‘Let’s meet at the new Mall that has opened up near my office… is that okay with you?’ asked her new found Facebook-friend to Sirin. Instantly, Sirin’s interest in the guy waned. She hated shopping malls. Yes she did…and why would people choose to meet at shopping malls other than any other place in the whole wide world. Sirin felt that shopping malls exuded a sadistic pleasure for the rich, for all those people who did not mind spending those extra bucks for all the over-priced stuff available in the malls. It was a sad place, a place where expectations were raised and broken every minute. Every couple moving hand-in-hand in the long corridors of the malls had a secret to tell. The girl secretly hoped that someday their boyfriends will make it so big that they would be able to afford all the glossy stuff in the windows even if that meant moving ahead from the-then boyfriend to a newer one!
Sirin thought to herself, ‘Why are all men the same?!’ They all thought in the same way. Was she different from the other girls of her age? She must be…. otherwise she would have been happily married like most girls of her age. Sirin Verma was 30 years old. Her dedication to her work has helped her reach quite a comfortable position in her work life, mainly because she had no problems whatsoever, with sudden travels, late night office or any other thing. To top it all, she was pretty in an innocent manner and carried the brains too. Professionally, she was certainly happy but in her personal life she craved company. Facebook had become a comfortable way for her to meet people and interact with them over mails before actually meeting the person face to face. This was the first time she had come so close to someone this way and she liked sharing her thoughts with him.
Joy Sengupta, the Facebook friend, claimed to be a photographer by profession. Although Sirin seriously doubted that piece of information, she still played along. Photographer or not, she had exchanged some hundred mails with this guy over the last two months and she felt like she was sharing her thoughts in front of a mirror. Their thoughts were so similar! But today suddenly she was not very happy with the conversation. It was she, who had brought up the topic of meeting soon. She regretted it now. Or maybe it was normal to meet at shopping malls, maybe, she was over reacting on this. Actually, she was hoping he would say something intellectual like a bookstore or something romantic like a coffee shop. But a mall was not the idea of her meeting an unknown person, especially with so much competition around!
At 30, she was old enough to chase guys and young enough to lose hope that she will certainly find her perfect match. Her parents were quite fed up with their search of a perfect groom for their only daughter. Momentarily thus, she herself had taken over the responsibility of finding someone nice, at least to spend the life with. She was an architect by profession. With the boom in the real estate industry her career too had found new heights. Working in an environment dominated by males, she had woven a protective cocoon around herself to shield her emotions from the harsh world outside. Once earlier, at the start of her career, an office affair was blown out of proportion resulting in her shifting jobs. She did not want to repeat that mistake again. After so many years of being hidden within herself, she felt conscious now of meeting some stranger suddenly. It felt childish to say the least.
However, there was no denying the fact that she liked sharing her thoughts with Joy. She thought about her odds, if not a partner for life she may at least find a good friend. Like nice grooms, good guy friends were rare too. So why not go for it? After much deliberation, she thought of calling Joy and asking him to meet somewhere else. Yes, they had exchanged numbers some days back but neither had called the other. The mails they exchanged each day were self explanatory and informative enough. Sirin called Joy, half expecting a teenager to answer the call; or maybe, someone old enough to be her father. He was certainly not an average single guy, he was either a possessive demon-boyfriend shunned by all his ex-girlfriends, or a divorcee accused of wife-beating or maybe a terrorist, trying to get entry to her office through her! Phew… she had exhausted all her negative possibilities. She shook her head, as if to clear it of all the various aspects of doubt and tried to focus.
To her dismay or astonishment, the call was answered by a mature and friendly voice! ‘Hi Sirin!’ greeted Joy. Sirin let out her held-breath and replied with a ‘Hi Joy!’ ‘Are you relieved or disappointed that I am me?’ offered Joy at her sigh. ‘Ah… it’s just nice… just nice to talk to you after so long. That’s it!’ was all Sirin could manage. She was relieved that after all, Joy did sound like an average guy. With the initial hesitation over, both of them talked non-stop. It felt as if they were old friends, reconnecting again. More specifically, it felt right and she felt happy.
Sirin was laughing without any reservation at their conversation. Jokingly Sirin asked, ‘How do I trust you? I mean what is the proof that you are what you claim to be?’ The question was followed by silence at the other end. Sirin thought the line got disconnected, she enquired: ‘Hello?...’ ‘Okay… let me do one thing…I will carry my Passport or Voter ID card….you can verify from it then. I think Passport is a better idea since it is tough for me to recognize myself in the Voter Id card picture; it will be tougher for you and will add to your confusion!!’ it took Sirin some time to realize that Joy was mocking her. When she did, she burst into peals of laughter just like a love-struck teenager, giggling to her heart’s content. A guy, who connected to her mind as well as heart and also had a sense of humor was not bad….not bad at all!
Sirin suggested: ‘Lets meet tomorrow at Crossroads, the book store at Elgin Street; is that okay with you?’ ’Yeah…no problem at all’ replied Joy. ‘Say around 6? What say?’ enquired Sirin. ‘Sure! I will wave my passport, when I spot you!’ came the witty reply followed by another bout of laughter from Sirin!!