We went out for dinner for the first time since March. To a place we've been going thirty years.
Wabi Sabi is the remodelled, expanded, upgraded oriental restaurant at The Oberoi. Is it simple? Yes it is, blending luxury with simplicity, from the decor of the high, single hall, and the tables, and the things on the tables, and the rightmost column on the artsy menu. Has it aged well, in the spirit of Wabi-Sabi? No, the restaurant (washed a burgundy colour in my unreliable memory) is spanking new, with nothing faded or wrinkled or scratched or spotted, as best I could see in subdued dinnertime light.
"It's the wine I ordered, right?"
I wanted to know because the legend on the label seemed different than what I'd read off the wine list to the waiter: a pinot-noir from Washington State, from that corner province in "The Greatest Country in the World."
"Just making sure you aren't opening a ten-lakh-rupee bottle," I explained myself.
The waiter laughed and struggled with the stubborn cork. I didn't ask to smell it, out of deference to the world-conquering coronavirus.
They'd taken plenty of trouble at Wabi Sabi to show they cared: an envelope given on arrival to tuck the mask into; a cute little tray on the table with a plastic bottle of pink sanitiser in it; a saddle-top collapsible table on which to keep bags, glasses, bag, and wallet; always-open high doors giving to a waterbody around a rock; a QR code food n' drink menu read on the phone; waiters who kept their masks always on; and, of course, more-than-adequate inter-table distance.
So it was a pity that on a Saturday evening the place hadn't filled up, although I felt safer for that reason.
I spoke wabi-sabi stuff with my wife.
"It's wabi-sabi for a kurta to be crumpled," I said. "It gains in character." I'd worn a kurta for the evening.
My wife surprised me: "Yes," she said. So I went on: "Same as with a linen jacket; or the linen shirt; or with anything linen."
She agreed with all that, too.
I wanted to ask her, looking into her ever-happy face and her gleaming eyes and at her sari, if she found me wabi-sabi after all these years. She's come through our time together exceptionally well, and I composed my own answer to her return question (that she might've asked) but stayed with silence.
Dinner was vegan: dim-sum; sushi topped with tempura-crumbs; burnt-onion fried rice; fried noodles; tofu and asparagus in hot soya sauce. The captain surprised us with a vegan dessert on the house, saying in cursive in chocolate on the plate, "Thanks for coming back!"
That felt like wabi-sabi.