29th November – 7:00 PM – Posada de Huertas – 21 Calle Huertas, Madrid
It was a pretty cold evening in Madrid. I was thinking of a problem I had encountered while listening to a talk that day. It concerned Narayana Numbers. I was resting in the hostel lobby area where I spotted one of the room mates from the same dorm as mine. He was Scottish, hailed from Edinburgh, currently worked in London at a firm which had outsourced its IT Support to an Indian Company and that too in Bangalore. This was a perfect setting for a discussion on a quintessential Indian stereotype of providing support over calls as if every Indian does the same job. We went to the hostel kitchen area and started talking over a plate of Paella. That night was Paella Night in the hostel. It’s like every other night there used to be something from Sangria Night, Beer Pong, Pub Crawl(This was a daily affair) but yeah, You meet a lot of people searching others like you to hang out. I had made a friend out of another room mate from the same dorm. He was Patrick from Ivory Coast, also an Erasmus Student in Granada, Spain but originally hailed from Chicago, USA. As far as I can tell, We went along quite well but this evening I am talking about has not yet kicked off in its full momentum. So, as we were talking about, you know, Stuff but I could see a girl, very different from the crowd of girls I had seen in the past appear and disappear in the kitchen. It was as if some part of me was yearning to catch a glimpse of her persona. She took a seat and started to play with her cell phone, which for me is a big downer. The Moment we started talking about football was when I caught the first “star” in her eye. She was not herself. I have this very inevitable interest in reading, observing, analyzing, and creating my own compedium of experiences I had with people and that remains the benchmark for how I not very consciously “grade” people.
The fact that I did not dismiss this encounter like many others I had in past 3 months is shouting at its highest pitch that something is and was wrong with that girl. By the way, she introduced to us as Emma, from Finland, 17 years old, works as Au Pair (a young person, usually a young woman, from a foreign country who lives with a family and helps to care for children and do housework in return for the opportunity to learn the family’s language) in London with an Indian Family, is a National Level Competitor in Contemporary Dance (Many other qualities are about to follow). Her countenance and her description of herself and her life went along very well, both were childish manifestations of an incomplete teenage dream of achieving what nobody else could achieve. Her looks were kind of sober, I liked it personally. My fellow Ivorian was kinda shaky. So, cutting short of conversation we had in hostel kitchen which ranged from FC Barcelona (she supported it from childhood, She hates Sergio Busquets for his pretentious falls as quoted by her, Surprisingly she also doesn’t like Iniesta, On asking why – She beats around the bush) to Finnish Culture and its comparison to others in Sweden. Her highlight was her’s description of her life.
We decided to follow the hostel people for Pub Crawl. Now this seldom appears to me as the right option but better than being all alone at the hostel by yourself. Me, Emma and Patrick followed others to another Hostel where people from another hostels were gonna “congregate”, have sangria, vodka, cocktails, shots (CHUPITOS) and then head towards one of the clubs in the locality at 12 midnight. I was sapped of all my energy to bear this shit and I decided to leave for the room. Emma and Patrick followed. All of a sudden, I spotted a Frozen Yogurt shop at the corner of our street and We all agreed to have a bite of one of the most delicious yogurt I have had ever. If you want to see it, close your eyes.
Yeah, coming back to Emma. She was by now very appealing to me as a person. At the hostel we met for Pub Crawl “congregation” a few minutes ago, there were a couple of Irish Gentlemen flirting with her – “Can I offer you a drink?”, to which she blasted -” Oh Wonderful Tactic, but I have used you all a hell lot to regret refusing your offer !”. She was sparkling in her conversation about how she left home when she was 16 to earn living. It didn’t occur to me as something normal as we are from land of values, attachment, a well bred system which produces earning adults, but here I am sitting with a gorgeous 17 year old earning her livelihood spending her holidays in Spain. Incredible !!
I let go of my surprise when she started talking about her finances and how she doesn’t even take a penny from her family. At my inquisitive outlook, she had this -“Why would I take money from my parents ?”. Remember Remember this is 29th of November and this girl Emma is just 17 years old. Her Dream is to be a great Ballet Dancer. Pretty amazing, isn’t it ?
For the very first time in my life, I liked a girl not out of irrational infatuation but out of respect for her. This is a special moment for anyone belonging to the Homo Sapiens family. I actually in my mind enlisted all the girls I had liked, and she was a different “genre”. But, yeah something was fishy as hell, something was wrong in the air she had around her, I somehow did not want it to go down this road – but she was faking it. This brief encounter filled me with unfounded expectations of how my partner would be like but it was all torn apart once I started to get the true picture.
Patrick was all with me on this point. She talked at length about how she got into the Dance Academy in London. She claimed to be a national level competitor in Contemporary Dance form. She, sometime later claimed to have done a Geography project on India a few years ago and by this what she concluded was – “Everyone in India is an Engineer”. She claimed to have a good taste of music and dance but she never visited a pub in her life in Finland. She didn’t even sync with an Irish Pub we went into later that night. She never had a hard drink before, which she claimed to have because what she ordered was Cuba Libre without Rum (Take a moment – This deserves a Facepalm). She had to say something about hookers too. According to her, Hookers bring shame to the women community as a whole and they should be kept far away from normal day to day crowd to avoid embarrassment (I’m quoting her). She also writes scripts and I managed to convince her to write one with me then. She told me – “Caveat : There are people who pop up here and there in your life once you are successful to get a bite of your hard earned success and status but If you are one of them, I’m so sorry but you will be disappointed to see how I reply.” She had conviction in what she said. I remember her words like brain remembers a wonderful smell.
But what she was really within, She was trying to hide it. She in her attempt to sound ambitious, confident and vibrant was concealing a hell lot than what met my eye. There were several moments when I had her -“What are you looking at?”. This sounds insane to me but I have created a mosaic of all the bits and pieces of time I had between her talking and someone else talking to create a vivid picture. She as a person had qualities of normal human beings but an extraordinary art of convincing and concealing the self.
Why is Emma important to me ?
She is not. But what she embodied was a wavering flame in a surrounding of still air. You go on frantically searching for her and then you are disappointed, because there is no one like her. It is all “fake”. This encounter left me thinking that whatever she aroused in me in a few hours of meeting was an unexplored territory for my neurons. Most probably, I know her name is not Emma Sietrey which she advertised, because I couldn’t locate her anywhere on any of the Finnish networks or elsewhere too.
“A thing of beauty is a not a Joy forever but a very transitory period”.