Benaras conversations

[From January 2008.]

“Where will you take your lunch today, Mr. Joe?”
“With the dhosa man around the corner.”
“Oh! Dhosas are very bad for lunch!”
“Huh? How come?”
“For lunch you need rice, daal,  two chipatis, and sabji.”
“So, what about dinner?”
“For dinner? Well, no rice, or maybe just a little.”
“What else?”
“Daal, two chipatis, and sabji.”

*     *     *

“We have seen you taking meals with ____.  Are you having dating now?”
“Um, no.”
“Why? She is from your country.”

*     *     *

“Raju, do you think Tuk Tuk Man gets angry that we call him ‘Tuk Tuk Man’?”
“No, why?”
“I was just wondering.”
“If you like you can also call him Auto Man, or Autorickshaw Man, or TukTuk Walla. They don’t mind because they are mostly Bengali muslims.”
“Why would that matter?”
Long pause. “I don’t know.  Why would it matter that we call him Tuk Tuk Man?”

*     *     *

“Have you ever had a Japanese girlfriend?”
“No.”
“Korean?”
“No.”
“Chinese?”
“No.”
I pause while searching for categories that will make sense, even if they’re ones I wouldn’t ordinarily use. “Only white Americans and Hispanic Americans.”
“Spaniards?”
“No. Like from Cuba or Puerto Rico.”
“Oh.” There is a long pause. “So, no Europeans?”
“Well, no, not, well, not technically, no.” He lets this evasion pass. “These are weird questions to ask out of the blue, Sunit, are you thinking of dating a woman from one of the countries you’re talking about?”
“No, no.  It’s just that I have heard that they are the best.”
I try to keep a neutral expression. “Oh?”
“Yes, many men, tourists, that I have talked to say Japanese girlfriends are the best.”
“Hm… .”
“Well, the Croatian guys that I met said that.”
“Oh?”
“And the Iranian guys.”

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