grew up in a home just like mine?
The taxi drops me back to my apartment. I receive a text message from a previous Tinder date — Date #4 — who was sitting behind me the whole evening. She tells me that she overheard snippets of the conversation.
I fear that Tinder is now everywhere.
Watch out for Date #9
By Kunal Bambawale
Photography: Karan Khosla