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“A friend is someone who lets you have the total freedom to be yourelf”  Jim Morrison

Last week I had written about children. This weekend article is dedicated to friendships.

Have you observed the Airtel ad “Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai?”   and the new Vodafone  Facebook ad ? My Facebook notifications are full of these videos shared by many students and friends. The video has  frequently appeared on my updates. I have been thinking whether friendship is limited to glossy ads and ‘feel good factor’, or romanticizing an emotion, or hyped  movies, or social networking sites, or does it go beyond consumerism?

Who is a friend? Remember Shahrukh’s statement in Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai: pyar dosti hai… Love is friendship…. ? 🙂

In school we were taught in the “colloquial expression” segment of English classes that “A friend in need, is a friend indeed” and “fair weather friends” . When we were asked to write an essay on this subject,  all of us wrote how a friend is one who stands by you in your times of trouble and supports you during all tough situations. However, as we start growing up the significance of a friend starts changing and friendships become  our major experimental steps in the lab of life and experience. It doesn’t remain limited to ‘need’ and give and take, but expands to mean much more.

A few days ago I was discussing with someone regarding friendship and love and whether after falling in love, could you still remain good friends — of course you can remain good friends after being in a relationship. But seriously doubt whether you can remain good friends after a breakup 🙂 . Breakups are usually taken as ego hurters, and remaining friends ‘inspite’ of everything is a little tough.  They say “friendship often ends in love, but love in friendship never”.

However, times are changing and friendships are governed by professional needs. We tend to stumble across the same set of people again and again. In that case, past is past tense and we  transit from the mode of love to friendships.

As I was watching these ads,  I was thinking about my own set of friends, people from school days, college years, and job years, where we meet as strangers, fight, but leave a place as friends. I have re-met many of my school friends and college friends on social networking sites, and it has been an absolute delight. However, there is a change that I am observing — a change in emotions, a change in response. Some friends who were distant and indifferent become completely warm, while certain friends who were supposed to be the closest become distant and cold.

From whatever I have learnt in life, categorizing friends is one of the toughest things . However, if someone asked me to categorize my friends, here would be a rough division:

1. The constants: These are friends who have been with you for years. They have seen you through the highs and lows of life. They know without your telling them that there is something right or something wrong in your life. They are the ones you don’t talk to everyday, you might have blamed them for things, but they  come to you the moment you give a call.

2. The Surprises: These are friends who come as surprise packages. You never knew they existed so seriously, so deeply for you. They might be just round the corner, they just take charge when they see you in trouble — a little filmy and a little romantic, but they do exist, quitely observing  your moves, but being there for you and with you.

3. The Fun Bunch: You haven’t thought a single weekend without them. They are the ones who watch the most pathetic love stories with you in the theatre, eat grub on the streets with you, enjoy watching you ask for more golgappas and share the money in restaurants to the last penny. They add colour to your life and make surviving a much easier thing. In cosmopolitan lives of severe pressure like Mumbai, where you are migrants and far from home, they are the ones who take away your loneliness and make your  life much easier.

4. The Professional Well-wisher: You met them at workplaces, you met them at conferences, but they slowly moved to be closer to your lives. They advised you when you got lost in professional alleys, they tell you how to survive, and encourage you when you move ahead. They are sometimes your colleagues, sometimes your seniors, sometimes your super-seniors, but they are people whom you can run to in case of emergencies. They are people who share your professional and sometimes even personal woes.

5.The Critiques: The least noted but the most significant category. They come as friends but they back-stab you, they speak against you in front of others  and in front of yourself — they might be people you trusted, but they used your weakness to climb their own ladder. However, they are the ones who ignite the competitor in you. They are the ones whose words make you work harder on yourself and make you tougher in the battle.

Friends and friendships are a gift.  While at IIT  as a student, I had observed that mostly loners who had no friends actually got into the suicidal mode. I had a very animated and vibrant group of friends then, some of whom went ahead and became leaders in their own fields and workplaces. The group mails that I receive are usually meant to speak of their achievements either in personal or professional spheres —  they give a “feel-good factor”.  Am not sure whether these friends read my blogs anymore, but their influence has been profound.

I must narrate regarding a phase of my life in this context. Post-IIT, life had become bleak. I was lost — friends had moved on with their personal lives and professional requirements. Some  friends who were close, became cold and indifferent. Some friendships got affected by placements in IITs, IIMs  and completing PhD 😉 .

I was moving from place to place without stability and without a sense of security. One night I left Indore to come to Jaipur for a job presentation.  I had not got the time to buy food for myself, was tired, lonely and broken because of a series of crises. Fell asleep —  must have been asleep for a very long time. Suddenly, someone’s hand touched my forehead — I woke up with a start — angry and irritated.  From half-open lids I saw a young lady in a burkha standing by me. She told me in Hindi that she has observed me for very long and I have slept for almost half the journey without eating a morsel. I woke-up and saw that she had two little kids and was accompanied by an aged lady.  She was coming back from her mother’s place after a child birth to her husband who has a small cloth store in Jaipur. The way she offered me food, a single roti and a little potato was so touching that I would name it as a friendship that has been beyond all my friendships till date.  I never met her after that, but still remember her face and smile.

Over the past years, I have been learning a lot about friendships and relationships. In fact, rediscovering friendships. I keep telling my students in the class that “be grounded, people are your only achievements — if you have people, you will be able to achieve any success of life.  People actually fulfill us, they are indispensable for us to live and survive through phases.”

Whether they are people who sit with you when you are hospitalized, or when you are professionally drowning, or whether they are people who share jokes, or buy you flowers and chocolates, or simply listen to you crib — they make what is called a humane being. The last few decades has seen an increasing alienation and loneliness in human life. We might be exceedingly good professionals, but if you are alone in your achievements — they are futile.

Before I end, another small fragment from memory regarding  friends of Postgrad days. In case any one of us was upset or angry, we took a guitar and sang  these lines:

“Vo jaake canteen mein Table bajaake

Vo gaane gaana Yaaron ke saath.

Bas yaadein Yaadein Yaadein reh jaati hain

Kuchh chhoti Chhoti Baatein reh jaati hain Bas yaadein…” (Purani Jeans)

Happiness is infectious na? Sadness is also contagious. When we are happy, the world seems to reflect our happiness and especially friends celebrate with us, but if we are sad we are mostly alone, and even if there is a single friend with us, we should consider ourselves fortunate. Friends wait for a single call — you just have to reach out with an open heart and they will be there to hold your hands and stand for you. If you ask me, actually yes “har ek friend zaroori hota hai” . But, yes you have to earn your life long friends….

P.N. : This post is dedicated to all my friends over the past many years.  Whether I met you last month or last year, or in childhood, wherever, you all are… I miss you and cherish each  friendship.