Based on a conversation that I overheard in a cafe.
‘I have never thought about these dirty things,’ Ramona said to her cousin. They were sitting on the swing in their terrace garden. Summer vacations had just begun and it was time to catch up with cousins. Ramona and Sangeeta’s fathers were brothers. Every summer, Sangeeta’s family would come over to Ramona’s. Ramona always looked forward to these times. Being the only children in their respective families had brought both of them closer. They were the closest things to a sibling for each other.
And during one of their late night conversations, Sangeeta had asked if Ramona had any crushes. ‘This is all a waste of time,’ Ramona had said. And then she went on a rant: ‘Our parents have trusted us with all these liberties. And we go around making boyfriends and having a good time – then what is the point? Where is the respect for elders? Everyone says this is the right time but we are just in eleventh standard. It is time to study and plan our future. It isn’t the time to stay online late nights and chat with stupid boyfriends. I have my eyes set on my career. I want to do something in life. Not like all these friends of mine who…’
‘You’re right, Ramona,’ Sangeeta said. But Ramona wasn’t done.
‘All my friends have boyfriends. But I never thought much of it. It is just a lifestyle choice. It is not like I don’t have options. But I don’t want to go down that road, yaar.’
Sangeeta smiled and pointed toward a shooting star. Ramona’s eyes lit up. They whispered silent wishes to the falling meteorite. Ramona asked if Sangeeta had a boyfriend. ‘No, not yet,’ Sangeeta said. Ramona judged her for saying “yet”. This means she is planning to get one soon. She asked her. ‘What do you mean get one? Boyfriends aren’t arranged in showcases at shops,’ Sangeeta laughed. ‘I mean I don’t like anyone that much.’
‘There is this guy…’ Ramona said. A wide grin came over Sangeeta’s face. ‘… it is not what you think. I would never betray my parents.’
‘Oh enough with your parents and trust and betrayal,’ Sangeeta thought but didn’t say anything. Ramona continued, ‘So, his parents and my parents are friends. His mother and my mother studied together. His father works in the same office as my father. So, you know…’ Ramona paused.
‘So, he is in my class. After so many coincidences, you know how schoolkids are, right? They start having expectations. But we are just family friends. That is all.’
Sangeeta nodded not knowing what to say. ‘Anyway, how are your studies going?’ Ramona asked. ‘Good. Except for maths,’ Sangeeta said.
‘Yes, maths is tricky. I have started going for tuition classes. But just a week ago, something happened.’
Ramona said, ‘Look, so here is the thing. Our maths teacher is like really handsome. But you know me right? I respect my parents too much.’
‘So, he used to Whatsapp me stuff. And then he sent me this romantic meme. And I didn’t think much of it. Because I respect him and I know he would never think of me in a bad way, right?’
‘But I remembered at that instant that I had immense respect for him. And I texted him saying “Sir you are like a father figure to me.”‘
‘So he got upset. He said that his intention wasn’t to hit on me when he sent me that joke. And I was like I know sir. I was talking in general but he didn’t hear me out. So I texted him a long message saying sorry.’
‘So then he replied to my message. Here, see,’ Ramona opened her Whatsapp. ‘This is what he sent. So I didn’t know what to say to him. So I asked my friend Natasha and she scolded me. She said I shouldn’t have said sorry. I was right in telling him off.’
‘It all depends on the equation you have with that teacher, in my opinion.’
‘I know. And I know he wouldn’t mean to, you know…’ Ramona grew serious. ‘So then I kept sending him these Good Morning messages and he replied with Good Morning but then without any smileys. So I asked him what was wrong…’ Ramona went on to scroll her Whatsapp message screen showing Sangeeta all the messages.
After scrolling for a while, Sangeeta’s thumb began to pain, ‘Whoa, this is a long chat.’
‘Well, I had to clear things up.’
‘So, how are studies?’
‘Uh, I haven’t gotten much time because of this thing with my tuition teacher.’ And right then Ramona’s message tone rang. She took the phone from Sangeeta’s hands. ‘Give it to me. It must be him again.’
She buried her head in the phone screen with her tongue sticking out as it always did during her moments of intense concentration. Sangeeta looked at her cousin and let out a deep sigh. ‘A real boyfriend would have been much better, sis,’ she wanted to say.