Friends for every age

Friends for every age

Friends for every age

Despite being a quintessential part of our existence, friendship is often hard to define. The bond acquires different forms during various stages of our life. Krishna Raj attempts to unravel its myriad avatars.

Friends are the family you choose

At 8, it was pigtails, birthday parties, candies, toys and cakes, dates at the nearby park with mommies watching over us. We fought; we forgot and played the next day, with moms often acting as mediators.

At 18, friendship took on a new meaning; it was the age of secrets, silly giggles.

We had already formed our so-called groups, reluctant to let a newcomer in the inner circle.

There’s the ‘best friend’ title given to the one who knows it all, who keeps your secrets and will take that 4am call.

At 28, there are loads of new friends, some old ones have moved on; coffees,
late-night parties, boyfriends, adventurous trips are the flavours of the day.

After all ‘zindagi na milegi dobara’!

At 38, you realise that it's less important to have a lot of friends and more important to have real ones.

I realise how friends have contributed to my life, adding decibels to my laughter and wings to my joy; they have lessened the moistening of my eyes.

Says Manisha Kapoor, an interior designer, “Yes, at 38, friendship is more profound and I know my best friends will always be around!”

 Right since his cave-dwelling days, man has realised the indispensability of social interaction.

Despite being a quintessential part of our existence, friendship is often hard to define, given the sublimity of togetherness that far transcends words.

Experts believe that social interactions among humans begin at a very early age and acquire different forms during various stages of life.

While kindergarten interactions are mainly based on toys and dolls, growing-up is all about living in the make-believe world of videogames, bigger toys, fancy pencils and sports gear.

While fascination with the opposite sex occupies the teenage mind, marriage, career and
‘getting settled’ are among the hot topics of discussion during young adult hang-outs.

While diabetes, weight problems and insurance issues form the crux of mostconversations of middle-aged Indians, senior citizens spend their time discussing matters of devotion or diagnosis or perhaps, just finding solace in each other’s silent presence.

“Friends play different roles at each stage of life. But what is important is the bond of endearment, something that never ages,” says Jonah Oresmith, a young executive.
Simply put, friendship is the meeting of two hearts.

Gauri Vyas, a theatre artist, believes that friends can be of varied mindsets, not always agreeing with each other’s take on life.

Heated arguments may be a part of every conversation and phone call, but there has to be a deeper connection that prevails.

A ‘soul mate’ she insists, does not have to be a member of the opposite sex.

It can be anyone whom your soul relates to. As the famous Gujarati poet Mareez puts it, beautifully, “If just two individuals meet with the presence of the heart, it’s a celebration. While even if a million gather, but without heart, that is no gathering at all.”

Gauri speaks about how just a five-minute meeting with a stranger on a street in Canada turned into a beautiful bond of friendship.

“Although Therese and I exchanged just a few words and smiles, she is, today, someone I love deeply. While many I knew since childhood remain like stone edifices around me, someone thousands of miles away is ever-present within my deeper realm,” she says.

According to late theologian Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, the mystics were often called ‘friends of God’.

Their relationship with the Supreme was so intimate that there emerged a friendship between the two.

And true friendship is known to go beyond the labels of religion, colour, race and language. “Dosti ka koi naam nahin, sangeet ka koi mazhab nahin” (friendships bear no labels, music, no religion) says Hindustani music legend Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan.

According to the affable octogenarian, the only true gharana or tradition is pure and unconditional love.

“An insincere friend is worse than a wild animal. The latter may harm you
physically, but the former can scar you emotionally and irreversibly!” says Aqa Boman Kohinoor, 92, sipping on his early evening cardamom black tea.

Right from following the Mahatma on prabhat feris (early morning marches) during the independence struggle, to gleefully watching his young granddaughter WhatsApp her college buddies, life is much like a child’s toy box for the pioneer of Persian cuisine in India, sharing the most interesting ones with his guests at the iconic Britannia & Co.

Persian restaurant in the heart of Mumbai.

Speaking passionately about his relationship with his half-brother and best friend Mehrabaanjee, he says, “We have been business partners, buddies and brothers for over seventy years!

We understand each other through a silent rapport of hearts”.

A friendship that has stood the test of time is always endearing. It gives us hope, perhaps, for a not-so-lonely tomorrow. However, many believe that friendships today are not the same as they used to be in the pre-technology era.

“The innocence has long gone,” rues Jonah. “In our days of the katti-batti culture, playing on toy horses and sharing cute story books formed our little world. It’s hard to find that culture in today’s Americanised kids,” he says.

“At a recent birthday party, there was a group of children silently engrossed in computer games on their respective iPads, completely disassociated with each other.

Birthday parties during my kiddie days were never like this…we were Alice in Wonderland in a playroom full of toys, chocolate cake staining our lips, shrill ‘vroooom…zzzoooomm’ as we raced toy cars and finally, crashed in our parents’ laps in the embrace of sweet sleep! 
Has so much changed over the last two decades?

“Of course!” says 40-plus musician Walter D’mello, lamenting that while in his younger days, he could walk around the street with male friends, arms around each other’s necks and not be judged, today, he says “I’ll be deemed gay!”

Well, times have changed. But the beauty of friendship remains. Whether you are a toddler learning to take your first step or an older soul watching your trembling limbs, a friend’s gentle hand can make the journey incredible.

As the legendary Sufi mystic poet Attar puts it, “Mahfel e bi-shamm ra, hich nabaashad forough. Majles e bi-doost ra hich nabaashad nezaam” (How can there be a celebration without the glitter of lights?

How can there be a gathering without a friend?)