Friendships Lost and Found
I am not the kind of person who keeps track of all the special days, except the birthdays I must remember and do something about (or else face serious consequences). The only other kind of days I care about are bank holidays. So, the various UN mandated special days is indeed beyond my cognitive capacity. Add to that various media and special interest defined 'days', and I am sure there are more than 365 of these, and I bet this would go to anyone's mental capacity except those very special people who keep their special diaries which note every such days and who can tell you exactly which day they first had ice-cream. So, I conveniently depend on them, now that there is facebook and a reminder is always handy, to flag up special days, and then generally ignore them.
Friendship Day could have been one such day, but the intensity and enthusiasm on Facebook caught up with me. Yes, this was to be expected - Facebook is one giant 'friending' system and if nothing, it must celebrate friendship (I also have a sneaky feeling that they had invented the day, but may be not). Friendships are so important in my life that I just couldn't ignore toasting for it, though I consider the idea of designated days inherently silly.
As I mentioned before, when I left school, where indeed I made my first friends, my life was destined to be very very predictable. With some effort, I could have sat down and mentioned what possible jobs I could have, where I would live, who my friends would be and who I would marry: The good thing about my generation was that none of those turned out as expected. Indeed, I just had a little Oh My God moment as I wrote the word 'generation' which made me sound so old, but that is more or less an accurate way of describing people who finished school in mid to late eighties in India. We were in college when both Indian economy fell of the cliff and the dismantling of welfare state started, and at the same time, the Indian politics fell of the cliff with a mosque being destroyed in North India and the secular state was consigned to history forthwith. With all these upheavals, our lives were suddenly a toss up, not just in terms of where to find employment, but the opposite - an opening of a bewildering array of possibilities which we never thought possible and which has not yet stopped unfolding. Suddenly, people were travelling from one state to another, even outside the countries border; suddenly, Internet brought the real possibility of chatting with lovely looking Russian girls or forthright Americans in our drawing rooms. The expectations all changed, and with it, our relationships. Friendships, which were so far constructed on pure accidents of place of birth or family connections, were suddenly up for grabs - more people were meeting more people just as they chatted, travelled and went to study elsewhere.
What I am trying to claim is that I belong to that generation which experienced the real two-speed friendships, some old and solid ones, which lasted a lifetime and change of circumstances, alongside many 'weak ties', facilitated by travel, work and the Internet. I shall go on to claim that we may have got some of balance, as our lives were played out in two parts, rather unlike the earlier generations, where friendships were local; nor like those who followed us, whose real friends got crowded out by the virtual ones, and who, as a fifteen year old rightly told me, considered their virtual friends real and the local ones 'accidental'.
This does not indeed mean that I got everything right. I could recount too many broken friendships, where a little time and effort, old style time and effort, could have saved it from decaying: In one case, when we met after several years, we spent an evening silently wondering what to talk about and came back with the feeling that relationships become irrelevant as time changes, never to meet again. Some of my college day friendships were saved only because the other parties, my friends, were forgiving and generous, and they allowed my indiscretions long enough for me to realise my mistakes and how valuable these friends are to me. Also, I had this wonderful circle of friends when I worked in India mid-nineties, who I really adored and loved spending time with, but mostly lost touch as I started my own business and eventually left India, only to be reunited with all of them through Facebook only very recently. But, being in this position, moving from place to place, job to job, doing various things, having various interests, as my life has been so far, I have started gathering several strong 'weak relationships', people who I meet only once in a while, but those I love and appreciate, those who I can spend time with, indeed want to spend time with. This includes several of my employers, with one exception, who I grew fond of and keep in touch on a regular basis.
So, here is my final toast to friendships: I am only beginning to realise the value of the distant ones. It is not just that my circle of friends have expanded as I travelled and lived abroad, it is also my nature of friendships that have changed. Suddenly, I feel connected to people who live in a world completely different from my own, and while earlier I would have treated that as a barrier to friendship, it is the norm for me today. In a way, I don't have many friends who I see everyday or talk to, mates to go watching football matches with, but my life is surrounded by many extraordinary people who inhabit different realms, do different things, watch different sports and live in different places, yet all of whose lives intersect with mine whenever both of us need it. Yes, I may not find someone to go to pub with right now, but I have many who I can share my anxieties and dreams with, though this blog or elsewhere, who value and love me, and I do likewise.
It is only appropriate that I am reminded of friendship day on Facebook: In my life, the idea of friendship seems to have changed irreversibly.