I know people who have twenty-plus-year old friendships with friends from high-school or colleges. Along with their families, they get together once or twice yearly and go on vacations. Their children learn to become friends; their spouses tolerate each other. How do they do it? What do they talk about?
I barely recall people from my high-school. Years ago, when I was still logging to Facebook, I came across many classmates. All shared bits-and-pieces of our time together. And I couldn’t recall anything about them. Of course, I hurt their feeling.
I have a decent memory. But I don’t look the same sickly stick-figure, as I was in high-school. And they don’t either. It’s impossible to recognize my high-school friends, especially when they hide one-third of their faces and bodies behind their children and husbands. Okay, women conscious of slight imperfection on their bodies and men proudly touting pot-bellies is a discussion for another time.
Unlike most, I moved so much. Umpteen number of rentals, jobs, cities, states, schools, colleges, and universities. I remember only one person from my high-school because we were friends until our undergrad and she used the heck out of me. The rest of high-school is a jumbled mess. Anyway, I’ve nothing in common with them.
I’ve more memories of my undergrad years. I lived away from my family, I was older, and it was for five years. It was as if all of lived in our little commune. Everyone was into each other’s business; there was no space.
Even though many years have passed, I’m friendly with some. I’ve one friend, who married a girl who was also my friend. It’s almost fourteen years since we met face-to-face. We don’t email or chat or talk regularly. I call them after years; we pick-up where we left-off. There are no preambles. Initially, we discussed our shared past and the whereabouts of others. Nowadays we catch-up with each other’s lives and future plans. I like it; I’m comfortable with them. I will meet them when I visit New Delhi.
Few months ago, I received an email from a colleague. I couldn’t place him; he was pissed. After the polite to-and-fro, I learned we worked together in ’01 for three months. It isn’t that I am so self-involved that I didn’t make friends. It’s just that I don’t like tedious friendships. Where I have to remember birthdays, anniversaries and spouses and children’s names. It isn’t that I’m averse to such expectations from friends; I need to be really good friends to walk that path.
I met my best-friend in a job in New Delhi sixteen years ago. She is absolutely unlike me. If we had met somewhere else, we might not have even acknowledged each other. She advised me when I met my husband and moved to the US. My first three years in the US, while I completed my graduate school, I didn’t contact her once. When I reached out and explained my reasons, she said that she understood. I think that sealed the fate of our friendship. She lives in New Delhi, we met in-person almost ten years ago. Yet, we talk for four/five hours every few months. I follow the trajectory of her children’s lives. She knows my shitty secrets. And neither of us, send birthday, anniversaries, or New Year’s greetings to each other.
I believe strongly if we remove the sting of I-expect-you-to-remember-all-my-important-days, the world would be happier and friendly. And we need to accept that friendships can thrive, even if you don’t meet regularly in-person.
My most unique friendship is with my first-cousin, who is a few years older than me. We met on Facebook. He recalls meeting me when I was two years old in Bombay. I know I met him at our grandfather’s funeral in New Delhi. Regardless, over last six years, every few months, we talk for hours and catch-up. Even though he lives in New York, we haven’t yet met. And I don’t feel there is anything amiss in our relationship. Thankfully neither of us want to go on a big family vacation.
It isn’t that I didn’t make friends in the US. I had a good friend during my grad school. But we married our spouses, started a family and grew apart. Since my move to California, I made gazillions of friends, at UC Berkeley, at numerous drawing and painting class, and at writing clubs. I walked away from most friendships. Some expected me to be something else, one couldn’t understand my life choices, some wanted couples’ get-together, some demanded we keep in touch every freaking day, and one ass criticize my physical appearance.
I’m very friendly and chatty. But I am choosy about retaining friendships. In California, I made the most unlikely friend. I met her on my first visit to writers’ club. She is a lot older than me; she is different from me on so many levels. But somehow we connect. We support one other writing adventures. And we discussed our favorite subject—fashion. When the weather is sunny and warm, we meet for lunch and update each other. I’ve some idea about her children, but I don’t know all the details. And I am good with that. We don’t email each other e-cards. Even after months, we pick our conversations as though no time has lapsed. Being with her is easy, it doesn’t tax me.
I think friendships should move and shift with the passage of time. Sometimes you have changed so much as a person, that it’s impossible for friends of your past life to understand. Mostly, to actually be the friend-in-need kind of friend, you need time and history. I don’t pour out my heart to all my friends. Or fight office-hour-traffic to meet just some any random friend. I like friends who understand and accept me who I am right now.