She was prettier than it seemed from a distance, at least her attitude made her so. And I found her at loss of words, just like myself
It had been raining the past couple of days and the overwhelming aroma of the city kept reminding me of South Mumbai. Only, the sights of beauties such as Ducati, Benelli on roads would bring me back to the happy realisation that I was trotting the streets of Milan, one of the most popular cities of Italy.
There are many aspects that make Milan different, when compared to the sights we are attuned to in India. For example; clearer skies, lazy sit-out cafes on the sides of the water canals, all lit-up restaurants with people sipping their wines in glory. It is also amazing to observe those small football goalposts in nets, partly on water and partly on ground with kids trying to perfect their kicks.
At Milan, you cannot take fashion out of even the mundane things. We don’t get to see as voguish people doing the regular things like picking up veggies, strolling or just enjoying a cuppa latte in our side of the world. The clothes, shoes, walk, jovial attitude and confidence of the Milanese say a lot about the culture of this upmarket city.
For a shopping crazy person like me, ticking all the marks on the ever expanding shopping list is always a challenge. However, I have perfected a trick to make sure that one reaches even halfway with the impulsive shopping list, by trying a thing called window-shopping before the-actual-shopping. It helps you check best deals and compare prices before the money leaves your hand. And if you are at the Buenos Aires shopping street at Milan, be double sure about two things. One, you will get the same pair of shoes for 300 as well as 30 Euros, just keep checking till you need to pinch yourself. Second, do not consider money back as an option even if the jacket you bought has all its threads coming out from everywhere; the salesman will rather ask you to let-it-go and pick-something-else. And there is not much you can do with a tough man wearing black tights with a loud unapologetic tone.
Somehow, even in that business, Milan shows less chaos in comparison to an average Indian metropolitan. I kept looking out to see two Italians roughing it over a traffic feud or a jealous boyfriend picking up a fight about his decked up doll…but nothing, it was business as usual, just in an unfamiliar quiet way. As a regular North Indian would say, ‘machoness’ was missing.
In Milan, they don’t cut the pizzas into those nice little slices; so you just fold one and gobble it up than fighting it with a fork and the usual blunt table knife. Unlike the sophisticated lanes of the coveted Hauz Khas village in Delhi, where the Michelin un-starred pubs entice you with a plus one or plus two on drinks, cafes and bistros in Milan entice you with endless servings of free snacks alongside a 5 Euro glass of wine.
It must have been my fifth serving of some amazing nachos when I found her blue eyes staring at me. Most of the times I am colour blind, but I am very sure it was a turquoise off-shoulder dress that she was wearing. With her black long hair, she sat elegantly as I was fixed on the most beautiful pair of blue eyes. I couldn’t breathe; all the food inside my mouth almost choked me and I had to down it with some of the wine on my table. She smiled and chuckled, making it embarrassing. I heard her friend ask what was funny but she hesitated to point at my face. For any sane guy, that would have been the apt moment for an introduction, but not for me. I had to wait it out till there was another choke building up and the awkwardness had reached newer heights. Like a fool, I finally got up and said ‘hi’. I was greeted with two smiles, one obviously better to my eyes than the other.
“How are you doing?”, I asked and was offered a seat. That was easy; I should have done that earlier… I actually said that, which was thankfully missed in the introductions. “Noah”, she introduced herself as we stared right at each other.
She was prettier than it seemed from a distance, at least her attitude made her so. And I found her at loss of words, just like myself. To our rescue, her friend Christine just could not stop talking. They were waiting there for her boyfriend. “Whose boyfriend?”, I asked. “Mine”, said Christine cheerfully as Noah smiled.
Christine had an Indian boyfriend called Varun. What followed was over thirty minutes of talk by Christine about how much she knows about India and how Varun has promised to bring her to India and everything else. Noah and I spent most of our time stealing glances. Noah liked India, but she did not want to come to India for a short trip, she wanted to explore. Noah didn’t like going out much, she would rather stay at home and watch TV Series than sit at a lousy cafe on a regular evening.
But since, it was Christine’s and Varun’s third month anniversary, she had to be part of the celebrations. How cute! In the middle of all this, Christine suddenly got up and jumped towards…Varun, it was him. While I was waiting to meet an Indian brother to find a common ground, it took me a while to get up as in all her excitement of meeting Varun, Christine had jumped right up, pushed the table and had sent a glass of water in my lap. Never mind, will look at the damages later…”Hi Varun, kya haal chaal?”, I said and I was greeted with a blank look in response. “Vrooon“, he corrected me.
Christine begged him to speak to me in ‘Indian’, and he goes, “Namuhste, kaise hain aap“, which was followed by a great applause and hugs and kisses from Christine. While I was still trying to fathom what had happened and to get over Varun’s err Vrooooon’s ponytail and tattoos, Noah handed me over some tissues alongside an apologetic smile. “Let us paarteh, you want to come bruh?”, asked Vroooon.
As much as I wanted to stay, I still had to go to my hostel and get into dry pair of denims before I could get to know more of Noah. I told them I would join shortly and Vroooon asked me to see him at the third lane under that big grocery shop. Noah asked if I’ll be alright and further explained the exact directions to the pub. I smiled and told her that I would see her at the grocery store and we go together to the place. Generally, i wont quote bollywood but our long handshake parted with each finger bidding adieu to each other.
I kept staring at her walking away in the excitement of knowing someone special. I began to fantasize about how the night shall unfold and just when I was about to name our kids, she looked back and signaled me to hurry back to my hostel. I never did really feel any wetness from the water, on my way back. I changed into another pair of denim and t-shirt making me look alright for the occasion.
I thought if I should take flowers on my way back, but that would not have been alright. I have two more days in Milan to make it work and who knows what the future holds…India and Italy might have better bilateral relations from thereon, I thought to myself. I reached the spot and realized that all the transit had made me 20 minutes late from the decided time of rendezvous. I rushed to the grocery store entrance and then inside it, checked across the road and even in other shops around. But maybe, 20 mins was too much of a wait for Vroooon and Christine…