Friendship and Evolution

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. 🙂


With age comes respect. Does it really?

As Indians, we are led to believe that age is something that HAS to be respected. You don’t argue with elders. You don’t look at them with defiance. You don’t contest their decisions, that they made for YOU. And if you manage to touch their feet at every opportunity there is, you are a winner. I don’t subscribe to this kind of assumed, obligatory respect.

I was at the pharmacy today just browsing through for some random stuff and waiting to be attended to. There was a girl right before me, whose temper seemed to be rising by the second. There was an elderly person who there giving you stuff and making bills. It’s very important to mention that it was a typical Ayurvedic pharmacy cum treatment centre. This should give a fair idea that the elderly person was also a typical one who expected respect from anyone younger and more so from a younger girl. The girl who had been waiting since long time suddenly couldn’t take it any longer and started telling the elderly guy, “Uncle, I have been waiting here since the last 2 hours and I can’t take it any longer. I need my money. I am not from here I need to go back to Hyderabad”. The uncle was taken aback of course. How could a girl talk to him like that? She said, “No I won’t take cheque. I want my money and I got stuff from here only because you promised the last time that I’d be immediately refunded if I had to return it for some reason.” And to my utter shock, the elderly uncle shouted, “Chup baith tu!” I went blank for a second. How could anyone possibly talk to someone they didn’t know like that…and to a customer, at that? The old man suddenly got defensive and started saying he didn’t have money in the morning. I totally understood the girl’s point which was it wasn’t morning for one and that it wasn’t her problem. And then the drama got more interesting. There was another middle-aged woman there who started telling the girl’s mother who till then was just sitting there not knowing what to do. The woman actually asked the mother to convince her daughter to let go because he was an elderly and very respectable person. She started telling how the man would absolutely return the money since he was such an old and honest human being. The whole discussion just turned around at this point and the girl was made to look like the bad guy. At this point the doctor came out and asked the girl to keep it low as the other patients were getting disturbed. She chose to completely ignore the older man who was yelling and creating quite a ruckus. The man also started telling the sympathetic middle-aged woman in Malayalam how the girl shouldn’t have yelled. Everyone just started cornering the girl. To the point that even her mother started convincing her to come back in the evening. The girl retorted, “why didn’t you tell this to me before. Why did you make me wait for 2 hours? Why should I believe you? and what if you make me wait for 2 hours again?” All of these were very valid points but the girl still had to back out and reluctantly agree to come back in the evening.

I don’t understand this. Where is it written that you HAVE to respect older people? And even if it was, just because it’s written doesn’t make it right or valid. Wouldn’t people like to earn respect instead of claim it for age which is just a number and needs no contribution  whatsoever from them? I am surprised how the expectation of respect from a person is directly proportional to their gender. If you are a woman, you HAVE to respect anything. I also fail to understand the irrational importance attached to touching people’s feet. Okay, I get it that it’s a sign of respect and acceptance of someone’s power. But what has age got anything to do with it. It’s very unfortunate that even today, when girls do everything that only boy’s traditionally did, this meaningless gesture is still the yardstick of a girl’s character a.k.a her docility and readiness to submit to authority.I hated touching people’s feet even as a child. I felt I was being dishonest to myself every time I touched my grandmother’s feet. Why I was being dishonest to her too. She didn’t have any quality that to me defines a person worth respecting. She disrespected and mistreated her daughter-in-law, she demanded respect, never commanded it. When I couldn’t take it any longer I stopped doing it as often as I did it earlier. But due to the embedded need to show if not have respect for someone, I still did it occasionally. It’s funny how I’d feel guilty when I didn’t. And it felt guilty even when I did because there was no emotion behind the physical activity of bowing down.

I don’t believe in numbers when it comes to respect. I have respect for anyone who has respect for other’s point of view and for other’s right to have an opinion and express it. It’s high time we started questioning meaningless gestures we routinely do without any feeling. What do you think?

With unapologies

There are some things that I hate so much that despite trying to cajole myself into trying to ignore them; some things just bypass my annoyance filter anyway.

I hate:

  1. people becoming extremely comfortable with me and acting like soul mates.
  2. nosy people riding the moral high horse.
  3. forced and assumed friendships.
  4. unsolicited advice especially from people who hardly know me. And especially about topics like love, relationships, babies.
  5. people insisting that I should like what they like.
  6. people who try to be funny and crack jokes that are plain racist, sexist, unfunny or offensive in general.
  7. women who yell at the top of their voices. This point stems from the fact that there is a woman in office who has no idea how loud and horrific she sounds. She’ll put Rani Mukherji to shame with her hoarseness. Plus I know even know her favorite music and her bank account number in just one day.
  8. girls walking in twos and threes completely oblivious to the fact that they are blocking the way for others. Plus, these girls are there just to torture you. They keep chattering, they look at you, they see that you are stuck between them and are in a hurry but still keep doing what they are dumbly.
  9. people with no sense of a person’s physical space. I’ve seen specimens who come so close as they talk that you need to squint.
  10. people who touch your hand and cheeks and hair as they talk even when they hardly know you.
  11. women who are blissfully unaware of their stupidity.
  12. unbearably girly girls who act like they need to be rescued by men.
  13. men who feel that they are meant to provide for women.
  14. men displaying classic signs of chivalry like holding doors for women, entering only after women, pulling seats for women. I agree some are genuine and feel the need to do this but most are just showoffs and sexually frustrated men trying to impress women for an easy lay.
  15. women who can make you uncomfortable just by looking at you head to toe.
  16. Idiotically positive people. It’s just plain irritating and depressing.