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Meeting a Facebook friend

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By Savitri Narayanan

“When your online classes are over, come here,” Maji called out from the kitchen. “You can grate these moolies while I dry the clothes.

Senior secondary students had online classes even on holidays. It was crucial that they score well in the Class XII exams, not only for them but for their school too. As a well-known, established school, their students’ marks mattered for them too!

Moolie paratha was Isha’s favourite dish. Breakfast, lunch or dinner – moolie parathas with raita and pickle were welcome any time.  She would have gone to help in the kitchen especially as she liked to grate the radishes. But not today!

‘How would it be to watch a movie with Sanjay?’ was all that Isha could think of since the day they made the plan to meet up and watch a movie.

Isha had met Sanjay on Facebook barely a week ago. As soon as she accepted the friend request, they had started chatting. He was so much fun to chat with! On any topic he had interesting things to say, whether it was computers, movies or music! Isha didn’t understand much but he sounded very knowledgeable. What she really liked was the way he talked about movies. He had so many anecdotes to tell about film stars. Shahrukh Khan’s pet dog, Amitabh Bacchan’s bungalow, Sanjay Dutt’s hobbies – he was full of interesting stories. When he suggested they meet up for a movie, Isha was only too eager to accept.

Anu and Priya often talked about how they had secretly met up with Kunal and his friends and watched a movie together. But Kunal was a class mate, not a stranger!

“Outside the movie hall’s gate, there’s a tea shop near the banyan tree,” he had said. “We’ll grab a snack and go in. See you there.”

‘How will we know each other?’ Isha had wondered as she waited behind the banyan tree.

“I will spot you from a kilometre,” he said. “Who can miss your long hair and longer eyelashes!”

It was the first time anyone was talking about how beautiful she was. It felt strange but she liked it too.

“But your profile is a tiger!” she said. “How to spot you?” she giggled. “A tiger near Funland!”  This was getting mysterious and interesting.

“I have an idea,” said Isha, “I will wear my red dupatta and carry my red bag too.”

“What’s the matter today?” Maji called out again. “You have been on the phone since morning! Why the online classes for so long?”

“That’s Reema Maji, clearing her doubts in Algebra. I told you, we have planned combined study this afternoon! I should catch the 12 O’clock bus!”

Reema was her classmate. Reema’s mother was a helper in the school and they lived just behind the school.

“Take along some mooli parathas for them!” said Maji as she continued to dry the clothes.

“So trusting she is! How can I do this!” Isha thought as she wrapped the dupatta and picked up her bag.

“Take care, beti,Maji said as Isha stepped out, “Call when you start from there and come home straight. All kinds of people in the world…”

Soon Isha was at the gate of Funland. It felt strange as she looked around not knowing what she was looking for. Any handsome young man walking around looking for her? Quietly, she headed for the banyan tree. The tea shop was somewhat crowded with two or three sipping tea and a few others purchasing samosas at the counter. There were three or four people sitting on the stools under the banyan tree sipping their tea.

She held the red bag possessively and stood there, scared to look around. What if a neighbour saw her? What if a family from Rampur had come down to watch the movie? What if her friends saw her here, standing alone?

Isha didn’t feel good at all. ‘Wish I had stayed at home!’ she thought.

“Isha dear, how are you?” the greeting came from behind and Isha turned around.

Isha was at a loss for words. She was waiting for Sanjay, a mysterious new friend – the one who had chatted about movies, songs and movie stars. In her mind Isha had imagined a handsome young man just out of college or a smart, young executive in some office but this man came as a shock. He had greying hair brownish from dying and his teeth were stained from chewing paan.

“Are you Sanjay?” she ventured.

“Yes, I am,” he smiled. “I told you I will find you and see, I did!”

Their conversation had been mostly about movies and food, not really personal, but Isha did not expect to meet a middle-aged man!

“You are more beautiful than I thought!” he said moving closer, extending his hand.

‘How foolish of me to come out like this!’ thought Isha. ‘What to do now? How to escape?’

“Let’s have samosa and chai,” he said. “There’s still time for the movie.”

Isha was at a loss for words. How to find a way to go back home?

At that instant her phone rang. She made up her mind.

“Yes, Maji. I will catch the next bus, will be there in half an hour!” Isha didn’t even see who the caller was but kept talking. “Sure Maji, I will pick up the medicine too, don’t worry Maji! I am coming.”

She turned to the stranger. “Sorry, Maji is not well, I need to rush home,” said Isha and briskly walked away.