Peter Cat, Park Street 2006
It was the month of July. Trina remembers the month because their first date coincided with his birthday. Not that they went on a date on his birthday itself but somewhere around his birthday.
During the winter months Trina had started to chat online with a person whose chat id was meghe dhaka tara. In the early 2000’s chatrooms were very popular and many people met their dates through chatrooms. Trina had befriended many men in those chatrooms. Few of them were creepy perverts, few were good but uninteresting. Trina never liked any of them seriously however megha dhaka tara was different and she instantly clicked a chemistry with him.
Trina has a penchant for reading, writing, literature, art, poetry and music. She liked meghe dhaka tara primarily for his unique chat id name. Mostly men used names like “handsomehunk” “cooldude” etc which always showed the desperation and narcissism of these men but this name was different, unique, classy and poetic.She somehow felt that the person behind would be having interest in literature and good movies, something she likes in men however rarely finds.
Trina assumed that meghe dhaka tara would be probably a professor of Bengali or maybe a poet or worse a jobless intellectual roaming around in khadi kurta, beard, shantiniketan bag and charminar cigarette. Initially, they used to mostly chat about poems, authors, parallel movies and left politics. Trina often felt that he was not very conversant with latest technologies, gadgets or information technology. As Trina worked for an IT company she often used to give him gyan on various latest technologies. So far, she had never asked him about his profession. One day while chatting she just casually asked him about his profession and he said he was a Senior Manager in one of the biggest IT conglomerate of the world. “Megha dhaka tara” had concealed his profession deliberately only to allow Trina to enjoy a kind of supremacy over him in terms of technology.
Trina felt extremely embarrassed after coming to know this. In fact the company that Trina worked for was a vendor for this guy’s company. Trina had never asked him his real name but after this she asked his name and came to know that it was Himanshu Chattopadhyay. She further realized that the project she was currently working for had him as one of the senior consultants onsite.
Himanshu Chattopadhyay, the name sounded pretty old fashioned. It was as if the name of some sixty plus grandfather. Trina found it difficult to imagine any young boy of 28-29 having that name. Trina’s mom had an uncle whose name was Himanshu. Trina told him this and he laughed and jokingly asked Trina to call him “dadu”(grandfather) if she pleased. He was the first and only guy Trina met online with whom she shared her telephone number.
On his birthday Trina made an international call to wish him. However she found the number switched off. Thus Trina mailed him. Himanshu mailed back that he was back in India for two months. He gave his number in India. She called him and they mutually agreed to meet the next day.
The next evening Trina felt restless. Sharp at 6.30 she left workstation and went to the washroom. Unlike other days when she rushes to catch the office bus back home, today she took special care in dressing up. She was wearing a purple salwar kameez . She put kajal in her eyes and a dash of purple lipstick. She put a small bindi between her eyebrows. She looked at herself in the mirror and felt pretty.
Himanshu called and said he was waiting below her office in a cab. While coming down in the lift Trina felt butterflies in her stomach. This was going to be her first blind date in life. She was about to meet a person with whom she likes to chat online but has absolutely no idea how is he going to be in real life.
Trina saw quite a few taxis standing in front of her office gate and was unable to understand which one was him. It was already dark and that was making it more difficult to understand. Then she saw the door of a taxi opening and a man inside. She assumed it was him. She went near that taxi and peeped inside. She saw a dark man around the age of 28-29 sitting inside. The man saw Trina peeping and asked her quizzically “Trina?”
Trina nodded her head. Trina then asked “Himanshu?” The man nodded.
Trina got inside the taxi and sat next to him. After getting inside she saw him closely. It was dark and streetlight from the road created a light and shadow impact inside the taxi. In that dim light she saw that he was not really a handsome man. He seemed dark complexioned with a broad flat nose and bulging eyes. His forehead was wide and few hair strands were falling on it. His hair seemed already thinning. He was wearing a jeans and a light blue shirt with sleeves folded below his elbow.
Trina smelt a nice perfume. She couldn’t decide if it was a perfume or aftershave or body spray. The perfume combined with the smell of sweat and tobacco created a manly odor that Trina found intoxicating. They sat next to each other silently for sometime. Both of them were nervous and even forgot to greet each other. Both didn’t know what to talk for quite some time. Then finally, Himanshu broke the silence and asked Trina “So, where do you want to go? A movie or dinner?”
Trina was always indecisive in nature and hates when others make her take a decision. She started thinking, she thought for sometime and felt that dinner would be a safer option. Firstly, dinner would take less time and she would be able to reach home within a decent time and secondly movie on a first date with a stranger is not always safe. You never know what kind of a pervert he might turn out inside the movie hall.
She replied, “Dinner, I guess is better” she continued, “I have to get home before 9pm.”
Himanshu asked, “Park Street?”
Trina nodded her head. Himanhsu instructed the taxi driver to turn towards Park street. The taxi driver was so far driving slowly and aimlessly without knowing the destination. The taxi driver had hit Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and the moment Himanshu said Park Street he geared up the speed and took a right turn from Science city connector towards Park Street.
After entering Park Street Himanshu stopped the taxi in front of the iconic Peter Cat. It was a weekday therefore there was no waiting time. The manager took them upstairs and directed them towards a corner seat.
Trina was new in Kolkata, she had been raised in a small quaint hilly town where the only restaurant they had was a small dhaba run by a Sikh gentleman. It was expensive according to her parents and thus they never went. Trina had heard a lot about the chello kebab in Peter Cat from her friends in Kolkata. This was her first time in Peter Cat.
Much later in her life whenever she came to Kolkata and went to Peter Cat for chello kebab, the though of that evening always came back to her mind. She associated the flavour of chello kebab with Himanshu. After a certain time she started avoiding going to Peter Cat on her visits to Kolkata because good memories often bring tears later on.
Himanshu seemed a gentleman with all old fashioned values that Trina loved. He opened the taxi door for her. Pulled the chair for her and gave her the menu card to decide even though both knew that they would be having chello kebab.
They did not talk much during dinner. Mostly small talks about his life in America. Himanshu paid the bills and they came out of Peter Cat. He called a taxi. Trina thought of returning home alone but Himanshu insisted that he would drop her. Himanshu lived in North Kolkata whereas Trina lived in South, yet he insisted he would drop her. He came and dropped Trina below her apartment and then went back. She secretly appreciated this chivalrous slightly old fashioned gesture. After this taxi ride many more rides followed. Each ride had a distinct memory, the memories that remain etched in the mind of Trina forever.