What the pandemic has taught us about friendships

Malavika Varadan/Dubai
Filed on August 26, 2021

The pandemic left us longing for human interaction and taught us how small talk can sometimes culminate into life-long connections

When was the last time you made a new friend? I have been trying recently — and I must admit, it’s hard. Even for someone who seems like an extrovert!

I was watching a parent and child the other day. The parent points their child in the direction of a large gathering of children and says, “Go! Make a friend! I’ll be back in five minutes.” The said child goes over, introduces himself, and within seconds starts playing tag or hide and seek, or whatever other nameless game they are playing that day.

It’s so heartwarming to see this. Children do it right. They keep it simple. They never introduce themselves by saying, “This is where I live, or this is what my father does.” No. Their introductions are bizarre and colourful — “Hi, I am Mohammed and I like giraffes”, or something absurd like that.

Maybe this is what we have to learn?

Adults don’t say, “Can I come play with you?”

We only say things like “It’s a great opportunity to network” or “Here is my business card” or “Let’s discuss that idea over coffee”. These things we say, these attempts to make new friends are so transactional, so business-like.

In the adult world, there are only two reasons you would ask someone if they would like to hang out. Either you are romantically interested in them, or you would like to work with them in some capacity. And that is plain sad. Whatever happened to making friends!

My grandmother, for example, was a woman known for being the best friend-maker in the neighbourhood. For instance, she would take a train from Chennai to Bangalore, and in a few hours would have made friends with everyone in her compartment.

And we knew to expect a few of them to stay at our house for a few weeks because she would extend that invitation on the journey, within hours of meeting them. She was like that — a trusting, kind, welcoming woman who loved a home full of laughter and food.

Today, I live in an apartment block in new Dubai, where I don’t know my neighbours. And they don’t know their neighbours either, I’m sure. We walk as quickly as we can from the door to the lift, and when we are in the lift together — we all face the door and pretend no one else is in there. Then we nod, or murmur a “good day” and leave as fast as we can.

My grandmother? I imagine, in 35 floors of lift-time, she would have found out where this person was from, what they felt about their spouse, how many children they had, and what they planned to make for dinner that night. Two days later, she would be babysitting their kids.

One of my biggest pandemic learnings — as a single woman in a big city — has been that we need friends around here. If we are to call this city home, we need neighbours who will check in every once in a while, we need people to laugh with outside of work, we need relationships that are honest and authentic — and not only about our kids playing together, or our business cards looking similar.

If we need friends, we need to make friends. And as the wise Winnie the Pooh once said, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

Good luck. I hope you make a new friend this week.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com

When was the last time you made a new friend? I have been trying recently — and I must admit, it’s hard. Even for someone who seems like an extrovert!

I was watching a parent and child the other day. The parent points their child in the direction of a large gathering of children and says, “Go! Make a friend! I’ll be back in five minutes.” The said child goes over, introduces himself, and within seconds starts playing tag or hide and seek, or whatever other nameless game they are playing that day.

It’s so heartwarming to see this. Children do it right. They keep it simple. They never introduce themselves by saying, “This is where I live, or this is what my father does.” No. Their introductions are bizarre and colourful — “Hi, I am Mohammed and I like giraffes”, or something absurd like that.

Maybe this is what we have to learn?

Adults don’t say, “Can I come play with you?”

We only say things like “It’s a great opportunity to network” or “Here is my business card” or “Let’s discuss that idea over coffee”. These things we say, these attempts to make new friends are so transactional, so business-like.

In the adult world, there are only two reasons you would ask someone if they would like to hang out. Either you are romantically interested in them, or you would like to work with them in some capacity. And that is plain sad. Whatever happened to making friends!

My grandmother, for example, was a woman known for being the best friend-maker in the neighbourhood. For instance, she would take a train from Chennai to Bangalore, and in a few hours would have made friends with everyone in her compartment.

And we knew to expect a few of them to stay at our house for a few weeks because she would extend that invitation on the journey, within hours of meeting them. She was like that — a trusting, kind, welcoming woman who loved a home full of laughter and food.

Today, I live in an apartment block in new Dubai, where I don’t know my neighbours. And they don’t know their neighbours either, I’m sure. We walk as quickly as we can from the door to the lift, and when we are in the lift together — we all face the door and pretend no one else is in there. Then we nod, or murmur a “good day” and leave as fast as we can.

My grandmother? I imagine, in 35 floors of lift-time, she would have found out where this person was from, what they felt about their spouse, how many children they had, and what they planned to make for dinner that night. Two days later, she would be babysitting their kids.

One of my biggest pandemic learnings — as a single woman in a big city — has been that we need friends around here. If we are to call this city home, we need neighbours who will check in every once in a while, we need people to laugh with outside of work, we need relationships that are honest and authentic — and not only about our kids playing together, or our business cards looking similar.

If we need friends, we need to make friends. And as the wise Winnie the Pooh once said, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

Good luck. I hope you make a new friend this week.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com

When was the last time you made a new friend? I have been trying recently — and I must admit, it’s hard. Even for someone who seems like an extrovert!

I was watching a parent and child the other day. The parent points their child in the direction of a large gathering of children and says, “Go! Make a friend! I’ll be back in five minutes.” The said child goes over, introduces himself, and within seconds starts playing tag or hide and seek, or whatever other nameless game they are playing that day.

It’s so heartwarming to see this. Children do it right. They keep it simple. They never introduce themselves by saying, “This is where I live, or this is what my father does.” No. Their introductions are bizarre and colourful — “Hi, I am Mohammed and I like giraffes”, or something absurd like that.

Maybe this is what we have to learn?

Adults don’t say, “Can I come play with you?”

We only say things like “It’s a great opportunity to network” or “Here is my business card” or “Let’s discuss that idea over coffee”. These things we say, these attempts to make new friends are so transactional, so business-like.

In the adult world, there are only two reasons you would ask someone if they would like to hang out. Either you are romantically interested in them, or you would like to work with them in some capacity. And that is plain sad. Whatever happened to making friends!

My grandmother, for example, was a woman known for being the best friend-maker in the neighbourhood. For instance, she would take a train from Chennai to Bangalore, and in a few hours would have made friends with everyone in her compartment.

And we knew to expect a few of them to stay at our house for a few weeks because she would extend that invitation on the journey, within hours of meeting them. She was like that — a trusting, kind, welcoming woman who loved a home full of laughter and food.

Today, I live in an apartment block in new Dubai, where I don’t know my neighbours. And they don’t know their neighbours either, I’m sure. We walk as quickly as we can from the door to the lift, and when we are in the lift together — we all face the door and pretend no one else is in there. Then we nod, or murmur a “good day” and leave as fast as we can.

My grandmother? I imagine, in 35 floors of lift-time, she would have found out where this person was from, what they felt about their spouse, how many children they had, and what they planned to make for dinner that night. Two days later, she would be babysitting their kids.

One of my biggest pandemic learnings — as a single woman in a big city — has been that we need friends around here. If we are to call this city home, we need neighbours who will check in every once in a while, we need people to laugh with outside of work, we need relationships that are honest and authentic — and not only about our kids playing together, or our business cards looking similar.

If we need friends, we need to make friends. And as the wise Winnie the Pooh once said, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

Good luck. I hope you make a new friend this week.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com





 
 
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