One of my perennial favorite books since childhood is Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” The beauty of the book lay (in my eyes) in the witty narration of the delightful friendship between the two chronically mischievous characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
There was a lot those two young rapscallion friends learned from each other.
My own friendship experiences in school have taught me much. I was fortunate to have friends from diverse countries and cultures. They were an interesting blend – possessing unique individual characteristics, temperaments, and talents. Each of them taught me something about myself and life.
Real friends are incredible stress busters; they are unpretentious and add fun to our life.
During my last trip to India, I had a chance to know about a gutsy elderly lady who cherishes her friends as much as her family.
Her husband had passed away more than a decade and a half ago but valuing the freedom she enjoys; she stays at her place on her own. Going out with her great group of friends that she’s known for many years is one of her favorite pastimes. Whether it is a movie outing or traveling to see a new country, she and her friends always ensure that they have a great time.
I’ve always admired the vivacity of this lady – her zest to lead her life. She indulges in the simple pleasures of life while paying particular attention to her health and well-being too. During her last brief stay at the hospital, she planned the day after her discharge, in advance, much to the fond amusement of her children. Her enthusiasm for life is probably her secret to the youth that she still enjoys.
One of the biggest impacts of friends in our life is when they positively impact our lives during times of stress and hardship.
Last year, our home in my native village in Kerala (India) got flooded, and we had to evacuate with just our passports and the clothes we wore. At the time of the evacuation, my Dad was critical, required immediate hospitalization, and my Mom required an eye operation.
The love and support we received during that time were genuinely humbling and overwhelming. A few family friends like Pillai Uncle, Sheila and Shuba Aunty even flew down to Kerala to our village, to clean up our home a few days before my dad’s funeral. I was admittedly preoccupied with other more critical matters at that time. My Dad was losing his battle with cancer and we were shuttling him between the hospital room and the ICU at that time. Meanwhile, my Mom’s eye operation was indefinitely shelved too because of Dad’s health.
With epidemics in the air that came in the aftermath of the flood, these three friends took precautionary antibiotics before they began the cleaning process. It was thanks to them that our house was soon ready to receive Dad and we could conduct his funeral in the compound of his beloved family home.
When I thanked Pillai Uncle before he left for his home in Chennai, he had quietly remarked, “We just had to get your home ready to receive your father when he came.”
Once Uncle, Aunty, and Sheila left after Dad’s funeral, it was our dear friend Radhika who flew down to see Mom and me.
She always knew how close I was to my Dad and her presence had made me feel marvelous. My family and I were grieving yet busy making decisions and the appropriate actions regarding matters in the aftermath of my Dad’s death. My Mom continued being the pillar of inspiration and dignity that she was, but I knew she was going through a process of grief far too excruciating to imagine. The sorrow she was experiencing was unimaginably painful to me, especially since I knew how close they both had been. My Dad and Mom had symbolized my perception of marriage with their forty-five-year-old quaint romance.
Friends, Bindu, Leena, Swapna, Shobana, Sithara, Manikutty, Vinod and many more, including many well-wishers all, supported us during that challenging time through their encouragement and words of comfort. Our situation indeed could have been unimaginably even more taxing, had we not received the concern and affection from these friends.
Friends can help make us be better versions of ourselves.