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How a friend in your class does takes exception from one whom you have never met in person? You and your classmates know in and out of each other, whereas with a pen pal or an e-pal, what you write or type is all that one at the other end understands. But still friendship has been proved to be the best means of interaction for people around the globe. But tell me, will you be in a position to excuse your pal in case he or she destroys your very faith and belief knowingly or unknowingly?

 Pen pals and e-pals are my best companions, proudly speaking, though I have never seen many of them face to face, I am much closer to some of them, then my own classmates. Indeed for guys like me- shy to speak much and mingle with people but extremely good with pen and keyboard, the world of pen friends and e-pals is much more attractive than the mates of classroom or a school campus.

 A quotation says:

"Flowers and showers - last for few hours

But, friendship has such a power, it lasts ever, forever."

 Unfortunately, it was not exactly so in my case when a general misunderstanding lead to an abrupt mishap.

 Dictionary lacks the vocabulary for me to express how excited I was after signing up for meranet.com, a comprehensive net portal which allows users to grab e-pals, exchange views, to chat and much more. Those were the days, I just had finished my internet course and just had created an e-mail ID for my own. It's rather difficult to express the excitedness by means of words, especially if you are a tenderfoot in the field and is able to gain success in the very first attempt. The whole world was in front of me, in a fourteen inches monitor and a hundred and eight keys and of course a small small mouse. The slowest downloads and expensive cyber cafes could never discourage me though it lightened my pocket.

 My dream of having e-pals was realized within days, as I found my inbox flooding with e-mails, in reply to my request for e-pals.  It tests your patience-to read nearly thirty e-mails, one after the other. Of all the thirty plus messages, the one which impressed me the most was from Miss.Kavitha, daughter of a rich businessman based in Cochin. Her's was a charming e-greeting rather than a plain text email, all enough for a guy of seventeen to go mad. As of this moment, that greeting is saved in my inbox for it was the foundation of our "everlasting" friendship. I replied her instantly and the silsila went on.

It turned out that our hobbies were almost same (atleast I was told so). She too, loved chess, enjoyed reading, three years older than to me, not age but sky is the limit for a true friendship.

 Exchanging gifts is not a new phenomenon among friends. It represents the love and concern and understanding between the people. But what may happen if your friend understands antagonistically the very purpose of your gift? What would you feel?

 Unlike my other online and offline friends, Kavitha was somewhat different, exclusive to be precise. Occasionally she used to send me gifts ranging from books to multipurpose electronic devices- all enough to make me proud of my friend. Will it be fair on my part to lag behind in gifting her back? How could I ever lag behind? She gifted me a book of Ruskin Bond; I gifted her three year membership for an international book club. I received a palm top, and in turn I designed, developed and presented a website exclusively for her, kavitha.com was soon online. In reply to her flooding gifts, I replied with all I could. Soon, the consequence of my extravagances came public. My bank balance slashed down from four digits to three. Cheques bounced sometimes and even made my father to ask what made me to encash fixed deposit months before its maturity. But how could I convince them all? How can I meekly keep accepting the presents without giving back anything? I could not refuse them either.

 It was September. "Onam" was approaching. Kavitha e-mailed me that they were planning to celebrate it in a special way. I knew "Onam” was and is and will be one of the exclusive festivals for any Keralite. Their heritage, their culture would be represented in their carnival of "Onam". My soul was urging me to do something exclusive this time, as my Onam gift to her.

 Within days a courier man handed over to me a briefcase sized package. To my surprise and enthusiasm, it was a package from Kavitha, gifts from whom always meant something new and delighting and this time it turned out to be a brand new IBM ThinkPad T20, a multipurpose laptop computer, just released in the market. Worth in lakhs, but nothing proportional to the wealth of Kavitha's family. "This is too much" hesitatingly said my father, who was always aware of the drop in my bank balance after every gift I received. I was authoritatively restricted from spending even a rupee more than two hundred to reply this precious Laptop.

 How can I ever value that gift? Certainly not with money. Mentally depressed because of the situation, my concentration in studies went off. It was my mother who came to my rescue finally. "Money is not everything. Why don't you gift her something which money can not buy?" she suggested "In sacrifice lies the true friendship- gift her something alive, probably our pretty rabbit".  You mean to part with "Swiss"? I shivered for a while. "Swiss"-we call our pet rabbit affectionately. As white as snow, as innocent as an infant, as cheerful as the morning sun, she was a darling of mine, and of the entire family. Sending her off implied reducing the number of our family members by one. How could we ever part with it? I had to make up my mind, for the sake of our friendship, for the sake of "Swiss" her self, to some extent. The pain of parting from near and dear ones need not be explained to those who have experienced it. Words can not explain it either.  More important was how to convince my sister who was much more attached to Swiss than I was.

 "Here, in home Swiss will be all alone, all the day long." I started convincing my sister " when I and you are out to school and mummy and daddy to work" "Her life is threatened by dogs and cats. I promise a better home for Swiss. Kavitha and her family spends thousands on their dogs you know, “I kept saying, trying to cheer up my sister. " they'll spend lakhs on Swiss if once I gift her to Kavitha. She shall live there like a Queen. Won't you like her living like a Queen?" This and more, I painfully convinced my sister.

 Once we made up our mind, we faced one more hurdle. How to transport a living being across the states? Surely not as we do in case of an ordinary parcel. I inquired every where, from air parceling to private cargo operator. All most all of them politely but firmly said "no." May be they were not ready to take any risk that may arise in case of interpretation either by law or by organizations fighting for the cause of animals. Finally, a private courier man said that his firm could undertake the task, provided it is legally approved. Legal obstacles were finally removed after repeated requests and after convincing that we were gifting an animal for a noble cause and by no means smuggling anything.

 A special cage was made, equipped with oxygen supplier, thermal regulator and of course bunches of fresh carrot. "Lakhs will be spent on you Swiss, and you will live there like a Queen," I said before putting our Swiss into he cage. My sister kissed Swiss for the last time, all of us patted its snowy fur, for the last time and only later was I to realize that this was the last time anyone ever patted or kissed our Swiss. Swiss was looking at us with confused eyes as we handed the cage over to the courier man. With tears in the eyes of every one of us including Swiss, I believe, we parted. The bill reached rupees two hundred.

 Within a few days I rushed into a nearby cybercafe and you can guess why. But even today I wish I should not have got connected that day, as it always was, testing my patience. I was soon online. That very message made me hate everything. My e-mail ID of which I was extremely proud of, which I liked more than my very own name, which I had written everywhere, on my notebooks, textbooks, everywhere, to the extent my friend made fun of my net addiction, I wish it would have been inactive that day. The message I was expecting was there, but the contents terrible, unreadable. I beg your pardon for the enigma. The mail was from Kavitha herself. "Glad to receive your Onam presentation. I'd never seen such a cute little snow ball…." it continued. '…Thanks for that delicious gift for it made the finest rabbit soup I had ever tasted…."

 Be alert to avert the same in your case.

Shrinidhi H

Development Co-Ordinator



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