Chocolate and Gold Coins

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Thirteen Years Ago

Thirteen years ago, I had just finished taking my macro mid-term exam. I was in a relaxed mood. Some other students were going to go out for beer. I did not care to join them.

I had another idea. I decided to go up to the prettiest girl in class and say, “I know of an Indian restaurant near where I live. Would you like to go?” It was quite out-of-character for me to do such a thing. And maybe it was quite out of character for her to agree.

We walked together to the bus stop. I was eager to learn more about this lady from Madras. I made some small talk. I asked her what the game of cricket was like. I’m sure now she wished she had said, “It’s a big bore. Don’t ever watch it.”

We went to the house where I was boarding and got my car. I loved my car. It was just two years old and in mint condition. I was proud that I had a decent-looking car. I opened the door for her like a gentleman. Then I we went to “Delites of India” (sic) on Lake Street (Minneapolis).

I am forever grateful that Delites of India turned out to be the right kind of Indian restaurant. It was a nice mom-and-pop type of place that served very nice food in a homey atmosphere. Well, homey might not be exactly the right word. It was decorated with pictures of Guru Nanak Dev and Sai Baba and they played bhajans non-stop. But somehow I thought the place was quite charming.

I had no idea what to order. She was very reluctant to recommend anything for fear that I might not like it. She recommended something safe in the end: alloo channa. They made it very well. I've never seen that dish anywhere else.

We talked for two hours that evening. We talked about Madras and St. Louis and friends we had years ago. She talked about the nice times she had on the beach in Madras and how nice it was to be near a large body of water. I told her about the crazy Indian roommate I had years ago and the many battles he fought with his Chinese suite-mate. We had a splendid evening.

Then I drove her home. She didn’t know how to get home so we got lost. She told me later that she was very nervous. But I found her street on the map and got there with no more problems. I smiled and said that I had a very nice time. She smiled and said she did too.

I drove home feeling just wonderful.

As you might have guessed, my wife and I always do something special on the anniversary of our first date. At first, we always went back to Delites of India. After moving here, we usually went to an Indian restaurant. Last night we did something different: Lebanese take-out.

Take-out doesn't sound romantic but my wife had it all planned. I orderred the food. She picked it up on the way home. She asked me to go get a bottle of wine. She laid out the nice tablecloth and put out some candles. And we had a very nice meal together.

She remembered a detail from that first date that I had not. Usally the waiters were the owners: Mr. and Mrs. Arora. But that night it was their daughter who waited on us. And she kept coming to take our order and we were so busy chatting about this and that we had not looked at the menu so we kept saying: "another five minutes, please." That apparently went on for a half an hour. She was probably getting annoyed with us, but well, who cares.

She thought the picture on the wall was this Sai Baba, but I clearly remember the other fellow. Maybe both were up there (I don't recall the other picture). There were also many pictures of deities on the wall: Krishna, Shiva, and others. This along with the clearly Hindu religious music probably made this restaurant very Hindu (and Sikh with Guru Nanak). I doubt many muslims came to eat there.

But I have to admit that this was one thing I really liked about the Aroras: they were comfortable as they were and were not going to "please the masses" by compromising. They were vegetarians and they served only vegetarian food. They were Hindus and they only played Hindu religious music. If others didn't like that, they didn't care. They weren't profit maximizing, they were utility maximizing. I respect that.

Update 2
With a little googling, I discovered that the waitress that night was Teena Arora and she teaches Indian cooking in San Mateo, CA. I hope her parents are doing well, they were such nice people.


  • I love hearing how couples met.
    Your's sounds pretty romantic.
    Hoping to hear how and where you proposed to her.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:52 AM  

  • I am curious as to why she agreed to go out with you (nothing to do with you or your looks hehe). Is she not a first generation Indian in the US?

    By Blogger gawker, at 10:46 AM  

  • Hi Rajeshwari

    Hi Gawker:
    She is from India and she would have ordinarily done the "Indian roulette" thing. In fact, she had interviewed (sounds like a job application) with some guys the previous winter break.

    She told me later that I asked at the right time. She was hungry and felt "what's the harm?" Little did she know!

    She complains that I talk to her less in the last month than I did on that first date. I admit, I made more effort then.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 11:33 AM  

  • It brought a smile on my face on this dull and tiring day so thought of leaving a note of appreciation. Thank You!

    May god bless you and your family always

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:30 PM  

  • I shall be all girly and go 'awwwwww'!
    It's heartening to see that romance doesn't diminish with time :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:48 PM  

  • Hey Michael,

    What a cute post. It's only been 4 years since I met my husband but your post made me get nostalgic again about our first interactions and date:-)
    Nice one...

    By Blogger Minal, at 12:02 AM  

  • Very cute and I am sure you are glad you skipped that beer :)
    As far as the talking goes. I used to talk a lot, now I listen! j/k

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:34 AM  

  • Am curious to know if there is an economics angle here :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:22 AM  

  • such a nice story... made me smile :)
    (just curious - is this your first indian-dinner-together anniversary or something - or this is this just a nice memory nugget?)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:25 AM  

  • Hi Everyone
    Varun and Charu: See the update.

    Rishi: Thanks very much (are you a real Rishi with magic powers and such?)

    Minal: Thanks.

    Patrix and Ash: It is hard to keep the romance burning for 20, 30, 40 years, so these things help (hint).

    Nitin and Indianpad: It is harder to keep the conversation going as a relationship matures for a simple reason: it has all been said before. The only new topics are politics (which is often not a good thing to discuss) and work. And by the time I get home, I really don't care to talk about work.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 7:33 AM  

  • after reading the original post i guessed that it would have been your first meeting. something told me that the post is incomplete and hence i refrained from commenting earlier. congrats on the happy occasion.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 8:02 AM  

  • Nice Michael. Like someone else commented there seems to be some inexplicable interest in knowing how other couples meet. Well I'm glad it all worked out well for both of you. Cheerios

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:53 AM  

  • i'll just smile and think about how my wife and i met each other, by chance :-))

    By Blogger Sunil, at 1:01 PM  

  • Hi Kaps, Swami, and Sunil
    Kaps: Maybe I'm subtle but it seemed obvious what I was talking about to me. Thanks for the well-wishes

    Sunil and Swami: Thanks

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 11:04 AM  

  • Hi Michael -

    I just googled my name, and came across your story. Thank you for the kind compliments! I do in fact teach Indian cooking classes in the Bay Area, although I am moving back to Minneapolis this summer.

    My parents are doing well. Thank you. Stay mom and I are writing a cookbook.

    Best Regards,
    Teena Arora

    By Blogger Unknown, at 1:31 AM  

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