I’ve come to firmly believe that after a certain age (different people may have different thresholds), you start becoming more selective about who your friends are. I think whether a friendship will stay life-long depends on whether it can pass the test of time and whether it evolves with time. Friendships fall apart if the friends involved do not evolve simultaneously. I am not the kind of person who’d have a big group,but I’ve always had 2-3 great friends wherever I was. However, when I look back I’m surprised that people I consider my best friends are not the ones I have known forever, they are not my school friends (who aren’t my friends anymore), they are not even friends whom I shared all my secrets with in college. They are very mature, highly evolved people I met just 5-6 years back.
By evolved I don’t at all mean people who talk about philosophies and latest theories in psycho-analysis or just happen to know a lot about a lot of things. I’m talking about people who come with an inherent sensibility, understanding and sensitivity to everything that surrounds them. They are people who look beyond themselves. They are people who can look back at themselves and say they can’t believe how much they have changed. I can’t be friends with people who pride themselves for not having changed one bit since school. That’s abnormal, right?
I started thinking about friendship and evolution after an unbelievably ridiculous experience I had yesterday. The mum of a girl who used to be my best friend in school called and literally started yelling on phone saying how she got my wedding invite but didn’t come because apparently my mother didn’t call her. I know for a fact that my mother called her on every other number she could catch hold of, called the lady’s husband’s hospital and left the message, plus sent the card. What else do you expect? I don’t even expect those many calls. A card, even a scanned copy will do. If it’s someone I care about, and if it’s possible for me to take time off, I’ll go irrespective of the entire calling ritual and the invitation code of conduct. The woman just wouldn’t listen and kept telling me how her husband wouldn’t allow her to go to any functions where people didn’t call and made the mistake of just leaving the card. Go patriarchy! Firstly she called me 45 days after my marriage. I identified the number and was quite excited as we hadn’t spoken in a very long time. I answered with a sweet, shrill hello and there she went on! she kept saying how she’d like to give me her blessings but she took the last 15 seconds of what seemed like an unending call of blame-game to finally give her blessings. Before that she kept saying how she had called the mother of another friend I used to have in school to ask if she was invited. Why would really random people be invited, seriously? And who has this sort of time and energy? I’ve seen my mother efficiently and patiently attending functions without any fuss and genuinely wishing well. This was such a shocker to me.
This incident refreshed my memories about why I couldn’t be her daughter’s friend after I hit a certain age. After school we chose different streams of education, due to which we were hardly meeting. I always hated school, so when I left it, I failed to miss or feel bad about not meeting people that I got along with only out of necessity and compulsion. I have never been a person who needed hordes of people surrounding me and adoring even my finger nails. I was happiest when left alone. I still planned on being friends with this girl. But slowly I found myself unable to concentrate on her elaborate and vain narrations of how she was the most popular girl, how she got 25 roses on Valentine’s day, how someone called and proposed to her, how some aunty who happened to be on the same tour as her wanted to adopt her. I have no tolerance for the goody-goody, always smiling, touching random people’s feet kinda people. And then 2 years later I left home for further education and met EM there. For a whole 3 years the rest of the world was a vague existence in the background for me. Plus I got someone who shared my likes and dislikes and it reiterated the fact that it’s normal for people to drift apart and move on with lives. But NO! This friend made a huge fuss out of it.
I called her on one of her birthdays when I was home and she was too, and she agreed to come visit. I was looking forward to this visit thinking it’d be fun to meet now as adults, with so many different experiences and so much to talk about. But she had come with a plan. She came, did her usual hug and said Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! And then the flood gates just opened and she started blaming me for being me. She started saying how I had hurt her and made her lose trust in friendship until someone called A came along and restored her faith in it. WTF! Who talks like that? Then she kept saying a whole bunch of vague stuff which was so mind numbingly boring that I stopped listening and started looking at how funny she looked with her head bobbing up and down and her conscious effort at looking par perfection with every word she uttered. And none of the things she said were cohesive. It was just a woman who likes to talk, who is so convinced that she is right, that you don’t even want to argue lest she has a nervous breakdown if she knew that there are people 1000 times more intelligent, more hard working, more beautiful and a lot less vain and stupid. Oh I almost forgot, before she began her speech about how she was a hurt woman (for a moment I thought if I was forgetting something and if at any point we had been lovers!), she didn’t forget to give the latest updates of her fan following and how she devoured literature. That is when I remembered what I had felt 4-5 years back when she used to think Danielle Steel was the epitome of good literature and how I cringed at that thought. Not that I was very smart or literary. I was just a judgmental teenager who thought Ayn Rand was the best. But then I evolved past that because I happened to read a lot other stuff which led me to believe that to me Rand was rather pretentious. The point is evolved and I realized with utter shock that she was just the same. Yes, she read a lot more but the themes were still the same, the outlook was still very Mills & Boon. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t possibly argue with someone with such vague ideas of things like feminism, that sound fashionable but are deep rooted expressions of collective angst of centuries of oppression that women face.
There was no point arguing. I had learnt something about myself and about friendship. To me friendship couldn’t be about cutesy stuff, pillow fights, talking about boys and flirting, it was much more than that. It was growing together, it was learning and teaching, evolving together and forming something invaluable that was based on the recognition of personal needs, of how everyone is different and it’s not a question of who is right or wrong and definitely not of proving to the other person that you are right. But I don’t blame her. She didn’t evolve, or probably she did but not in a way that would help the friendship. I learned to let go peacefully, but she took it personally. I didn’t think that friendship depended on how often you called and met but she thought I had ruined it because I found EM and my priorities changed, she didn’t acknowledge that I could be different from her. She chose to come and deliver a speech about how she had suffered and grown and how proud she felt about herself now (when did she not?!). I chose to ignore what was already no longer a friendship for me.
I chose to move on and let my experiences change and shape me without feeling the compulsion of coming out of a cookie cutter mold. And I found people whom I could call friends. With whom I didn’t have to follow rules of calling, calling their mothers, meeting them often. We still remained friends because we knew we were different from one another and we weren’t on a mission to prove to the other that we were superior. We are just vastly different people who deeply care about each other, enjoy each others’ company, are perfectly comfortable even if we don’t speak for a whole year. I’d like to think we are 2 mature people who don’t try to define friendship. We just call it that for lack of another word, but we are what we want to be. This one is especially for you M. M is my best friend. A lovely, independent, relaxed woman who lives for herself and writes wonderful children’s stories. 🙂