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It was 4.45 in the evening and everyone else except Vishan was in the mood to continue working. As for Vishan, Friday, was a day for recharging the human battery. He had the habit of knocking off work a little early on Friday, and visiting Hotel Sharlimar in Mandana Town to have a couple of beers. He didn’t get drunk like most of the patrons who visited the bar at this lovely hotel. Whenever he visited the bar, people saw him being in the company of a lady.

Vishan could make chatting with him easy for women. He read the minds of women like how a mother can judge the activities of her own daughter just by making eye contact. Vishan was an avid reader of novels on detectives, murders and crimes. He knew what to ask and what not to ask strangers. In fact he had the skills to make a friend in a flash.
He had been chatting on the phone with a girl during the past couple of weeks and the two had made arrangements to meet on Friday. She said she would be wearing a white skirt and a red blouse. He said he would be at the bar before her. He said that he would be wearing a black shirt and a white tie. Vishan jokingly said that she could spot him easily through his smile. He had a smile that could capture the heart of a stranger, especially women. He could make you feel as if he had known you for a very long time. He checked his contacts on the mobile phone and reminded himself that the name of the lady he was meeting in the evening was Sharmila. She was a receptionist.

Mandana-TownOnce having sat for a couple of minutes inside the bar, he got his order on the table; a cheese omelet and a Lion larger. He didn’t show off.  This was what his budget could support. After having few sips of beer, he broke a piece of omelet using his fork and observed it. It was well stuffed with tomato, cheese and onion. It was piping hot, and the aroma that immersed from it guided the edge of the fork into his mouth like steam drives a train engine. He munched the piece of omelet he pulled off from his folk. He took a few more sips of beer. Vishan felt energized.

At 6pm sharp, Sharmila entered the bar. That was the time he gave her to come to the bar. She was on time. He didn’t like it. He often wanted the women in his company to make some mistake. He wanted them to apologize even for a small oversight on their part. He felt good when they did so. But this Sharmila seemed different.

She walked straight up to Vishan, shook hands and waited for him to pull the chair so that she could sit down. Vishan was a master at doing this. It was cold outside and she was wearing a shawl. She removed it and smiled. “Have you been here for some time,” she inquired, first looking at him straight in the eyes and then at his glass of beer. ‘Yes. Came a little while ago and ordered my first beer’ he said. ‘So you can drink alone. Isn’t it boring to drink alone,’ she queried. He answered in the negative.

Vishan didn’t have a good start to this conversation. He asked her what she’ll have and she said she’ll have a beer too. He told the waiter to bring two more beers. He passed her the menu and she said she’d like beef sausage. Vishan didn’t eat beef, but he ordered one. The beers arrived fast on the table. They filled their glasses and said ‘cheers’.

She popped the question that often sends a man on the back foot. “Are you married,’ she asked. He looked deep into his glass and then wiped the vapors formed on the outside. ‘Yes,’ he said. She nodded, implying that she understood men and the problems they had with their spouses.

‘The beef is just right. It’s a pity you don’t eat it. May I try a piece of your omelet,’ she asked. ‘Sure,’ he said, his answers coming in short brisk sentences or phrases. She hadn’t allowed him an opportunity to answer at length nor change the topic. She could see his frustration build. He dug into the omelet with his fork and broke off a large piece. She watched him calmly and sipped her beer. He ate fast now, but drank slowly. He made it known that he was going to order a third beer and asked whether she wanted another. She said she was ok.

He waited till she took a piece of devilled beef in her folk and started munching it. He waited for this opportunity to study her. She had a perfect body and she gave all the indication that she was going to the gym. It was a fad with the women folk in Mandana Town to go for gym training. He asked her what she was doing tomorrow evening.

‘Shoulders and legs,’ she said thinking of her favorite body parts when training in the gymnasium. ‘Craziness,’ he responded. ‘I am talking about your leisure activities. That’s if you have any,’ he said. ‘Why are you being rude,’ she asked. He had half a bottle of beer remaining, and he poured its contents into the glass.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘It’s ok,’ she responded and added, ‘I am used to it’. ‘What do you mean,’ he asked. She said her husband had been a beast, and was rude to her almost every day. She had put up with insults and being sworn at till one day she decided that enough was enough and left him.

They had met on a social media website and frequent chats had led them to this meeting. The social media site looked a lover’s paradise where everyone seemed charming and very friendly. But in real life there seemed to be a gulf that was difficult to bridge. People seemed quite different in real life. Sharmila’s profile on her social media site had this to describe her ‘I am a caring individual with an appetite to live life’. When Vishan checked this profile he was tempted to approach this girl. Their meeting made him realize that these words didn’t match the poor appetite she was showing when it came to having fun that evening.

Vishan wondered what was going wrong for him. He stole a glance at her. There was something spiritual about her too. ‘Would you like to dance,’ he queried pointing in the direction of the discotheque at the hotel. ‘I like to talk,’ she responded.

‘What’s your faith,’ she asked him. He said he was an atheist. Her facial expressions there after showed some form of disapproval. ‘I am an Anglican,’ she responded. ‘I believe that there should be someone to judge us,’ she said. ‘I think the individual is the best judge,’ he said.

They had not agreed on anything that evening. It seemed hard to continue this chat. He saw both glasses empty and asked the waiter to bring him the bill. She offered to pay half. Vishan said he could handle the bill. They both walked out of the bar together and she got into a taxi. He stood on the road for a few minutes and then went back in for a couple of more beers.