Palash and I had decided to meet one last time before he moved to Melbourne for his doctoral research. We walked over to an impeccably awesome salad bar hidden in the bylanes of Bandra. It was his first time ordering salad at a restaurant, so he was a bit jittery. I promised that the risk was worth taking. And if he ended up not liking what he ordered, I would have it, and then take him to any place of his choice.
He loved every morsel. He had not imagined that salad could be something other than the sliced tomato and cucumber served at home. “Dude, this stuff is edible! In fact, it is really good,” he said. “I thought salad was for sick people, or health freaks, and those damn vegans.”
I had finished eating, and was trying to hear the conversation at the table next to ours. Two guys, both casually dressed in T-shirts and shorts, were discussing body hair. I had no clue as to whether they were students, professionals, or whatever else, but the topic certainly caught my attention.
A: Have you ever considered getting a Brazilian wax?
B: Hell, no! I know of women who get that done. Not men. Anyway, what a horrific thing to do to yourself!
A: Yes, man! I’m never going to do it. I’m scared to even shave my balls. Women are much braver with this waxing shit.
B: Shave? I have never shaved. I like my forest.
A: What!!! No girl is going to allow that. Besides, it’s so unhygienic.
B: Come on, I wash myself thrice a day. Only guys who want to appear bigger shave themselves.
A: And of course, you’re too big to care!
There was some wild laughter and a wink after that. I finally decided to mind my own business, and focus on what Palash was saying. He was suddenly quite in love with the idea of enrolling for a salad-making class. That would help him survive in Melbourne. “Man, Indian food is bloody expensive outside India. I am not going to pay a thousand rupees for a parantha,” he said, adding that he had recently learnt how to make dal, rice and aloo ki sabzi. “I wish I could take my Mum along with me. But that’s such a chauvinist thing to do, na?”
Yes, but unfortunately, it is a pretty common thing among urban Indian privileged men. I know of 30-year-olds who get their mothers to wash their undergarments and are unashamed when they admit so. Is it pretty much the same story in Pakistan? I remember being actively discouraged from cooking when I showed interest in it as a child. “You will become like that uncle next door who spends time in the kitchen while his wife works in an office,” I was told. Anyway, I am too old now to complain about my conditioning. I need to get my act together, and expand my culinary repertoire (which, by the way, is embarrassingly humble).
“A friend of mine in London got a Brazilian wax. His girlfriend demanded that as her birthday gift”
Palash wanted to go for a stroll after eating two bowls of salad, and drinking a glassful of a luscious banana smoothie. I told him about the conversation I had overheard while he was lost in spinach and lettuce. “The things you hear! Too much information!” he said. There was a minute of silence, and then he resumed, “A friend of mine in London got a Brazilian wax. His girlfriend demanded that as her birthday gift. He now has a white patch on his crotch.”
The couple broke up. I did not ask why.
Chintan Girish Modi is a Mumbai-based writer who believes that Indians and Pakistanis can live together with a sense of humour. He tweets @chintan_connect