I am not the most popular person out there. It’s not one of my strong points. As far as friendship goes I have had quite the rocky time on the road. Even now when you ask me about friends I’ll take a while. I don’t like talking about my friends, maybe because the lot of them include some of the weirdest people on the planet. I do have friends who are just as weird as me if not more.
Today is friendship day, and it’s strange for me to bring this up as a topic on my blog. As a kid, when I shared a room with my sister, I found a huge bunch of friendship bands in our chest of drawers. For the youth of this generation, friendship bands were a thing back then, different coloured bands friends gave one another on the day, to keep and remember. Something like marking your territory, you know?
I on the other hand, to this day have maybe three in total lying somewhere between old socks and belts, at the back of a lone drawer. Every friendship day, our teachers would ask us to put away our friendship bands on campus because it was not part of the prescribed school uniform. I didn’t need to. Students would collect them, count them during breaks, discuss them. I would sit by a dustbin somewhere on the ground watching them, trying not be noticed or make eye contact accidentally with a bully.
So when I would come across my sister’s bands, I’d feel a pang of jealousy. A variety of rainbow-coloured bands, some thin, some thick, some the tying kind or fancy ones that had buckles. I knew friendship through that bunch of bands. Then I realised, the number of friendship bands you receive tell you the number of friends you have. My tally was a big, fat zero.
Well, it was not before I turned sixteen that I was part of a group big enough to be called a group. As far as genuinely long and reliable friendships go, I had one till I was sixteen, that started when I was three. A friend who till this day needs no declaration of friendship, we talk when we have time, and we go for walks because we’re neighbours. She and I have seen a fair bit, and man we’ve seen some of the hardest times together.
My track record of friendships includes more betrayals, more friends turned into bullies than I can count. And at fourteen I stepped away from friendship outside of books. I learnt about friendship through Harry, Ron and Hermione. I learnt about friendship from Percy Jackson, from Jane Austen, from Lord of the Rings, from Shakespeare, from Chronicles of Narnia, the list is long. These were the same sources for all my knowledge on love too. In a way they became my friends too, every book and every author became a friend.
When I came to eleventh grade, I met ten people, who showed me that I could be a friend and a friend worthy of being called a friend. I experienced everything I had read about friendship in those two years of high school. I too was allowed access to friendships, where people would like me as I am, and I didn’t have to qualify for friendship. I was suddenly inviting people over, receiving and giving gifts, planning outings. I finally had a reason to go to school picnics, apart from the one best friend I had. For me it was a huge deal.
After school ended, once more, friendship created a sense of anxiety for me. I didn’t want school to repeat, how many years would I have to wait now? In fact, I wasn’t even sure the friends from school would remain my friends. I joined a college, and somehow my stroke of luck continued. I attended the institution for a month before I left to attend a different university. Somehow I had friends there, and not one, not even two, three at least. For me that was a win.
But, when I joined the university I would attend for the next three years I wasn’t just going to have to make friends in class, I had to make friends with all the people I lived with, starting with my roommates. I had only ever shared my space with my family. It was daunting, but these people made me their own. They became family so quickly. Again not one and way more than five. They made the three years worth living, I had friends in class, outside class, where everyday was a sleepover.
I was still learning how to be a friend, and I made numerous mistakes. But all these friends allowed me to make those mistakes, they understood who I was. They stood up for me and with me. I can never express what it felt like for me to be part of something. Where friendships formed as I went, it was a concept I didn’t know. I had friendships to choose from! I felt like I was a different person altogether, living someone else’s life.
I also had two people apart from the one best friend, who became my best friends in the most incredible way. Two friends who made me want to come home. These two I have no doubt will be forever, not even for a second. As a side note, long-distance friendships unlike long-distance relationships work, and they work like magic, they truly contain all the ingredients of a healthy relationship without the romance, I am talking from first-hand experience. Thank me if this changes your life.
These friendships from college are still to be determined if they’re for life, but they feel like they are. Essentially they’ve seen me at my worst and my best without much choice. We lived in the same building after all, sharing limited space, but hundreds of emotions. The friends at university showed me the drama in life. We were living the ideal k-drama storyline. It was like seeing a series unfold in front of me which ran for three seasons. Due to the number of people in the group, some months we’d be broke just because of the birthdays. It was the ‘high’ life.
When college ended, I was struck with a new fear. So I managed to find friends in India, but would I be able to replicate that out there in the big world beyond India where culture somehow could still be communicated with a fair understanding? Again friendship proved me wrong. I made some of the most meaningful friendships outside India, which helped me grow up. They told me friendship had no borders. And it wasn’t as if these friendships replaced old ones, they only added to them, and how?
Through these years, I found that friendships are demanding, they are hard. They end when you take them for granted. But, ironically it’s the friendships you can take for granted which last the longest. Now I have a friendships as old as 20 years, as old as 8 years, 5 years, 2 years, and even 1 year. Every experience has given me some form of friendship. I have seen different shades of friendship, far more than the number of colours in that bunch of friendship bands in my sister’s drawer.
Today on friendship day I won’t tell you to cherish your friend, it’s your friend, not mine. I am thankful to every friend I have made. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed in this. As an angsty sixteen year-old I was always waiting for friendships to fall apart, waiting for someone to break my trust or hurt me. Even as an adult sometimes I catch myself fearing the next time someone will walk out of my life, will turn into a bully or will use my secrets against me.
But, now I have friends who will still stand by me even if the world turns their back on me. I have best friends who I know will stick to me like glue even when I can’t. A friend from college who named me ‘Lit’ and had me print it on a shirt too, graduated to best friend status with ease, who I barely talk to on a daily basis but when I do I feel like I am sitting in my faded t-shirt and shorts in class in the hot Delhi sun before the professor walks in, teasing each other. Or another classmate who literally became my partner on every research paper I wrote for three years, exploring the strangest of topics who I miss every time I see a movie, think of horror or find something funny and bizarre that nobody else would.
My best friends who are more lame than I am, who have been caught up in their lives, who keep upping the ante every day with achievements, who make me feel as if everything is alright even if the world is ending around us. Or my first best friend in life who has one of the most distinct laughs in the world who makes me laugh till my stomach hurts just by being herself. Each of these people know who they are, they know exactly who they are and will tell me if they read this that I need to get a life.
I forgot to mention, there were two friends I had before all of these people with photos to prove it, my father carrying me and who taught me to play before I study, whose smile is infectious and whose jokes could be a great weapon in war, and my sister, who played with me when no one else would. I don’t have the friendship bands to count these friendships, but I have the memories, I have them, and for me that’s proof enough. Happy Friendship Day!