Sunday, August 3, 2008

Of Friends and Friendship Day...

Estella's back to muse and ponder awhile. And today- the first Sunday of August- "Friendship Day"- seems like a good choice of day to do just that. For Estella is at one of those points in life when she has to say "goodbye" to a regular set of friends, and perhaps move on to a new set. So this may be the right sort of time to look back and think of what friends and Friendship Day have meant over the years...

School was those glory days when every new class meant a new set of friends.... Friends you make one year, and forget about the year next... And every year those scores of embroidery threads that one wound into delicate, colourful braids.. or knotted into patterned bands, to make one of those countless "Friendship Bands" to tie your friend into an eternal bond of friendship with.

Things got a little complicated when the card companies decided to jump into the scene and make the nation "celebrate" Friendship Day with pomp and gusto. Thus, those simple, hand-made bands of thread gradually got replaced by stuff which became more gaudy and showy and appropriately expensive. Friendship began to be measured by the amount one spent on the band. And the card, and the gift. This kind of materialistic "friendship" usually reaches it's peak in those adolescent years, when life is lived out at a level of intensity absent from any other stage in life. ("Hormones", the expert would say.) And thus one loves and hates impulsively, intensely, and briefly. Friendships are formed at the drop of a hat (or perhaps the tying of a band), and are lost equally quickly.

Yet ironically, these teenage years are sometimes those years when one finds the true friends... friends who love you as you are, friends you grow with, friends who matter even when you are at your very worst. And even as you begin to cement these bonds into permanence, it's time to leave school and head towards different cities, different colleges, different lives. The friendships that matter are put to the real test- will they last, in spite of the distance and the differences? This age of enhanced communication makes things a lot easier, but then "distance" is often felt in terms of emotions, and not in physical terms. One often "grows out" of school friendships.

College brings to us a new-found maturity, new-found freedom, and new friends. Somehow or the other, three (or four or five) years at college often produce more lasting friends than do fifteen years at school. Are we more careful about the friends we choose? In college "Friendship Day" ceases to matter.. it's just another day at class, just another day to spend with friends. No more cards, no more gifts... yet so much more of friendship.

Sometimes friends can be found beyond the common spaces of college and school. People you may have known from different stages of life, and with whom you have managed to re-connect. Sometimes these connections are so full of the true meaning of friendship, full of love, trust, mutual respect, and a genuine sense of "getting along". With these friends we chatter day and night, before "Friendship Day" and beyond, yet we may never have wished them a "happy friendship day".. simply because there is no need to.

Which brings me back to wonder what "Friendship Day" means, if it does mean anything at all. It is certainly not necessary to call and wish all your friends on Friendship Day. This Day gradually ceases to matter, even as we grow older, while the friends- the genuine, close ones- matter more and more every day.

Yet, during those insane, carefree and impulsive days of adolescence, the Day matters as much, if not more, than the friends. So many days of frenetic preparations, so much effort to braid thread into bands, to decorate cards.. all for friends who you grow out of, someday, sometime. But we need this Day. As an important Day to celebrate every year of teenage, to give and receive those precious little souvenirs, to grow out of- one fine day, and to look back upon with fond reminiscence when it does indeed cease to matter. And when you do look back, when you do hold those old thread-bands, frayed around the edges, dust-worn, you remember those people who gave them to you.

And sometimes, perhaps, you do pick up your phone to text them a "Happy Friendship Day".