Reading Time: 6 minutes
I was 16 years old.
And about to head out for my first date.
The feeling was surreal.
Looking back on it I’m not sure I was ‘mad about her’ – but I definitely liked her enough to be excited about the prospect of going on a date with her.
As it turned out Arpana lived pretty close to me.
I suggested meeting her in Uxbridge near the cinema, which would be a 20-minute bus ride for me and then a short 5-minute walk.
I bit my lip slightly as I looked at myself in the mirror before I was about to head out of the door.
‘You look good enough Deeps’ I thought to myself as I looked at my hair which was somewhat slicked to the side and then got ready to head out of the door.
My heart fluttered as I walked out of the door and made the short walk to the bus stop.
Got there; at the bus stop, I used weekly to get me to Uxbridge from West Drayton.
And walked right past it.
Arpana had (like me as I would discover) made the mistake of telling her elder sister that she and I were going to the cinema, and her elder sister whom she lived with said –
‘Oh silly – no need to get a bus – I can drive you both to the cinema!’.
That weirded me out as I thought ‘I’m going to meet her bloody sister on the way to our first date!’.
But then I was still at Bishopshalt and was used to meeting siblings I guess.
‘Not when you’re going on a date though deeps!’.
Of course, this was my first date; and with Arpana being Hindu – I felt more freedom in being able to share this with the family; namely my brother – that I was going on a date.
Arpana had joined Bishopshalt sixth-form from Greenford High School alongside several others to complete her A-Levels at Bishopshalt Sixth Form.
She’d got to meet me at a time when I’d transitioned from finishing my GCSEs and then starting the sixth form – and seeing many of the ‘cooler kids’ drop out/head to another school.
Bishopshalt Sixth Form was only 20% of the size of Year 11 – and we had moved into being almost the eldest in the school. My coolness shot up all by itself by 20% as well – merely by staying in school
It was weird being something of a somebody.
The number of Indian students at Bishopshalt Sixth Form swelled – as the better students from other schools joined us at this stage.
And at this stage, most of my friends who still were in education with me – Kye Cole, Thomas Perryman and others – were, well – white.
A troop of the old guard who’d dominated Sixth Form (whilst I tagged along) remained. And my place in the pecking order was likely much smaller, but the roost’s numbers had diminished.
Then, being the only Indian amongst that troop, whilst a newly formed troop of Indians began to spend time together – it meant my visibility shot right up.
Dalvir noticed this too; as of course, most people did. He’d joined from Greenford as Arpana had, and was a different animal from anyone else from the British Asian community. Chiselled, muscular, and objectively good looking, I partially hated him because of the challenge he represented to me.
I wanted or at least considered myself the cool Indian kid around here, and his existence represented a threat to me.
Had already had a solid stubbly beard and was a very good footballer it seemed to boot as well.
I saw all of this from a distance as we didn’t have a direct reason to engage.
Well, that was until he approached me the day before I went on my date with Arpana.
Dalvir squared up to me somewhat menacingly. My heart rate spiked and a cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol flooded through my body as I wondered what this challenge was for.
‘Make sure you take care of Arpana ok? She’s one of my best friends and I don’t want to have problems with you because she really likes you ok? She treats her right’
Dalvir leaned in as he spoke.
I leaned back, with my heart in my mouth.
‘Yeh, sure no problem’.
With a slight tap on my shoulder to demonstrate that I was his if it needed to be. He walked off.
I had vaguely connected the fact that Dalivr and Arpana had gone to the same school – as I’d seen them talking a couple of times just as friends do – but thought nothing of it.
Everyone was talking to everyone in the first few weeks of Sixth Form
All of us who had moved from secondary school into Sixth Form had spent 5 years together – so there were no new players.
Further education however was a completely different ballgame – and so everyone wanted to know at least a little bit about everyone.
I thought about that moment as I sat in the back with Arpana whilst her sister drove us to Uxbridge and chattered away.
I thought about Dalvir and daydreamed about me beating him up, knowing that it would almost certainly be the other way around in a fight.
I also knew I didn’t like him at all. I had never received such a talk in my life.
Little did I know, over a decade later, after the years passed – he and I would go on to become great friends
Since I was 14 I’d been in and out of part time jobs, and that was no different here.
To go to the cinema then I’d taken some money from my parents to pay for it.
And here we were.
About to go and watch Harry Potter together.
I looked at Arpana carefully.
She was 5ft 7 inches, as I was around 6ft, and had jet black straight hair and a big smile. The conversation between us had flowed easily when we were in school – as I’d one by one say hello to all of the new people.
She was part of a ‘posse’ that had just joined from Greenford.
It was obvious from the outset as large groups of students in Sixth Form from ‘other schools’ seemed to know each other.
And as it turned out it was students from only a couple of schools anyway.
After Elin, Tracey and the other girls I had taken silently took an interest in – this was the first time I felt when I was talking to Arpana, that a girl had an interest in me.
Through my secondary years, being lanky, Indian and geeky in a white-centric school meant that there was little room for the romantic side of my side to slightly peak let alone flower.
It seemed here, as I bought the cinema tickets for us both – I would be given the opportunity for it to flourish.
We sat in the cinema and stared at the big screen as we munched on popcorn together.
As the movie started I immediately slipped into a gentler place and allowed my intellect to take over.
‘I’m telling you! – I bet there’s a big snake at the end.
I chattered excitedly to Arpana throughout the whole movie and we giggled together as we watched Harry Potter’s wizardry and enjoyed (at least in my mind) the intellectual banter.
There was no hand holding, no touching, no nothing.
I had no clue how to do any of that stuff and had no desire to try anything in the cinema.
I still couldn’t work out whether I actually fancied Arpana or that because we got along well, as was obvious from the first time we spoke, we should date.
I’d never had a girl I got along with…that was also interested in me as well.
The idea and feeling were delightful so there we were.
Arpana’s sister knew what time the movie finished and we chit-chatted as we waited outside the cinema for her to pick us up and bring us home – especially as we lived so close to each other.
I’d have preferred to have gotten the bus, but had little choice in the matter.
My heart pounded as we got in the car and headed home.
‘Deeps you’re the man! You can officially cross off ‘going on a date’ from your list!’
I smiled slightly to myself in the car on the way back.
It was true.
I felt like an absolute rockstar.
Little did I know this would be the first and last date Arpana and I would go on.
Things would ultimately end with my elder brother having a long and detailed discussion with her against my will as to why exactly ‘she was dumping me’.
I stood there in amazement and shame as my brother confronted her in Uxbridge in the middle of the street as I told him via text ‘she’s not interested in us dating anymore’.
‘What happened I thought?’
I knew exactly what had happened and why.
But that’s a story for another day.