“sa evayam maya te ‘dya yogah proktah puratanah
bhakto ‘si me sakha ceti rahasyam hy etad uttamam“
– Bhagavat Gita 4.3
Krishna tells Arjuna ” I am sharing this ancient science of yoga with you because you are my devotee and my FRIEND”.
‘Friend’ – the only word that possibly brings a smile to our face most of the time. Possibly the relationship that everyone gravitates towards and is most at ease with simply because it is devoid of expectations- Or at least the expectations are at a rock bottom compared to our other relationships like spouse, children, or parents. Why is it that only in this relationship, are we able to make huge allowances for making mistakes, being an idiot, forgetting dates, being less than stellar at something, etc. Why is it that our ‘judgeometre’ is set to minimal (if not zero- its all relative) when it comes to friends that we really care about? Why are friendships free from most of the problems that we face in other relationships and why does this one, above all, stand the test of time.
I think other relationships are not as fun as friendships because of two possible reasons besides the usual low expectations, lack of judgment, etc. First, it is the choice of interaction. You cannot refuse to talk to your mom or your boss because you are not in the mood whereas you can tell your friend that ” You don’t feel like it “. The second reason is proximity- because you have to live with them all the time. Maybe the magic of friends is that you don’t have to live with them. It is like enjoying other people’s children- you can play with them and return them back to their parents when they start throwing a tantrum or when they need to be fed or diapered. You can have fun with them and go home and have a good night’s sleep 🙂 We don’t have to deal with our friends’ quirks all the time. We can choose to take the good, ignore the bad and gloss over the dicey areas. Too many people married their best friend and then a decade later, marriage cured their friendship 🙂
In our parent’s times, adults usually did not keep in touch with friends once they got married and settled down with their families. Friends were not a priority. But today times have changed. Thanks to messaging services and social media, we are able to stay in touch with everyone from our Kindergarten classmate to the person we hit it off with at the party last night. And thanks to the smartphone we now are able to keep in touch with all our friends all the time. Before smartphones, your time with your friends was limited to when you were outside the home. Today, you carry them in your pocket- into your house, into your workplace, even into your bathroom. Is it getting to a point where friends are getting in the way of us interacting with our family? Is that spouse pissed off that you would rather speak to your friend? Is your mom bummed that you are glued to the phone? Are you annoyed with your kids who would rather hang out virtually with their friends than watch a movie with you?
The other day, we went out for dinner with my parents. We had instructed the children that we were going out with grandparents and therefore we are not going to touch our phones during dinner. We reached the restaurant, looked at the menu and placed the order. As the waiter disappeared, my parents whipped out their phones and started checking their Whatsapp groups. My kids and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Friends today invade our spaces across generations.
In case you think by now that I am some loonie tune who has no friends, that is not the case. I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact that we would, most of the time, talk to the friend across the continent than the family across the table. Why is it more entertaining? Better relatability? Lack of judgment? Interesting in its novelty? External Affirmation? Not being taken for granted? All of the above?
But at the end of the day we still use the phrase, “my friends are like family”. No matter how many awesome friends we have, our ‘In case of emergency’ contact is usually a family member. Whether we like to hang out with them or not, at the end of the day who do you think has got our back? Or is vested in our existence? Our friends? Or our family? Who will miss us more when we are gone?