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Pranay Pathole met his “Twitter friend" Elon Musk earlier this week. Since 2018, the Indian software engineer has been regularly in touch with the Tesla CEO who has responded to Pathole over hundreds of tweets and private messages with headline-making company updates and even life advice. When Pathole travelled abroad for the first time, he had the chance of meeting Musk in person. He is about to start a master's degree in business analytics in the United States.

“It was so great meeting you @elonmusk at the Gigafactory Texas. Never seen such a humble and down-to-earth person. You're an inspiration to the millions," Pathole wrote on Twitter while sharing a photo of him with the world’s richest man with a net worth of $266 billion. And, Musk liked the pic.

When asked why Musk maintains regular contact with him, Pathole told AFP that he had “no idea". "To be very honest, I have no idea. I think he must be like, really intrigued by my questions.

"He is super genuine. Like, way down-to-earth. He's humble," the 23-year-old told AFP beforehand. "The way he takes his time to respond to me... just shows."

Based on Musk's public tweets from the beginning of 2020, Pathole's account is one of just a select few that the billionaire routinely reacts to — once every two days on average. When Pathole, who was 19 at the time, pointed out a problem with Tesla's automated windshield wipers, Musk answered to him for the first time in 2018.

Also Read: Elon Musk says Tesla's Full Service Driving price will rise to $15,000

"Fixed in next release," Musk replied, with Tesla addressing the issue in a subsequent software update.

That evening, his parents rejoiced by taking him out to supper.

"I was blown away, to be very honest," Pathole says. "I took multiple screenshots of it and just never wanted the day to end."

Their later private chats -- daily at first -- covered "busting myths" about Musk's past and discussions about why colonising other planets is "essential", Pathole says.

Also Read: Is Elon Musk buying Manchester United?

"I used to ask him dumb questions, silly questions. And he used to take his time to reply to me."

Over the years, Pathole claims interactions with Musk have become "much more casual" and he no longer feels the need to immediately share them with his loved ones.

Also Read: Elon Musk valuable advice shared by billionaire: 'Don't attach yourself...'

Musk's open, sarcastic, and frequently cryptic tweets have caused big price movements in stocks and cryptocurrencies and have drawn the attention of US regulators. The trial is scheduled to start in October. The billionaire investor is also embroiled in a high-stakes legal dispute with Twitter itself over his attempt to back out of a deal to purchase the firm.

But Pathole rejects suggestions that the billionaire acts with malice.

"I don't think that he's a troll," Pathole says. "He's an unpredictable guy."

"Elon is like our family friend," jokes Pranay's father Prashant, a media consultant, adding that he and his wife Pallavi, a homemaker, were proud of their son's passion. "If he follows Elon Musk, if he wants to settle down on Mars, we don't mind."

(With AFP inputs)

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