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I had taken off for France in 1997 for a one-year work-study program at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, France’s most prestigious college. I wanted to meet and marry a French girl. I had never even kissed a girl before, or even held hands with one. I was 28, almost 29. I had to meet someone. I just had to meet someone.
In my student group, there was an American woman from MIT called Julia. She was as plain as plain could get. But those days I was still in Indian mode. Marriage came first, then sex. Julia fell sick with the flu. I galloped down a hundred step stairwell to buy her some food from a store. Another Indian in my group, Soumen, noticed me and has never stopped making fun of me since. We became firm friends. Julia gave me the heave-ho. I didn’t realize then that love in the West is very physical.
One evening there was a tango class in the main hall of the college. I went there and came across a French girl called Marie. We danced together. I could feel the heat inside her pouring into me. We promised to meet again the following week. And sure as hell, she was there. She wasn’t a great beauty, quite thin, but I was besotted. Completely besotted. I asked her if she would move to the States with me. She said perhaps. I took that to mean yes. I didn’t realize then that the French, like the Indians and the Japanese, never say no. Saying perhaps is akin to saying no.