t was over a month ago when a wellwisher and colleague of mine had wisely commented that I am naughtier than I look.
Hearing that, I knew that the one person who could validate that observation is Maria.
We were in fourth grade and were sitting in the school library when Maria and I first talked to each other at length. We were supposed to be reading in sober silence, but there I sat facing Maria and drawing her into a chat whenever I thought the librarian was not looking at us. As a child who resolutely stuck to discipline and authority, she was horrified and yet delighted by our apparent gleeful conspiratory chat in that library.
Maria, conservative and the epitome of caution, had looked at me curiously…almost with the fascination of discovering a new specimen, had asked, “Are you always this way?”.
My friendship with Maria Unwalla began more than 40 years ago and still as lively, entertaining and joyful as ever. When I invited her to come and visit me a year ago, so that she can stop being boring (I always tease her that she is!), she unabashedly admitted that if she stayed with me for a few days, her family may not want her back. Feigning horror at the obvious rebuke I merely pretended to be quiet for a second and we just broke into peals of laughter – both of us like the fourth graders who sat in the school library years ago.
At school, I enjoyed being friendly and was never part of a group and even if I knew a group, I never stayed with them long enough to be part of the cliche and their ideals. I always relished my freedom and the liberty to be me and be with whom I wish to be with.
The best part of not being in any group was that I’ve always had the privilege to meet and be friends with anybody I wished to – individuals of varied personality traits and ages. Some are younger than me, while some are older to me and interestingly few who are my age. But what I share with them is so precious that today I enjoy and treasure the friendships I have with all my friends immensely.
What makes a friendship such an exhilarating relationship?
A true friend is someone who accepts us for who we are – our exasperating habits and our affection in the same gusto. A friend is also one whom we can be ourselves with.
When I was compiling a book for my parents a couple of years, there was an entire section that was dedicated to the messages of close wellwishers and dear friends. Through the process of the book compilation, my understanding of friendships got significantly more enriched than before.
Positive friendships have the power to contribute to our wellness and happiness along with leading a healthy lifestyle and eating habits. A family member who we may be at loggerheads with entails an obligation in us to consider them as a family, despite differences. We have unfortunately little choice in the matter.
Friends are sometimes those whom we choose to have in our life as a family member.
In the book for my parents, friends, Renjith and Divya, who are close family to us, wrote in the section of the book were only family members had the privilege to write. The love and respect they have for my parents were so eloquently conveyed through their message. Since the book was compiled after my parents’ 2 weeks visit to Canada to see them, there were plenty of photographs of all of them enjoying themselves during that memorable trip.
Today, after my Father’s demise more than 6 months ago, the bond that they have with us continues as strong as ever. Much like in the case of my brother and me, Renjith and Divya contact my Mom every week and the three of them continue to enjoy their long chats just as they used to when my Dad was alive.
True friendships always stand the test of time.
Friends whom my Father had not met for over 30 years were thrilled to send their goodwill messages to him. Today, my childhood friend, Maria lives in another country and I rarely meet her. But when we do, perhaps once in 5 or 6 years, we start where we left off, laughing and teasing each other relentlessly. However, with all due respect to Maria, I doubt that she has dared to have another friend like me in her life – probably one is adequate (or should I say exhausting?) enough.
Friendships sometimes could result in little contact for many years due to vague misunderstandings but could once again get established with zest.
The process of the book compilation also proved to me that friends who may have got busy with their lives and not considered close too could surprise us when we contact them. There was a friend whom my Father had always held with the greatest respect but who had distanced from him over the years much to my Father’s surprise.
Contacting him for the book was probably one of the best outcomes of the book. The friend effusively assured me that he had no differences with Dad but only respect and goodwill. The lack of communication over twenty-five years had aggravated an innocent misunderstanding. Interestingly he was also one of the first of those who sent me his message for the book.
The book had given immense joy to Dad, but my gain through the compilation exercise was the reaffirmation of the eternal joy that we derive from our true friendships. In friendships, time plays no role in the warmth of the special bond and the shared camaraderie.
The lingering memories of friendship always stand as a tribute to a beautiful relationship. Memories much like the glowing embers after the warmth of a flickering fire, lingering long after the demise of friends.