By Rajneesh Narula
(Another in my occasional essay series) http://meritbbs.unimaas.nl/narula/essays.html
I have a curious collection of unusually honest and generous readers, as the overwhelming response to my last essay, The Angst of Relocation, would suggest. As one of you kindly pointed out my relocation was not to Montenegro but to London, packed with opportunity, and therefore a reason for unmitigated joy, not trepidation. I agree whole-heartedly.
Yet another reader called to suggest – given my recently acquired somewhat dubiously single state (don’t ask, I’m not sure I understand either) – that I explore that latest social phenomenon sweeping London, speed-dating. This kind soul suggested – when I protested that I was not actually ‘on the market’, as it were – that at the very least this was a good way to make friends and develop a new social network. Besides, she argued, as I did not currently own a TV, surely I had nothing better to do of a Monday evening? Even if I had sworn to remain single forever more, were the women of London to be denied an opportunity to know what they were missing out on? Might it not be the basis of an essay, at the very least?
Such powerful reasoning is like a force of nature, and being rather bored with the book I had just begun I could see no logical reason to decline the challenge lest I be accused of being a stick-in-the-mud, a wet blanket, or even worse, a pessimist, that I was wallowing in self-pity.
And so, dear readers, I ventured forth bravely into this new world, equipped with a pen (for the barrage of phone numbers), a slightly faded jacket (to mask the ink stains on my shirt), a whiff of cologne (to overcome my limitations in the good looks department), and freshly shaven cheek.
The good news is that I met more single women in 3 hours than I have in the last 3 years. I can also now confirm that London is indeed brimming with single women. The bad news is that, sadly, it brims only with female accountants called Louise, Katharine or Wanda who all seem to drive black sports cars, and are all unable to sustain a 3-minute conversation without mentioning said automobile. All of who also have nothing better to do on a Monday evening.
With, I am glad to report, one dazzling exception. As the evening dragged on interminably and I approached new levels of boredom that made me yearn for my copy of a history of western philosophy, I sat down to speak with single woman number 24, whose name, I prayed and hoped was not Esther, and that she did not know as yet of double-entry book keeping. The lady in question stood up, shook my hand firmly and said by way of introduction, ‘I’m Yummy’.
I am not a man known to be often lost for words, but such was my incredulity at the information I had just received that I immediately forgot my own name, staring at this whiff of originality, shaking her hand and grinning in complete stupefaction. It required a superhuman effort for me not to blurt out, ‘you’re modest’, or ‘no you’re not’ or ‘says who?’, for Yummy was not quite, shall we say, as advertised. I tried to collect myself: perhaps I had misheard. I have some small experience with people of Chinese origin, and I am familiar with their tendency to select westernised names to substitute for their difficult-to-pronounce traditional ones. Perhaps she had simply selected a western name that she had some difficulty pronouncing as well, so I requested that she repeat her name.
‘With a Y?’
‘Two Y’s? Two M’s?’
‘Yes?’ Consternation at the stupid question. ‘How do you spell Yummy’?
I declined to answer, gobsmacked, my mind racing at this turn of events, staring at this ray of Chinese sunshine in the otherwise dank and sad cellar of my life.
I enquired whether she was a new arrival to the British Isles, and I was informed that she was well into her third year. Had she not, I kept thinking (while she summarised her life story), received no massively amused reactions before? Had no kind English soul pointed out the unfortunate implications of her chosen designation?
I heard not a word of her fascinating tale, as my mind raced to evaluate the positive aspects of this serendipitous encounter, for (as you know) I am not as shallow as all that. What did it matter that Yumminess was not, in fact, one of Yummy’s more obvious gifts? My whole future flashed before my eyes. I must marry this woman, surely, for what greater pleasure can a man derive than to introduce his beloved to friends and strangers alike with the words, ‘have you met my girlfriend, she’s Yummy’ or to awaken in the morning and sing earnestly under the shower, ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy I’ve got love in my tummy.’? I thought of the possibility of returning to the fold of my estranged extended Punjabi family who would immediately hold this woman as an apparition, a sign that god existed in god-less China if women went around with such excellent Punjabi-like names. Peace might even break out between China and India. We would name our offspring Honey (as first born, the apple of my eye), Money (an investment banker, surely) and Sunny (a little slow, but dashingly good looking), and if god smiled upon us, the last might even be christened Funny, the child that I would live vicariously through, as she would go on to take up the stand-up comedian career that has been my secret dream all along. I contemplated the ecstasy of getting stoned and being completely and utterly happy reciting her name like a mantra, certain that no matter how drunk or senile I might become, her name would provide hours of infinite pleasure in its repetition. I would have no need for books, CDs, DVDs, all the entertainment I could wish for was here, in one compact name. What did it matter that we had nothing else in common, that there was no chemistry?
I am sad to report, therefore, that Yummy did not reciprocate my delight in our chance encounter, having spent 2 of our 3 minutes together incredibly annoyed and frustrated at her inability to pronounce my name. I left the evening with not one phone number, not even Yummy’s, confirming my decision to remain single and celibate ad infinitum. Although speed-dating may be over rated, till my dying day I shall always cherish those 3 Yummy minutes.
Life just isn’t fair: £25 poorer, no improved social network, and Yummy, too, turned out to be an accountant and an MBA. My unused pen leaked, and my faded jacket is now also irredeemably stained. But at least I know where to go when I need my taxes done.