Imran watched as a black Mercedes stopped in front of his shop. As the driver’s door opened, and a familiar figure got out, he smiled. As he watched, another person got out of the car on the other side. Wow! A bonanza, Imran thought. He decided on his game plan quickly. The two women crossed the road. 'This is the place I told you about, Maya,' said Suchi. 'Just be friendly with the boy and our job will be easy.' ‘Friendly as in flirty?’ asked Maya… Suchi smiled and shrugged. ‘Just react to my cue. Remember, we need bargains.’ As the heavy plastic sheet at the entrance of the shop parted and the two ladies entered, Imran sank deep into his chair and feigned sleep. He started breathing erratically, a hand on his chest… Suchi winked at Maya. ‘Good Morning, Imranbhai!’ She said. ‘What happened to you?’ The concern in her voice made him open his eyes. Imran sighed dramatically. ‘Oh, it is you…’ he said. ‘How can I help you?’ He took a sip from the bottle of 7UP he had on his table. Maya looked concerned. Certainly, the boy wasn’t looking too good. He looked pale and sick. ‘What happened?’ She said, ‘Are you okay?’ Imran looked at Suchi. With a smile, Suchi introduced Maya. ‘She is my friend...’ ‘Hello boudhi!’ said Imran in respectful tone and took another swig at the bottle. Suchi couldn’t control herself anymore… “What is this Imran…You are drinking 7 Up without offering us?” She chided. Immediately Imran picked up the phone and dialled a number. “Send two 7UPs,” he said into the phone, ignoring Suchi’s hands that waved at him not to… As he hung up, Suchi said, “Imran, I was just kidding. We don’t want any thing… By the way, what happened to you?” Imran sighed dramatically again before talking to her. “Arey, didi! I took an overdose of my medicines… and am feeling sick now.” “Why? Didn’t you have a prescription?” Asked Suchi. “Yeah… I took two instead of one and now I am feel dizzy and nauseous… I called the doctor and he told me to drink two or three 7Ups…” “What a stupid thing to do Imran,” said Maya. “Don’t you know you can’t fool around with medicines? Anyway, if you aren’t well, we’ll come another day, right Suchi?” “ No no…”said Imran hurriedly… “I’ll be okay. Tell me... how can I serve you?” The next hour or so was spent in a cat and mouse game between the two parties. Imran spread out yard after yard of material in front of them… Every price he quoted was cut down and bargained upon by them… “No…no…No…” Imran would protest when Suchi quoted a ridiculously low price for the embroidered material he had spread before her. “This is new stock. Just came in last evening and you will not get this anywhere in this market…” “Yeah…yeah…. You told me the same crap last time and after I left your shop, I found the same stuff at Royal’s for cheaper rate! You really cheated me.” Imran looked hurt! “Don’t say that word… I don’t cheat friends…” “ So you do cheat others?”said Maya laughingly. “Boudhi, this didi is my regular customer. She knows that I give her a good price on whatever she buys from me. In fact, if my abbu were here, I’ll be in big trouble… Not only do I cut down on our profits, I even give her at the rate in which we buy stock…And she saddens my heart with such dialogues…” Suchi smiled again, “Imran… You have given fair deals in the past…but today why are you being so adamant? Is it the effect of the extra medicine you took? In that case we’ll come back another day when you are normal…” It was an art… the art of bargaining. Both Imran and Suchi were great exponents of that art. Maya stood amazed at the volleying between the shop keeper and the customer… She was amused by the way they flirted over prints and designs and prices… Suchi cut all prices down and drove fine bargains… Imran fought hard but conceded defeat. When he started billing their ample purchases, Suchi butted in again. She made him round off the final figure to a lesser one. At one point, Maya thought Imran would just tell them to get out, tired of her audacity… But ultimately Suchi won. As he packed all their stuff, she said, “Imran… you pretended to order 7Ups..eh?” Imran immediately used his phone and asked someone at the other end, where the hell were the two 7Ups he had ordered. Probably irritated by the reply, he dashed out of the shop… turning a deaf ear to Suchi telling him she was just kidding…they didn’t want 7UPs… He came back with two soft drinks which he offered the two women…”If Imran says something, he’ll do it!” He declared heroically as though he was Hercules who had finished some majestic task! Maya felt like giggling at the youngster’s attempts at being heroic… As they sipped at their 7Ups, he started talking about Bangladesh, his country…Suchi teased him about the bride his mother would choose for him… Imran blushed…He spoke in Malayalam and English trying to impress them…When Maya stared at him in wonder when he used flawless Malayalam, he said, ‘I learnt from Rajan, next door. I like Malayalam…” “Imran, you are first one I have heard saying that,” laughed Maya. “ And you use the language so well…!” Imran almost preened himself before fixing a casual look on his face… As they left the shop, Imran called out to them. “Come before Eid, didi. New stock will come then…” They smiled at him and waved before leaving. As he watched the Mercedes speed away, Imran felt happy. There was a curious glow inside him. He loved talking to people… especially friendly women. It made him feel very much the man of the world! So what if he had incurred a loss of nearly 40%? No one would know… Thank God, he had been alone when they came in. If Abbu had been there … Imran smiled at his own reflection in the big mirror before starting to put back the materials strewn about…He hoped Ammi would find a friendly girl for him...someone like these sophisticated women...But immediately he changed his mind... No he wanted a traditional girl as wife... ''What did I tell you?'' said Suchi. ''It is good that the young fool was alone. If his Khadoos father was there we’d never get such a bargain… Imran is such a sucker for silly talk… that’s why I always come at this time. His father is never around at this hour. A little harmless flirtation goes a long way!” She laughed happily as she stepped on the gas.