We introduce a new weekly column from this Sunday. Chennai-based Sumita tells us a story about online friendship, exclusively in Different Truths.
September 11 Monday, 09:45 pm
hi rams, what’s up man?
hey Aryan! long time no hear. where are u dude?
at home da. exams starting soon. mom’s after me to study.
Life’s just school and back to my room with books
11th std isn’t it? chill bro. u still have one more year to go
had to beg for some time to relax on fb.
hey, there are some hot chicks in your friend’s list
lol, a decent collection trolling?
Trawling a bit found a beaut. Niharika. yr GF?
hell no. you’ve met shiela, haven’t u?
we’ve been 2gethr for some time now
oh ya. last time i visited, she came for dinner.
so who’s Niharika? how come i’ve never met her?
she’s frnd of a frnd. met her at a few parties,
then a couple of times maybe at a disco.
saw her comment on akshay’s bday pics..sent her a frnd rquest…she accepted.
she got a bf?
don’t know. guess not
last week saw her with dileep @ East End
and few days before with some coorgi guy, forgot the chap’s name
anyway i usually see her with the whole gang so can’t really say
safety in numbers bro.
d’u mind if i send her a frnd request?
Duh…why shd i?
hey, did u hear abt Aniket’s new wheels? that dude’s seriously lucky
No shit! Which…
Some people were just so bloody lucky. He’d been asking his dad for a stupid bike for ages and Aniket’s dad gave him an SUV just like that! Of course, Aniket was in final year BE with Rams, while he was only sixteen. He’d got his Learner’s License, but mum wouldn’t even let him drive their car on his own, so what the heck was the use then? All she wanted him to do was study!
Aryan hated school. His teachers kept pestering him to work. They kept telling him that he was capable of doing much better—his vocabulary was good and he got the spellings right, though he often wasn’t sure of meanings. No, they were ugly old bags really; just giving him false moral support, boosting him up so that he would study. As if he couldn’t read them like an open book!
He wished his father had put him in the same school as his cousins. Wow, that was a super cool school. The girls wore short skirts and ankle length socks and were they cute! His cousins were so lucky. There weren’t any pretty girls in his class or in the whole of the high school for that matter. All were either too plump, or hairy, and so sweaty when they came in from the playground! He hated outdoor games. He had been exempted from PT only because of the lengthy medical report his parents submitted at the time of admission.
His father said that they were lucky to get into such a good school—the class strength was small and teachers could give individual attention to students. The amount of money they were charging, they should definitely put in extra effort… which, honestly, he couldn’t say, they did.
It was so boring to sit in class. They wouldn’t just get on with the business of teaching and let him quietly take a nap at the back of the class. Nope, he had to interact with his study-buddy; they had to research the given topic on the internet and in the pile of books that the teacher had stacked at the back of the room and then give a talk on the topic together; and at the end of the week, a written assignment would be due! With all the fees that the students were paying, one would expect the teachers to at least teach! Dad wouldn’t listen to his complaints though.
He hated his classmates too. The boys were such jerks, always making fun of him, passing snide comments behind his back. Just because he didn’t like sports! Physically he was bigger than all of them; almost six feet, even taller than his dad; and he would be aggressive if required, though he did hate pain. Of course none of them wanted to partner him; he didn’t want to work with any of those snooty bastards either. In the end, his teacher had matched him with Brainy Beena of the powerful BO. They probably expected her to help him improve! She had been quite easy to manipulate: she was now convinced that the best course of action would be for her to get on with the research and let him coast along with her notes! Girls always melted when he spun his spiel. Most of them found him very good looking, which helped too.
To be fair, dad had tried his cousins’ school first, when they came to Chennai from the US eight months back. In fact, his two kid brothers had got admission, but they weren’t willing to take him; said they weren’t equipped to handle special children. So dad put all three siblings in this school. The principal was a softy. She believed in inclusion and when his parents mentioned Asperger’s Syndrome, she was all kindness. It was all there in his medical reports; plus he was under medication, so the school had to be informed. She was a nice lady, quite un-principal like. She was the only reason he behaved himself in school. Otherwise, he would have found a way to get out of attending classes.
Dad had promised him a new high-end mobile if he scored well in the coming exam. He loved his dad more than anyone else in the whole world. His mum was usually in a temper, either nagging or yelling at them. His dad cared about him, but he was out of the country most of the time. He missed his dad so much. He was expected on Friday. Couldn’t wait for Friday. He should get down to his studies; dad would be so disappointed if he failed the second attempt too. He’d just send off the friend request and then he’d start.
Uh! Wow, she’d accepted!
Conversation started September 21 Monday, 10:40 pm
Do I know u?
I’m Rams’ cousin. Saw u @ East End last wk
Oh right. God, what a crowd!
But the music was awesome. Quite worth the wait an everything
Are you really as beautiful as yr profile pic?
That was at a friend’s party.
The lighting was flattering
Modest as well as beautiful
Aww, u r sweet. U look v cute too
U mean my profile pic? It’s just a mug-shot taken with my phone.
mum insisted on the short hair-cut, hate it
Do u do any modelling? U really stand out amongst yr friends in all the pics
no I don’t model, and short hair is smart.
Your hair is gorgeous.
Thank u kind sir, my best feature
I think yr best features are your eyes.
they are so big and beautiful.
You must be used to getting a lot of compliments
Thanks, you flatterer
U must be having a lot of girlfriends, u r such an expert flirt!
None, I swear!
And I’m just speaking the truth, not flattering!
I’m too thin. No **, u know ☹
You are perfect. Fat girls look awful.
