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Half Girlfriend(11)
Chetan Bhagat

‘Did I, a commoner, just play basketball with the Raja Sahib of Dumraon?' she said and burst into laughter,

‘I shouldn't have told you,' I shook my head,

'C'mon,' she said and tapped my wrist, My arm went all warm and tingty,

‘What about you? Which eighteen-year oId girl comes to college in a BMW and calls herself a commoner?'

‘Oh, you noticed. That’s my dad's ear,*

‘You must be so rich:'

'My family is. Not me,'

As she spoke, three girls arrived at our table, “We’ve been looking for you everywhere,' one of them said.

'Hey, girls’ Riya said. ‘Come, sit with us. Madhav. meet Garima, Ayesha and Rachita, friends from my class, Girls, this is Madhav, my basketball friend'

I realised my place in her life. Basketball Friend. Perhaps she had friends for specific purposes.

The girls looked me up and down, down and up, checking me out. 'Not, bad, Riya,' Garima said and winked at her. The girls burst out laughing and sat down with us.

‘Are you In the college team?' Rachita asked me. She wore a red-and-black bandana on her head.

I nodded, nervous at their bold familiarity.

'Madhav has played state level,' Riya said and looked at me proudly.

'Wow,' the girls said in unison,

'Would you like to order anything?’ I said,

The three girls froze and then began to laugh. It dawned on me that they were laughing at me. My English had sounded like this: 'Vood you laik to aarder anything?' I didn't know this was such a cardinal sin.

‘What happened?' I said,

‘Not a thing,' Garima said and stood up,‘Thanks, Madhav, we just ate lunch, Hey, Riya, let's catch up later, yeah?'

The three girls left. We waved goodbyes,

‘What happened, Riya?’ I said.

‘They're ditzy. Forget them,' she said

'Ditzy?'

'Silly and stupid, Anyway, I better leave too. My driver should be here.'

We walked out of the eafeteria to the main gate. Her dark blue BMW waited outside,

‘So I'm your basketball friend?' I said as we reached the ear,

‘Well, that, and my lemonade-and-mince friend,'

'How about tea friend?'

‘Sure,’ She stepped inside the car and sat down. She rolled down the window to say goodbye.

'Or a movie friend?'

'Hmm,'

‘What?’

‘Need to think about it.’

‘Think about what?’

‘Will the royal highness condemn me to death if I say no?’

I laughed. ‘I might.’

‘See you later, Prince,’ she said. The car drove off. '

I didn’t know if I was a real prince or not, but I had found my princess.

4

Three months later

'Did you just put your hand on mine?’she whispered, but loud enough for people around us in the movie theatre to look our way.

'Accidentally,’ I said.

'Learning big English words, are we?’ she said.

'I'm trying.’

‘Mr Madhav Jha, you have come to see a movie. Focus on that.’

'I'm trying,’ I said again. I turned my attention back to Shah Rukh Khan. He had rejoined college and was singing ‘Main hoon na’ to anyone in need of reassurance.

We had come to the Odeon Cinema in Connaught Place. Riya had finally agreed to see a movie with me. She had lost a basketball bet - she had challenged me to score a basket from half-court in one try.

‘Now that will be a super shot,’ she had said.

‘What do I get? A movie treat?’

‘You can’t do it.’

I had given it a try and failed the first week. Half-court shots are tough. I couldn’t do it in the next two weeks either.

‘See, even destiny doesn’t want us to go out,’ she had said.

In the fourth week, I put in all the focus I had and made my shot. The ball hit the ring, circled around it twice and fell into the basket.

‘Yes,’ I screamed.

Even though she had lost the bet, she clapped.

‘So, do I get a date?’ I said.

‘It’s not a date. We just go for a movie. Like friends.’

‘Isn’t that what high-class people call a date?’

‘No.’

‘What’s a date then?’

‘You want to see the movie with me or not?’ she had said, her hands on her hips.

The hands-on-hips pose meant no further questions. In the three months I had known her, I knew she hated being pushed. I thought maybe that was how rich people were-—somewhat private. We overdid the familiarity in our villages anyway.

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