I am continuing from where I left..
Who is a friend?
In today’s world there are different notions of what friendship means. However, there are some things about friendship that pass the test of time. In my view, friends should be a point of reflection. If you look at your friends face and see a smile, it should bring one to your face. When you see disappointment then you must know something is not right. The day you do not recognise the emotion on the face looking back at you, or you ignore it, then, you are facing a problem with your friendship.
We largely relate friendship to those relationships that are always good in society. However, friendships are not based on the laws of society. They are based on the bonds that are created between two people. I believe that every relationship is unique. Now, when I came to a ( what I then believed to be) large town in Kerala, Kollam, I never knew what to expect. If you ask me when I knew I fell in love with a person I can tell you but if you ask me when I became friends with my buddies, I do not really know. I can only guess.
Nothing spectacular happened between the three of us that made us friends. In this series of Blogs I refer to my closest few friends only. I cannot even remember what happened in my first year of college, in 1978, that defined my friendship with the two guys who were my closest friends. It is possible that an incident that scared them ,about which I was not then aware, was the real start of my awareness of our friendship.
In my first year, Fatima Mata National College ( FMNC), Kollam had only eighty days of class out of a total of 220 days we were supposed to have class. I was staying in the college hostel. My two friends and I had been to see ‘ Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ on Sunday. A couple of days later, when the afternoon class was suspended due to a strike I went to the hostel, had lunch and decided to go for the matinee show of the same movie as I loved extra terrestrial stories. I went alone. When I came back the hostel was deserted, there were spots of blood on the floor and even the large picture of Christ was broken. I saw a shaken Warden who told me to pack and go home. I packed and rushed to the bus station to catch a bus home.
As was the norm I called my friends number. The firing I got when he came on the line and what I heard from him and my other friend who rushed to the bus stop to see me before I left, was possibly the event that stamped FRIENDS on our relationship. It was then I heard that they had been informed that the police had raided the hostel, beat and abused the inmates, beat even the warden and sent everyone away and detailed some. My friends panicked and drove around looking for me. They had just returned home when my call came.
So, it was nothing like the movies show..
No, friendship is not at all like some of the movies show. It starts in odd ways, gets cemented very slowly and if it’s cured properly , will stand the test of time.
All three of us fell in love, at some point of time, during the course of our lives in college. They all progressed in interesting ways. Why do I write this? It’s because of what I saw as the essence of our relationship.
One of the guys decided his relationship, with the girl will not work but bring untold pain to both so they sadly parted, after a brief period of beautiful affection. We just sat around after that and smoked a few cigarettes and just heard him bring everything out. We knew he was right. We thought he should have fought for the relationship but we also knew him. Period.
The other went into the relationship, like I did, like a person possessed. Of course, we were all there for each other. So, as I said earlier, it didn’t matter that society was against us, we were there for each other.
A year later, I was at my friends house. We had finished college. My friend was not there. For the first time I was spoken to in private by my friends relatives who were worried about his relationship. I could understand their worry. Remember it was Kollam and Kerala in the early ’80’s. I said – Don’t worry. I will see that nothing wrong happens to him.
My mind was in a turmoil. What do I do? Do I tell my friend of what happened? How could I have assured people that I would see that he was fine. I hid this chat from my friend, I think forever. He never knew.
At a point soon, the relationship, as expected ran into troubled water. It ended with a ‘Dear John’, which he couldn’t stomach. He pulled me along as he tried to make it right, but it didn’t work. I literally dragged him to a tea shop nearby, after the showdown and told him in clear terms to stop running after a mirage. He got damn angry with me. He was shaking in anger and sadness. Tears came down his eyes. I held his forearm. He didn’t say a word after that. I drank my chai, he didn’t . He left me at my house and went back to Kollam.
When I met him that weekend he had that funny look about him. We did not say a word about that incident after that. Never. Not once. I did not get down to explaining either. We just knew a chapter was over. The friendship here was in the silence and knowing that he was coping with it in his own way. There was no further discussion on the subject. I was with him, he knew it, by the fact that I did not bring it up again . I could feel his pain but he preferred my silence. Not even a hug. Just be there.
When I got married, the one relationship that survived college, I had to go against my parents wishes. I needed a witness from my side. I did not have one. Why? It was because I refused to allow my friend to be my witness and spoil his relationship with my mother. They had deep affection for one another and it would have been spoilt if he was my witness. Someone else did that for me.
Friendship also means not pushing the boundaries. I knew when to stop , they knew when to stop. Once while trying to get my first job, I asked my friend, why he wouldn’t employ me. At 22, in a very mature way he said – I would rather have you as my friend. You will get a job.
Eventually when I got a job, as a Project Manager – Trainee. My two friends were so proud, they told everyone who would hear – He is a Manager. He has a four figure salary ( Rs. 900 + 20% HRA = Rs. 1,080/- a month). Yes, that was four figures. They never broke the figures – their friend, me, was going to be a Manager, with a four figure salary. That’s all that mattered.
( My eyes fill when I write this as I am reliving these moments. If I did not have these two friends and their families and my mother – I would never have achieved anything in my life. Friendship is a blessing that I have always thanked God for..more in my next blog)