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…Naresh asked me early in the morning on my way to the market area in touristy Manali. In the US, when someone on the street asks me the time, I’m leery about pickpocketing. In my experience in India, it’s an icebreaker, quickly followed by “Where you from?” After many long seconds of getting-to-know you questions (i.e. exchanging names,) he pops the question.

“But we just met (literally)…why do you want to be my friend?”

“Well” he pauses, “I don’t have any friends from US.”

Ok, perfectly reasonable right? But I wonder what ‘being friends’ entails.

“We share tea and spend all day together seeing the sights in Manali.” Whoa there, partner. As enticing as you are with your humble, aging-history-teacher vibe and white slacks, I’m not so much interested. However, I’m willing to see where this goes in the interest of story-telling. After many Cheng/husband references we had tea. Then he found me an internet cafe. He tried to pay for that internet. He told me ‘thank you’ was unnecessary and rude between ‘friends.’ I finally found a way to be rid of him by arranging an afternoon time to meet for temple viewing and an evening time to meet for disco dancing. He didn’t want to leave me saying “I am feeling very bad leaving you.” Um, probably because you sense I won’t be keeping either of those meetup times? To be honest, I tried to keep the afternoon time, but lunch with Cheng ran long and when I checked the designated place, Naresh wasn’t there. I wondered if he disco-ed without me?

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