Who are friends?
Friends are a very interesting specie. They have certain features that run across cultures and all kinds of humans that walk this earth or orbit it from satellites in the skies.
I consider a friend as one who will tell you when you have done something wrong, yet stay away from judging you. However, be certain that a friend will recognise the wrong you’ve done and point it out to you. A friend is not someone who will laugh whenever you do something stupid or silly that hurts someone else. They should not be party to things that you do which go against an ethos you have built.
In my last blog I mentioned that friendship doesn’t mean that your friend and you are doing what is always right. Two thieves can be friends – in this situation they tend to look out for each other. So friendship is not a relationship between two ‘squeaky clean’ persons. It goes beyond that.
A friend is often your mirror. You need to see emotions that only a mirror can show you. It is also one which does not get limited by ones position in society. It climbs over all barriers. One such relationship is the one between Sri Krishna and Sudama – Sudama was Lord Krishna’s classmate and a very intimate friend. Lord Krishna was a King. Sudama was an impoverished poor Brahmin. This difference did not come in the way of their true friendship. Sudama , when he met Sri Krishna after a long time gave him poha ( there are other versions of what he gave too) – it was all he had. In turn Sri Krishna gave Sudama all he needed to live his life the way he wanted. Not to become rich though, just what he needed.
When my closest friend got married I was extremely nervous. I was only twenty six then. My nervousness was whether my friends wife would take to my wife and me. I was certain that our friendship would be put to huge test if I did not get along with my friends wife. My friend and my wife had a good relationship. So, that was already okay. Thankfully, the two couples and later the families were very fond of each other. You may wonder whether this was not a contradiction of what I have written earlier. It isn’t.
One’s marital partner will always play a big role in ones life and determine who is welcome home or otherwise. A negative relationship can strain the friendship like nothing else. Of course, if our friendship was so strong even the strain would have been overcome. I’d like to think that we would have still been friends.
Role of a friend:
Many years ago, in the misplaced belief that my friend would back me in anything, I confided in him about something very personal. The blank look he gave me and the frozen face sent me a message that he didn’t approve. He did not say much and left my company much earlier than anticipated. It caused me tremendous anxiety. Later, when matters erupted and I was in a bad spot, he came to where I was and stood behind me and placed his hand over my shoulder, with just the tips of his fingers touching my shoulder. He didn’t say a word. Later we went out to dinner as a family, did not discuss anything about what happened but just had a pleasant evening. When we parted he quietly told me something that made up my mind.
The most important thing was that my friend did not judge me ever. I never judged him either. We were sounding boards quite often. Thankfully, somewhere inside us, we had the maturity to understand what a friendship needed.
Of course we had them. Not a little, but a lot. We also belonged to different religious beliefs. When I went for my second and final interview with SI, I was asked – How would you have reacted if there was a pooja at your friends house and you went to attend but a conservative relative asked you to leave. I replied, ‘ For starters, I never attended any of his religious events unless he asked me to. Then, I would participate whole heartedly. On the other hand, when I knew that the event was not for outsiders, I would either sit in his room or not visit or take a walk and spend time outside till the event was over’. I never tested the friendship in areas where it did not matter.
The three of us went to Guruvayoor once. In the morning when we went to pray in the sanctum sanatorium I backed out of going in as Kerala is very strict about non Hindu’s entering temples. My friends said it was okay but I desisted as any issue would effect them. I never once forced them to come to church either.
A few years ago I attended a multi religious event at the Ecumenical Christian Center ( ECC) in Whitefield. It was attended by various Mutt Heads and the Bishop of the Church of England among others. At a break, a very conservative member of our church was spewing his frustration at the fact that it was multi – religious. After hearing him I said, ‘ Listen, if you are telling me that I will go to heaven due to my faith and my friends will not get there, you are really off your mind’. Religion, caste and creed did not matter.
At our class reunion, when I addressed my classmates/ friends, I said that I was grateful for the many friends I had among the classmates and it had taken years of developing. My children considered them as their Uncles and Aunts and their children as their buddies. That is the most important result of a boarding school life. Friends for life can be made, with a little help.
I will end this Blog with just one saying – God gave us relatives, thank God he allowed us to choose our own friends.
( I will end this series with the next Blog, where I tell you how REAL friendship never dies…)