M and I are from the same division. He belongs to a program that I am spending half of my time with. And since I am not full time with that program, I am often seen as an affiliate instead. I don’t have a lot of allies in that program. M is a good friend of mine.
One day, M visited my neighborhood and we had lunch at a bakery. He is moving onto another role in our organization and with that comes a promotion. I like the Caucasian mindset. I also like reporting to Caucasians. When it comes to ranks and promotion, the sky is the limit. Reporting to Chinese bosses, the message often would be: be contented with what you have. Indian bosses, the vast majority won’t give a beep about my career. Speaking from someone who has reported to sixteen different bosses in a span of fourteen-ish years in this organization. Though one may say, the time has changed as the world is moving towards better diversity and inclusiveness.
Back to that lunch we had, which was on a Thursday as both of us have to attend a weekly meeting together, M suggested to have a wine event on the 17th with K at his home. The date was perfect as it was the first evening of my 2-week long compliance leave.
It was a 10 mins ride to reach his place. I was late and his friend G working in the fund business was already there. What a posh home! There were paintings from – quoting from him – famous artists and there is one small elephant painting M drew when he was 12. He showed me the cases of silverware he brought from the UK dated back to the 1940s. Those are beautiful. Black handles with small colorful adornment, casually lying on top of each other. “Why not arrange them nicely?”, asked I. M replied that they got reshuffled due to transportation. Still, I would have put each fork and spoon, and utensil in the rightful place. These are antiques! I had the compulsion to do it for him. But I have resisted.
M said that he doesn’t like French people. G agreed. I didn’t say a thing. I used to have a number of French friends when I was working in Paris. Sure, French people, in general, do seem to have their pride and perhaps still wonder why the world adopts English as the international language (I was once told by a French that the world was close to choosing French instead). I can see from the French’s perspective. Especially when their culture is so refined. Fashion. Food. Wine. Art and monuments. In any case, given the history of the British and the French, I can understand the general sentiment.
Later the evening, when I sensed that the topic of the French M and G so passionately deliberated has fainted away, I casually mentioned that I like the sound quality and the design of the “transformer” speaker. A high-end French product sold in MBS mall. To that M was very pleased with his purchase. The speaker can get loud, really loud as he briefly demonstrated.
I am often not a fan of red wine. Last evening changed my mind. We started with a 1.5 liter of Sao Joao’s Quinta do Poco do Lobo Cabernet Sauvignon 1996. It is 24 years old Portugal wine. The age doesn’t make a good wine of course. It depends on the year of the grape. But to have a wine that is still drinkable after such a long period of storage is pretty remarkable. The cock was waxed and the bottle was huge.
Next, we had Artadi’s Pasos de San Martin Garnacha 2015. It was a Spanish wine and I really love that. Then we had Faiveley’s Mercurey Rouge 2017. It was even better! By the time we got to the fourth one, I was about to fall asleep. I didn’t have much, though I remember it as sweet and nice.
Yes, I am terrible in describing wine.
I am not a fan of a large group gathering. My ideal group size is two. Three is okay. By the time K arrived, I got slightly quieter. F then arrived – a great storyteller by the way and also a good friend of mine from that program. The party lit up. I was mainly the observer and spoke when we broke into a smaller group chat. Finally, when G’s friend who is a young teen student (possibly rich Indonesian Chinese) arrived, everyone was animated and liven. By then, I was the audience enjoying the entertainment and the wine.
Throughout the evening, many stories were shared. Stories that I can imagine some may balk at because it is not right. I don’t judge for I am a pragmatic person. The moral compass is a thing that people use to judge others or fear being judged. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” is one of my favorite quotes. Throughout the night, I listened with bewilderment. These people have experienced lives in a unique way and they have stories to tell.
“You are quiet”, K asked. I wanted to chip in. But my stories are much darker, more emotional, and personal, which did not suit the theme of physical conquest. Like my friend N once said to me, while I have an alpha male mentality deep inside, I am gentle from the outside.
I smiled to K in return and said nothing.