Love & Waris

A gentleman's view on etiquette, romance, and other disasters

Published November 12, 2012
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Waris Ahluwalia—actor, designer, explorer at large—traverses many worlds, armed only with wit, tact, and a sharp black suit. Thus we thought him the ideal person to offer advice on some of the knottier questions of twenty-first-century life. To petition the sage yourself, write him at

Dear Waris, I am on a spiritual journey, moving forward and learning every day. I would like to continue on with my quest, digging deeper and discovering as much as possible. Any books, Web sites, advice, practices, suggestions, tips, or secrets you'd like to share about spirituality?

Dear Seeker,

The hope is that we are all on a spiritual journey. Some are just taking the low road, others the more scenic route. There are no secrets or shortcuts, only a consistent cultivation of your mind and spirit. You must be open to the world and all its wonders. My upbringing has taught me there are many paths to the truth. Read, study, practice; trial, error, and persistence apply even here.

Let's leave it at that before I start to sell you a yoga DVD and some prayer beads.

Dear Waris, I have met my soul mate. He says he loves me and that I make him happy—not words to be taken lightly in the cold North where we are from. However, I had my first birthday since we gave in to love, and despite his exquisite taste and delicate sensitivity, he gave me a yoga mat. I'm dedicated to my daily Ashtanga practice, but for me, getting a new mat is like getting running shoes—very practical and the opposite of romantic. I'm surprised, sad, and disappointed by his lack of effort, and feel convinced that he is not as in love as I am. He says he is sorry and just terrible at arranging things. Should I run away while my heart is still intact? Or should I forgive the young man and stop interpreting too much?

Dear Downward-Feeling Dog,

It seems almost impossible to find someone to connect with in this age of hyper-connectivity. From your letter, what you have sounds special. At the very least, it's rare and valuable in your eyes, which is enough to build on. So don't go running just yet. It is not an easy task to find a soul mate in the world we live in.

A few lifetimes ago I was in a beautiful relationship. The girl is one in a million. The warmth in her heart is the reason ice caps are melting and we're now dealing with global warming. I digress with this environmental talk; I hope she forgives me for being so candid.

Well, my birthday rolled around and I received from her a few gifts, including a DVD on tiger conservation (perfectly wrapped). Don't get me wrong: I love tigers and ensuring their survival for the next generation couldn't be closer to my heart. A tiger-less world would be unthinkable. However, it was not a birthday present. I shared with her how I felt. Birthday presents aren't for things you need—that's what a Tuesday, or perhaps even a Thursday is for. I would like things I don't need. Perhaps something I might not consider buying for myself. I tell you this because you have to be open and honest. You can't change how you feel, so don't bottle it up and deny it. Your sadness and confusion will only manifest itself in different ways.

Let him know and give him a chance to make it up to you. He clearly dotes on you; at least give him the benefit of the doubt. You are together to grow and learn from each other, to lead each other to new heights. Help a fellow out—maybe task a friend of yours to assist him next time around. He'll learn eventually. Be patient with us; we're slow. As Descartes says, "Perfect numbers, like perfect men, are very rare." The following year I got so many things I didn't need, including a Sony PlayStation, which I played with for a few weeks and then forgot about. I was so happy.

Photo: Vijat Mohindra

Dear Waris, I have a terrible memory, especially for names and faces. I'm frequently paralyzed by fear trying to make introductions when I've forgotten at least one of the party's names. How can I cure this, short of employing a small munchkin to whisper the names of the great and good in my ear?

Dear Short-Term,

Making an introduction is the height of civility; its importance cannot be underestimated. It is often the seemingly trivial things that make the difference. That said, I too have had an occasional lapse in memory. In such emergencies, I find the best strategy is to introduce the friend whose name you know and hope/wait/pray for John/Jane Doe to introduce themselves. That should work until the gingko kicks in.

Alternatively, take a page out of Nietzsche's book and revel in your forgetfulness. "The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time."

Dear Waris, After studying abroad, I have decided to move to Paris to begin my fashion career at 30. (The story goes deeper, but you will have to wait for the memoirs for those details.) Do you have any advice for a man of my age, beginning my career in the center of the fashion world with no prior work experience besides retail, being a reseller of luxury clothing, and a sneaker addict?

Dear Spring Chicken,

First of all, congratulations on choosing a path of adventure. Whether it be moving to Paris for fashion or the Congo to study gorillas, I commend you for taking steps to follow your heart. As for advice, I'm happy to pass along some famous words by Theodore Roosevelt that inspire me everyday: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

However, I must point out one thing. You speak of 30 as if it were aged. Believe it or not, this is when it all starts. In your twenties you are just beginning to see the world in all its glory and faults. It is in your thirties you begin to see your place in it. My first step in jewelry didn't happen till I was 28. You are right on schedule, my friend. Bonne chance.

Dear Waris, I frequently find myself cornered by the most crashing bores at dinner parties or work functions. I make desperate attempts to escape, scanning the room for a way out and tuning into my neighbors' conversations. As the lifeblood drains out of me and I fall into boredom-induced coma, I wonder if there's a way I can extract myself without hurting anyone's feelings. As a serial partygoer I thought you might have some worldly advice.

Dear Comatose,

It's true, I may have attended a party or two in my day. I'll try to think back to those days and see if we can hatch an escape plan for you. We'll make it multiple choice and let you choose the most fitting:

A) Start saying inappropriate things and see if you can get the bores to walk away first. Your level of impropriety will likely be different than mine, so I'll leave the specific content to you. This should keep you entertained for a bit.
B) Sulk shamefully away, making vague excuses about the bathroom, an urgent refill, or an incoming phone call.
C) Magnanimously offer to make an introduction to someone equally as vapid, sit back and enjoy your handiwork. You never know, they might get on famously.
D) Say you feel like dancing and walk away with a shimmy. This one works especially well when there's no music.

Yours faithfully, Waris

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