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
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 formulaes, 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.