I have often heard my father say” I can do nothing about relatives but thank god I can choose my friends”.
Living as we did, so far away from our so called “extended family”, we could never really bank on those aunts , uncles and cousins in times of need. But help came to us, nevertheless from the large number of friends who were part of our lives! So it was not really surprising to have friends become a very important part of one’s social support system.
I have sometimes wondered during my more philosophical moments about this thing called friendship? Like love , friendship is also a very difficult concept to define and put into words. We like different people for different reasons but everyone we like does not become our friend! There are people who help us when we are in need and we are grateful to them. Sometimes we try to reciprocate their acts of kindness. But I do not think that qualifies as friendship either.
I think friendship has something to do with common interests and values which in turn leads to sustained interactions ,strengthening and forging of a bond. We often make the mistake of attributing blanket qualities of friendship to all those we call as “friend” . But it is more than that. I think different friends fulfill different kinds of needs.
There are friends we turn to when we are in trouble and need help. These are solid individuals whose assistance can be counted upon. And then there are friends with whom we want to spend time just because we enjoy being with them. They may be witty, brilliant conversationalists or have a great sense of humor. However it is quite possible that these people would actually fail us in our moments of need.
As we move on in life, we gather a lot of people around us who we call “friend” . Social media like Face Book tells me that I have about four hundred friends. But I am not really sure that I can actually call all of them “friends”. Some are mere acquaintances. The interesting thing about social media is that one does not really have to be physically there with these people to sustain a relationship. So it is often rather intriguing to find that a person who is just vaguely known to us in some way develops through virtual interactions into what can be called a “close friend” . They comment on everything we post and like all our pictures. These virtual interactions give the impression of a strengthening bond which if we are lucky may actually develop into something solid and real.
But the most special among friends are those with whom one can take up after a long period of time as though those years when we did not meet, never existed. I have been lucky enough to be part of such relationships too. Friends from school and college are like that and with them we discover our lost childhood and youth.
I have had a vast experience of all sorts of friendships –good, bad, real, virtual, next door, long distance etc but this bond never ceases to amaze me. Like I had mentioned earlier, it is so difficult to define. It is not bound by religion, nationality, gender or age. Many of those who I call my “close friends” are not from my part of the country or my gender. I also find that few are really close to me in age. Many are older or much younger.
I sometimes wonder if the definition of friendship itself is changing in today’s world given the wide nature of our interactions? While the breadth of our interactions may be increasing the depth may or may not keep pace. But the question is whether we want it to? I would say that it is humanly impossible to maintain similar depth of interaction with all the 500 odd people in my life who I call “friend”. But I think each relationship at a particular point offers a certain depth for interaction. It is for us to go deeper depending on interest and need. There is no formula for that
I think by virtue of just these interactions (at whatever depth I have been able to delve), I must be one of the luckiest persons in this world ! Each one of these people have touched my life in a way that only they can and left their mark in my heart. Their presence in this world of high speed communication is never too far away. There are some strangers like all of you - my regular blog visitors who are fast moving into that category that I call “friend” . We share points of view on certain topics and sometimes when there is an inordinately long lag between posts we do ask “What is the matter”?
I have had the most incredible experiences around friendship the last week while I was at Mumbai on work. In this town of impersonality I rediscovered the joy of friendship in a way that I am unable to express coherently. It took me back in time and made me look with eagerness at the future. It helped me connect dots and admire the picture that was forming… I am yet to come across any relationship defined by birth or marriage that can measure up to that..
So here’s to friendship and friends..!