Friday, November 05, 2004

Cousin Neal

Had dinner with my cousin last night; he’s here for a week, from London. We sort of discovered each other around this time last year – it might sound funny but that’s how it is – discovered each other as adults who got along well, independent of familial obligations. We had of course played and fought together as children, and during his previous visits we had met as (and surrounded by) family; but last December we went out for dinner a couple of days, just the two of us, and found ourselves talking a lot about general things, exchanging notes on parents’ idiosyncrasies and discovering we had much in common. Don’t know how it worked for him, but for me it was very pleasant largely because I spend as much of my time as possible avoiding family – I usualy keep away from visitors to the house, save for flashing grimaces that resemble polite smiles. So this was a nice, unlooked-for surprise, almost – how to say – heart-warming.

Neal’s a very well-balanced young man (shouldn’t be so avuncular, he’s only 10 months younger!), very cosmopolitan – he’s travelled widely, made friends of all shapes, sizes, colours and languages (as I discovered to my occasional befuddlement during my England visit earlier this year). And though he’s working, for reasons that have more to do with practicality than enthusiasm, in a bank, he has a strong creative side and spends a lot of his off-time with friends who are into films and film-making; he’s even acted in a couple of shorts, which he showed me when I stayed at his London flat. Had a good time on that trip.

Last night was fun too, but slightly different. For one, he had a friend with him, an enormous, burly – and very witty – Englishman. Secondly, we were at Olive, that elegant, expensive, refurbished-haveli restaurant and the food never completely took second place to the conversation. Still, we enjoyed ourselves poking fun at the place’s Moulin Rouge theme for Wednesday night. (Neal, on his fourth beer, to waiter: "So…that gentleman over there, with the Rod Stewart hairdo, is he meant to be Nicole Kidman?" Clueless waiter: "Sir, our staff are all wearing coloured wigs today, because it makes them look different.")

Neal and his friend had gone to Bangalore for a wedding earlier in the week, and they told me a hilarious story about their visit to "the least sleazy illegal underground joint ever – where bored (and fully dressed) schoolgirl-types just did some basic disco-style dancing, rather jigging, in front of potbellied men with lecherous expressions, and got rupee notes thrown at them." Uh-huh… missed that on my own B’lore visit last year. Anyway, he’s probably been to a lot more places in India than I have.

Won’t see him again for another year at least but, well, quality over quantity…

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