Did I want to go for a coffee, Smartboard Man asked, way back in early March. He was a friend of Academic Director and at the school to persuade the management of the benefits of installing a Smartboard. Indispensable in any reputable school, he argued, and he had sold several to other schools in the vicinity… So prestige dictated the school should follow suit.
Smartboard Man was giving me a lift home as he was going through N on his way home to Trivandrum, so it made perfect sense. And coffee? Where was the harm in this, I thought. Maybe if I had been asked to join him for a drink in the evening, I might have been on my guard and declined the offer, but coffee…
Did I know of any place to go for a coffee, he inquired. As this was the first time I even considered accepting such an invitation, I had no idea where in N one could get a decent cup of coffee. Most establishments I had seen were not exactly inviting to a single woman, so up until then I had my caffeine fixes at home. Luckily, Smartboard Man knew the place to go and we found a hotel near my home where indeed we enjoyed a coffee and engaged in small talk. The usual stuff: native country, good name and where is your husband… After having my background thoroughly investigated, and established that I was single and he was married and had a daughter, we went as far as exchanging phone numbers with the offer that when I got back in June, he would show me the delights of Trivandrum. Seemed all above board and very innocent.
With very slim pickings on the socialising front available to me in India, and some encouragement from open-minded Indian women, I decided to take the plunge. ‘Not all men are after… you know what,’ S, who I met on my first trip to Kanyakumari, had assured me. ‘Go with the flow, lots of positive thinking and yes, maybe moving closer to Trivandrum might oil the wheels of a social life,’ she insisted. At the end of July, mulling things over with flatmate A, and mooting the idea to Indian Man In The Know, I took the courageous step to drop Smartboard Man a text message. As I had not spoken to Smartboard Man since March, I decided on rekindling our acquaintance via text, rather than making a phone call. I had by then, courtesy of A, been put in the picture about the possible alternative meaning of ‘going for a coffee’. Was there indeed an ulterior motive??
I cannot really remember the wording of my text, but it would have been along the lines of, ‘Hi! Remember me? We met ages ago at the school? What are you doing on Saturday? Would love you to show me Trivandrum, as you promised, and meet your family.’ I contacted him on Wednesday, plenty of Indian time to arrange something for Saturday. You learn that planning things too far in advance here is just a waste of time. Things are done on the spur of the moment, no forward planning, no forward thinking… See what will turn up; no effort involved. Twenty four hours lapsed before his reply: ‘Oh friend. I remember you. Talked to many people about you. Everybody eagerly waiting to see you. Regards. XXX’ Really? A bit full on, or so I and A thought. Who was ‘everybody’? We asked the opinion of Indian Man In The Know who, as a man and an Indian man at that, might be able to translate those words. He did not see any problem with Smartboard Man’s keenness but agreed that the suggestion of A accompanying me would be a sensible move.
In my next text message, I gratefully accepted Smartboard Man’s invitation and asked for more specific details, such as time and place. And I might have let it slip that I intended to bring a friend, an Indian teacher who was also new to the area.. Did he mind? Thursday evening came and went, so did Friday evening… Saturday grew cold without any response… The silence spoke for itself. Needless to say, I have not contacted Smartboard Man again. Maybe the coffee was indeed the one the Urban Dictionary alludes to, not the one with caffeine in it.
It does not bode well for having opportunities to socialise in India…