Where is friendship headed?
The frenetic pace of modern life hardly leaves any space for friends
Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
Make time For friends
What is friendship these days? Can we define it?In the current Indian urban landscape where valuesseem to change faster than the latest model of cell phones, it is hard to grasp at something that cannot be qualified. Or, quantified.
Who is a friend? Someone to share a drink with after work? A person who seems broadminded/relaxed/chilled out/nice and is passively willing to listen to our frustrations, dreams and hopes?
Someone who is open to the ‘quality time over quantity time’ mantra we have adopted to keep pace with our metropolitan lives? But there are the peculiar twists and spins to modern friendships that are endemically Indian.
What is acceptable?
I feel we have created a mutant species of a social order. A Star Trek-like reality where, as long as we conform to certain aspects of what is considered ‘acceptable social order’, anything else goes.
An example: I had just relocated from the U.S. to Bangalore. I did not know too many people and, being a schoolteacher, I didn’t really have fertile ground to meet age-appropriate friends/peers.
That year’s birthday was spent at home, alone. None of my close friends were in town and I was past that stage in life where I had to celebrate my birthday with with strangers. I had a nice bottle of white wine to keep me company. No complaints! However, while recounting this experience a year later, with one of those ‘chilled out’ friends in India, I quickly realised that solitary birthdays are indicative of being socially challenged, and ‘un-cool’.
Solitude isn’t unusual in the West, and so my friend’s reaction made me realise that we in India want to adopt everything attractive about Western values and mores, but compress it into a rigid, pre-existing Indian mould. We are trying to create a patchwork society, matching East and West, global and provincial, hoping some prognosticator with an MBA would provide us with numbers that quantify the seemingly concrete progress we have made as a nation.
But social lives don’t conform to statistics. I would have settled for a friend to spend that birthday with, but I understand that it isn’t all that important to keep up appearances. Which is what friendship has become these days — a reluctant trade-off to loneliness.
I still feel the need to send birthday cards through snail mail instead of a free e-card, or mentally make a note rather than give myself a cell phone reminder.
There are very few things that make us feel genuine in today’s world. Surely friendships should be the last bastion of sincerity we break?
Why am I carping? I miss a sense of spontaneity in my interactions with society, I miss having friends drop by unannounced and spend a languorous evening without constant checks by the digital policemen running their lives.
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