Sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking tea plantations with a cup of coffee in one hand, while the other arm is wrapped around your friend’s shoulders, hugging each other on a beach while the sun sets on the background, sitting on withering bricks on the wall of a dilapidated old mansion with cheerful grins, doubled down on the couch while laughing hysterically – all of these are moments with my friends that have been captured on camera and still exist somewhere in the depths of my photo albums.
According to some, a real friend is meant to be loyal, dependable, kind, helpful, and the one who has lived with you in all your highs and lows. Some others say a real friend is no-nonsense, straightforward, calls you out on your stupidities, and has had a vice-like grip on your wonky self. Codswallop. You cannot label friends and pack them up into little goodie bags of characteristics. If I want loyal and dependable, I will buy a Lenovo laptop with a 5-year Geek Squad guarantee. If I want no-nonsense and cutthroat, I would have stayed in touch with my high school Principal. Friends are that dynamic kaleidoscope of experiences that skip along with you as you navigate this world. The best part about them is that they don’t come in specific flavors – they each have every flavor within themselves. Each friend is like a pack of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans – you never know if you will get strawberry sorbet or earwax, but in the end, you would have had a meaningful revolution in your taste buds.
My calmest friend has flown off the handle, my rudest friend (uh-huh! Friends can be rude, they’re not all saints from heaven) has been extraordinarily kind, my strongest friend has broken down and sobbed, and my most morose friend has thrown their head back and roared in laughter. I have been stymied when my most helpful friends have refused to help that one time, or my most available friend was not there when I needed someone, or my smartest friend did not have the answers. That must mean that I should have written disgruntled journals about how a friend in need is a friend indeed, and when friends can’t be there for you when you have no one else, there is no point in that friendship after all. In fact, I should do the exact opposite – know and acknowledge that my friends are humans, not C3PO, and give them due credit for all the amazing things they have done for me throughout my life instead of getting hung up on the one time they refused to pick me up at the airport at 3 AM (I have heard a lot about the awesome “3 AM” friends, and frankly, I think it is quite ridiculous to have one – your friends need to sleep).
My friends are not my family. My friends are my friends. There is no replacement for either of those categories. If my friends were my family, I would be ignoring their calls, wearing my dupatta when I’m around them, swallowing my expletives, and constantly being polite. I don’t know where I would be without my friends today, without the mindless laughs, the warm hugs, the fantastic adventures, the guilty gossips, or the very coveted discussions about Ryan Gosling’s face or Jason Momoa’s abdominal muscles. Yes, my friends were there for me when I needed them, and yes, they also weren’t sometimes. They are annoying and enraging as much as they are funny and delightful. I wouldn’t trade one second of my time with them for anything.
Because I will tell you what can never be captured using something as insincere as a camera lens – the juicy gossip we whispered into each other’s ears before the tea plantation shot, the tactile expression of the love we have for each other just before the sunset shot, the sheer amount of energetic direction spent orchestrating the “Dil Chahta Hai” poses on the broken brick wall, and the highly specific obnoxious jokes that only we were capable of tearing up to while chatting on the couch. These moments are priceless, and I will continue to remember them (as I hum “vaanukum yellai undu natpukkillaye…”) long after the pictures have faded.