I remember the incident – I was in a restaurant, and one girl in our group was especially charming. So I, like any other male, tried to put on a wooing act. You know the routine, a nanosecond extra eye contact, a few more nods to whatever she says, and attempts to throw in those one-liners which you know you wouldn’t if she weren’t there. And it seemed to be working. She leaned forward when she spoke to me, and every now and again, we’d have a small conversation of our own, separate from our group. She laughed at my approach with the fork and knife, and I teased her about her hair band, which had little teddy bears. Yes, we were flirting. A while later, she asked me the question what did I study? I said engineering, without any particular meaning attached to it. And then like a cold metal rail, she went stiff.
My jokes weren’t funny any more. Her eyes wandered to everyone else.
What was it?
Why? Why? Why?
Two days later, I still couldn’t get over my great start that had dissipated listlessly upon mentioning my education. Engineer? What was wrong with that? My mom had wanted me to become one since I was five! I had to call her. ‘So what happened to you that day, hot and cold, missie?’ And then she said, trying to be nice, ‘Well, it’s just that I am skeptical about engineers as friends. I don’t know, they can be, you know, very logical and everything…not very touchy feely’.
Not touchy-feely. Now what the heck did that mean? Well, she obviously did not mean it literally, since girls don’t really suggest that sort of stuff, certainly not in the first meeting across the table. I guessed it was something to do with feelings, sort of having an emotional side. The stereotype being, the nerdy guy who sees relationships like laws of physics, to whom love is just a bunch of chemicals going crazy in your brain, and getting to know a person means obtaining their bio-data.
It’s time to set the record straight.
It’s true that a lot of what engineers study (and they end up studying quite a lot), has to do with formulae, laws and numbers. No matter how hard we try, some of the vocabulary we read all day gets into our language. So when my mother said, ‘Are you getting married next year or not?’ I was liable to say, ‘Well, at this moment in time, the probability is relatively low,’ and felt it was completely normal to say it. And when my sister went sari shopping and couldn’t explain the shade she wanted, I told the shopkeeper the percentages of pink, orange and red in the sari.
Yet, ladies, I don’t think we’re bad at relationships, love and getting to know people. We too, can be touchy-feely, as that is part of our education as well. The reason for this is that most engineering students live in the ultimate educator – boy’s hostels. Now, let me explain how this plays into this ‘touchy-feely’ thing. Relationships. Imagine eating, sleeping, brushing your teeth, bathing (ok rarely this one) and partying with the same people all the time. So, when you are kicking that bathroom door down for the tenth time, or when you stand in line for ‘gulab-jamuns’ in the mess, and when you are done with the vodka bottle and sharing all your secrets, you know it is good practice. Yes, hostels maketh the man.
So, next time you are in a flirtatious situation with the techno types, go on, flirt a bit more. Of course, I am biased towards my kind, but if you find the conversation turning too geeky, just ask them, ‘So, what were your hostel days like?’ and chances are, you’ll see a heart behind the calculator. Coming back to my missie, I thought of what would make me win her over. Flowers… too cheesy. Music… don’t know her taste (nor trust mine). Teddy bears… don’t even go there.
Desperate for some good lines, I just turned it right back at her. ‘Yes, I know what you are saying about engineers. The thing is, unless people with depth like you start hanging out with us, we won’t get any better. Can you meet me some time for some touchy/feely… oops, I mean coffee/tea?’
She giggled. When they giggle, you have won.
– Chetan Bhagat