Fleeting friendship

When Friendship Day passed by, there was a surge in forwarded messages on WhatsApp with audios and videos singing tributes to the friend. A message even challenged one to forward it to as many people as possible including the sender. Facebook had hoards of messages and wishes addressed to friends.

This makes one wonder if such friendships that need to be publicly acknowledged and praised are indeed true. Friendship is all about being there for the person you consider your friend. A friend is not an acquaintance or a travel mate with whom you exchange some pleasantries. So, it is indeed a surprise when a few refer to all the people met during such passing encounters as friends, or even address all their colleagues as friends.

I remember a colleague who had said, “I could not study for the promotion exam as my book was with a friend who failed to return it on time.” Can that inconsiderate person be considered a friend? Who has not heard of fair-weather friends who beat the retreat during a crisis, or remain incommunicado when it suits them? A friend is not the fleeting whiff of perfume one gets when one passes by a jasmine creeper, or the heavenly rainbow on a sunlit rainy day. He is this and much more. He is the mathematical constant, who has a lending ear and a weeping shoulder or a thumping laugh when you feel the need for it.

During our current stay in the US, the husband had been taking long lonely walks in the neighbourhood. One fine day, this routine changed forever, as he was introduced by our son-in-law to a gentleman from the Indian diaspora. It looked as if the elderly gentleman, a widower, was in need of a soulmate and very soon he took my husband under his wings and dictated the route of the walk which ended almost daily in the nearby park. There, my husband got to meet a host of seniors whiling away their time after breakfast.

Since then, each day he comes home with the story of a new ‘friend’ and at times the ‘friends’ too have tagged along with him for a cup of coffee. Sometimes, he gets invited to join a new group of seniors discussing Indian politics and offers his own views. His interest in astrology has gained him many admirers seeking to learn about the unknown. Two or three of these new acquaintances have become quite close to him laying bare their life stories before him.

For persons in their seventies and eighties, perhaps, it is a sort of catharsis to expound upon one’s wealth, health and relationships to a relatively unknown person, much like talking to a shrink.

My husband and they may never come across one another again as the visits are short-lived and irregular. But for the time being, the friendship is going great! To quote W B Yeats, “There are no strangers here; only friends you have not yet met.”

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Fleeting friendship

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