On the morning of Monday November 11, 2013, Tom and I chatted online. We had been dating for about 2.5 months, ninety percent of it long distance. He was in London and I was in New York, getting ready for class.
We talked about this and that – mostly, what restaurants to visit during my next trip to London – and when that was settled, Tom asked, “You wanna go to a wedding in India?”
Under normal dating timelines, that seemed a bit soon to ask someone on a two-week long international trip to attend a wedding, but I’d already visited Tom in London once and was planning to go back in December. Why not?
The trip would be in February 2014 (not 2015, as Tom had mistakenly believed), and the last day would fall on Valentine’s day. Our first together! What did Tom think about that?
“Don’t tell me you’ve fallen for the Hallmark holiday hype,” he said.
Later, I complained to a friend, “He doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day.”
“Betty” she said, “The man’s taking you to a wedding in India. Doesn’t get more romantic than that.”
Three months later we left wintry New York for balmy Chennai, where Tom’s old coworker married in a magnificent three-day wedding. Then we were off to Kerala, where we explored the backwaters by houseboat before driving off into the misty, tea covered mountains of Munnar. On Valentine’s day, our last day in India, we returned to Chennai.
I’ve been meaning to share photos from that trip since we returned on February 15th, 2014, but in my usual way, I didn’t. But I’ll start now, with our last day – Valentine’s Day – in Chennai.
We landed from Kochi a little before noon. On the airport bus to the terminal, I remembered what day it was.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Tom!”
“Oh that reminds me,” he said, and rummaged through his backpack. He withdrew a little bag of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate squares and gave them to me.
“You’ve been carrying these chocolates in your backpack for two weeks?”
“Yeah dude,” he said, “I came prepared.”
The chocolates were very thoughtful, I said to Tom, but there was something else I really wanted that Valentine’s Day: an extravagant Indian Buffet.
“I think we can make that happen” Tom said, and we returned to the Taj Coromandel, where we stuffed our faces with meaty curry dishes and imported wine (no offense, India, but your home grown wine is atrocious) at Anise. It was a literal lover’s buffet, decked out with hearts and roses and three cheery staff members per table. Aside from the buffet offerings there were also, included in the price, a la cart items they cooked to order and brought to your table. I remember smiling at Tom from across the white tablecloth strewn with plates of curry and glasses of wine, and thinking, “What a dreamboat.” Then we both got up to get another plate.
I wished that day, more than any other, that I had five stomachs instead of one.
After lunch we sat very still for a long time before heading back to our hotel to pack. At Le Meridian Chennai, Valentine’s Day was also in full swing. At the check-in desk, a man handed me a rose and chocolates. Later, a bottle of wine, a basket of fresh fruit and more chocolates were sent to the room.
“What about dinner?” Tom asked.
“You’re still hungry?”
“No, but I still want to try Indian McDonald’s. I make it a point to eat McDonald’s in every new country I visit.”
I was still very full. The last thing I wanted before boarding a fourteen hour flight was Indian McDonald’s, but it was Valentine’s Day and Tom had happily shared my dreams of gorging at an Indian buffet.
Love, if there’s a lesson to be learned from all this eating, means making room for interests outside your own.
“I think we can make that happen,” I said.