Two days ago, I subjected myself to an instant, maverick quiz — how many friends do you have, girl? The question turned out to be trickier than it sounded and demanded more serious consideration than it seemingly merited. Funny how the smallest queries prompted by a passing thought can lead you to the deepest ponderings!
The likeliest answer that I will get should I pose that question to someone would be a number between a few scores and a few hundreds. Thanks to Facebook and others, we are living in the most sociable period that the history of mankind has known yet. Sociable, yes, but are we genuinely so?
Comradeship will rank next to only kinship in the order of human relationships, and is one of the earliest forms of human bonding. What was once a substance that defined unique links between people has now become a loose connotation of casual connections. It is this shifting paradigm that had me stuck for an answer when I quizzed myself.
Come to think of it, we now have several genres of friendship. The first and the biggest one is the nebulous cluster on FB that gives you just enough glimpse to have superficial contacts with people without knowing the complete person behind the status updates, comments and infrequent messaging. We call them friends for want of an alternative word. They keep our lives engaged with myriad things, and we are grateful to them for it.
Then we have friends at the workplace — people we liaise with closely, but with great circumspection for there is much peril in office associations. So we are measured in our movements, yet we are friends who lunch together and hang out a bit. It is a tenuous connection and can snap without notice. The people we call our real friends these days are mostly a niche group that we create for our regular recreation and social support. It is often carved over a period of time, and can be with or without emotional trappings. Having a good time together is the common objective and this keeps the friendship from fraying.
A popular belief about friendship is that we rarely make ‘best friends’ in adulthood. What we call friendship at this stage is just a surrogate of that sterling sentiment that made Winnie the Pooh say to the piglet, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so that I don’t have to live without you.” Looking around, I feel (at the risk of being tagged a sceptic) it is not a misplaced belief. Many times, we keep company for a reason, sveltely wrapped in niceties, or for a season that’s dictated by changing interests. That thing called ‘friends for ever’ that breathed unflinching love seems to be thinning out. We are now choosy, and have become overly judgmental about people. We now feel happy to be with sounding boards that will hear our woes out or flatterers who will dole out the feel-good factor or buddies who will share a beer and a good laugh on a weekend.
Friendship is a stretch beyond these temporal things and now we have neither the time nor the patience to develop a lasting camaraderie. Let’s put our hand on our heart and ask if this isn’t true, all the cloying friendship quotes doing the rounds notwithstanding. If unfeigned love is the parameter, I wonder how many friends we can claim to have in our lives.
I recently made a new friend over FB. We share a rare bonhomie which will probably develop into a bond that will last ‘beyond forever’. If it does, the myth about true friendship not happening after school and college will be shattered, much to my delight. What can be more exciting than finding a compatible mate, no matter what stage of life you are at?
Asha Iyer Kumar is a freelance journalist based in Dubai
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