Recently, a friend told me that men need family for longevity, and women, friends. Research validates the claim, it seems.
My first friend in life is SA. On the first day of kindergarten, she sat next to a very timid me, ate my Marie biscuits, and took it upon herself to protect me from bullies (other than herself, of course !) and detractors for the rest of our childhood. A few days later, SI joined us and swayed for the next many years between being my best friend and SA’s. Somewhere along the way, we became a comfortable trio, with equal distance among us. There were a few years that one or the other of the trio went AWOL, swayed by the tempest of life, but we always managed to get back together, even if we were separated by the seven seas. Ironically, I meet SA and SI – separately – more often then they have met each other in the past fifteen years, despite they being in the same country, and I, in another. Small quirks of life, smoke-screened by the blessing of digital communication.
In high school, I had a “gang” of friends. Although I still considered SA and SI to be my best friends, they were not part of the gang. VP and SS were my close friends in the gang, and they, in addition to SI and SA, were a great source of support to me when my mother died. I am still in touch with VP and SS, although not on a no-holds-barred level that I maintain with SI and SA. Both of them remember my birthday and wish me, although I have long forgotten theirs – and every body else’s by the way – SI’s birthday is around the corner and trust SA to remind me.
I had a classmate in undergrad college, SR, whom I liked and got along fabulously with. Decades later, she reappeared in my radar as the proprietor of my daughter’s football coaching class . Thus, another good friend rediscovered over time.
In my first post-grad college, I got my first non-girl friend, GN. GN was an irreverent, sarcastic, cynical fellow – and drove me nuts. We went our own ways after college believing that we would never stay in touch. That was not to be. We continue to be good friends and maintain the kind of friendship that can exist between opposite sexes, with families – informal, not intimate, and families included in the friendship.
I had a lot of friends in my grad school in the US – mostly Indians, with a few non-Indians thrown in (more on them later). My BFF from that era are my ex-roommate AB, who is my spiritual guru during tremulous times (given our age difference) and AK, with whom I have a endearing supportive friendship beyond cultural differences (she is Bolivian American), even if only through the Internet.
In my adult life, I made three friends – SS, LV and GV. All three are my goto-people when life threatens to drown me – they are my support through the difficulties of my present – they listen to my rants, tolerate my pms-hysteria, lend me three shoulders to cry on, and laugh with me at my inane jokes, with no question asked and no judgements made. These three make me believe in the veracity of the research result that women need friends for their psychological well-being. I’d be a raving lunatic without them (no smart quips there please…). I also rediscovered a classmate from school, KN, who has become a good friend much later in life. I am surprised we weren’t bosom buddies back in school. But that was probably because she was a competitor to me in academics – she always beat me, if you must know.
Have I had bad experience with friendships? Of course I have. As a child, I had a neighbour, Roopa, who I thought was my BFF out of school. Her family moved a few years later, and we have not bothered to stay in touch. So, not best friends after all, just playmates. There were two “friends” from primary school who used to bully the crap out of me – Kalpana and Meera (and I use their full names hoping that if they land here, they would know that they were bullies in childhood).
In undergrad college, I was part of a group that I hated, despite the fact that SI was part of the gang. In fact, SI was the reason I stayed in that group , because she gave me a sense of belonging in a college that was very different from the school in which I grew. I have no idea where the rest of the group is, and in this age of social networking, it shouldn’t be hard to find out. I’d rather not.
I am not in touch with any of the Indian batchmates (other than AB) from US, although, at some point in my first-time-out-of-home life, I thought they were the most important people to me. This was a period that I was facing difficult times in the US, and when I needed them, all of them dropped me like a hot potato, because they were busy attending to their own lives with their new families and jobs – it made me doubt the concept of friendship -all I needed was a shoulder to bolster me and they just vanished. It was once again my childhood friends SA and SI, who came to my aid during that time and reaffirmed my faith in friends.
My worst experience with a friend was to come much later. I had become friends with a charming woman, with whom, I was sure I was going to be close for the rest of my life. Yet, she let me down terribly – perhaps she did not understand the magnitude of her action, she is very naive that way – but a small thoughtless act on her part, almost ruined my life – and I am not exaggerating. The situation is very sad because she is a good person, and perhaps did not realise the repercussions of what she believed, was a normal, innocent act. I try to forgive and forget, but she continues to dwell rent-free in my head. I hope I would never run into her ever again in my life. And I hope she does not do it to anyone else, in all her innocence and naivity.
I have shown you my friends. Now you know who I am.