Thanks. That’s what I keep telling mum.
She thinks I have an eating disorder.
Mums! Mine is a real *****
Oh, mine is very sweet really. She just worries about me.
Most do u know. Probably yrs does too.
Yah I guess.
Is that Anita in your cover photo. Is she in WCC right?
Yes, do you know her?
Met her once at rams’.
U don’t look old enough to be in college. R u in WCC too?
I’m 16, 10th std.
K, I’m 16 too, 11th grade.
Got exams coming actually. She’d be studying.
Yep, I’m on a fast-track course.
have to sit for 2 papers in English,
2 IT and 2 commerce in a couple of weeks
Wow. U must be a real brain!
got to go. Mum’s coming to check on me.
she’s always in my case. catch up with u 2mor. Ciao
What a sweetheart! He couldn’t believe what she had done for him. They had been chatting together this whole week and had gotten to know each other pretty well. He considered himself in a binding relationship already. They hadn’t met yet but their chatting had quickly progressed to phone conversations and SMS. They had been at it continuously or almost continuously. He would certainly have SMSed her from his classroom if there hadn’t been some stupid rule that required cell phones to be submitted in the school office before class started. Or it would be confiscated and only returned to a parent with a stern warning!
Much better to think about Niharika. Such a pretty name! She was as beautiful inside as she was on the out. He had it all planned for a couple of days now, soon after she trusted him with her phone number. He had been touched by her trust (girls were so vulnerable in today’s world!) and had quickly made up his mind that she was the girl for him. He would finish his education, join his dad’s business, and then marry her. She gave his life meaning, a purpose. He’d work hard for her. Now he had proof of her feelings for him too. He felt his eyes moisten whenever he thought of it.
After all the time he had spent on the phone, his talk-time got over and mum, as usual, would not give him extra money to recharge; kept insisting that he’d had his quota for the week and would have to wait till Sunday for his weekly allowance!
His sweetheart had saved him. He couldn’t believe it when she SMSed him that she had put two-hundred bucks talk-time on his phone! Who did things like that? She cared for him more than his dad, who had called to say that he couldn’t make it this week because of some urgent work; would be home early next week. That was disappointing, but he had someone who loved him for himself now.
He dialed her number. She didn’t pick up the call. He frowned. It was past 10, Friday night. Where could she be? Why wasn’t she picking up? She couldn’t be in the bathroom. She usually took her phone with her and they’d had some interesting conversations there, he thought, smile blooming. Alright, she’d call him back, he’d just give her some time, must have left the phone somewhere on silent or something. She’d call him back any moment. Might as well check FB while he waited. Maybe she was logged on too…
What the f*** Akshay had uploaded a picture of her at a disco. There were some half a dozen pics of people he didn’t recognize. One looked like Anita, but he was sure that the slim girl in the short red tube was Niharika. He stared at the photo and to his shock realized that the pictures had been taken only a few minutes back. Niharika was dancing, close dancing with somebody; he couldn’t see the bastard’s face; and she hadn’t told him she’d be going out to a disco!
He paced his room, hurt and puzzled. He called her number again and again but she didn’t answer. She probably couldn’t hear it amidst the noise at the disco. He could see in the pictures that the place was extremely crowded. He imagined the loud music, the sweating crowd gyrating under strobes, thrumming energy filling the room. His head buzzed. He couldn’t think. He called her number again. Then tired from his nervous pacing, slumped into his desk chair. His phone rang. Her sweet face, her fb profile picture, was glowing back at him. He answered.
“Hi, what’s happening? I’ve got some twenty-one missed calls on my phone. Are you OK? Where are you?”
“I’m at home like I told you. You seem to be at a disco…”
“You saw Akshay’s upload? I saw it on my phone just now. I look nice, don’t you think? Red really suits me. Hey, that’s when I saw your missed calls. What’s up?”
“You didn’t tell me you were going to a disco.”
“No, it was a last minute thing. My friends just picked me up and since it’s the weekend my parents didn’t object. You told me you had to study this evening. After spending all your free time chatting with me, you need to sit down with your books. Your dad will be arriving tonight too; so obviously no point asking you to join us. Anyway, you don’t know most of these guys, only Akshay and Anita I guess. Your dad back at home yet?”
“No, he couldn’t make it this week. He’ll be here on Monday or most likely Tuesday. Niharika, don’t you think it’s wrong of you to go to a disco without telling me?”
“What the F! Why should I be asking your permission to go out? Hello, I have parents, and I have their permission. Hey, don’t be getting possessive on me, OK? We haven’t even met! My parents would ground me if I got hooked up with some guy! I’m only fourteen; and in the 8th standard. If I were in the 10th like I told you, I’d be studying for the boards! And they let me come only because of my cousin Anita. What the … Look, I have to go. It’s been fun chatting with you but don’t call me anymore please. If you continue to pester me, I’ll tell my dad, and he’ll go straight to the police! There are laws against this kind of thing. All I have to do is show them these twenty-one missed calls and they’ll think you are crazy… OMG, you lied to me about being misdiagnosed for the Asperger’s thing and about your year at the institution being a mistake, didn’t you? You said all that just to make me feel sorry for you, but testing negative after the year at the institution was a lie, wasn’t it? Hey, don’t overdose or anything stupid, OK? … I’m calling your mom.”
Aryan stared at his phone. She’d hung up. The landline rang. He had called her from the landline when his talk-time had run out he remembered. Mom picked up and there was a pause. Then he heard her footsteps running towards his room. The door opened; she and the room blurred.
“Oh Darling,” she hurried to him.
Photos from the Internet
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