When I was a kid, I always had a problem with the spelling of the word friend. I often mis-spelt it as freind. And someone would correct me.
Then one day, someone said this to me.
A friend is one who is always there till the end, after all even the word says it, friEND.
So that was the most valid definition of a friend that I imprinted in my mind.
This whole notion of friends and friendship has been with me from a very young age.
Being in a co-ed boarding school, the first few years of my life that I can remember, the notion of a friend was that of a person who shared tuck boxes. Those who played with me and those who helped me in some way. It would at times also be a person who liked the same teacher, or disliked another person. It could also be a person from the same town as you, or if our fathers knew each other. There was no differentiation between a boy and a girl. All were equally worthy of friendship.
Time moved on, I switched schools. I remember a couple of names but then that was the last time I spoke to the friends from that school.
Now in 1991, I was in a only boys boarding school. The notion of having friends revolved around only boys. So school outings, or the school fete, were always special occasions as that would give us the remote possibility of breaching the code and having a friend who was a girl. I did have some friends who switched to the same school as me so there was some similar faces around in the new school.
First lessons in sex education happened around class 6, and the different kind of friendship with a girl started to play out in the mind. Would have been around that time the notion of a girlfriend was implanted, though that did not happen till much later. Thanks to the notion that a girlfriend was a distraction and hence was not acceptable in the society that I grew up in.
So my gang was mostly with guys. And it was no surprise that i did not have the same set of friends over my birthday cake for two consecutive years. Every year the set would change. Sometimes it would just be a friend to get some work done or often at times by a senior to bully the juniors.
Being good academically, the other interesting thing was that my set of friends increased near exam times and then after that friendship was a lost word in a storm of activities that followed soon later.
There was also a time when there were no close friends and hence I guess that explains my easy mixing capabilities with as many as possible. I was always on the lookout for a person whom i could trust and be with at all times.
One of the not so good things that my school North Point did was, it made me shy of girls.
Though it did make me good at a ton of other things. So no regrets on that one. End of education in the magnificient hills of Darjeeling and I moved to the only hilly town of Bihar, Ranchi. (This was before the partition).
Time moved on and I landed in this school where the prime focus was studies. And I tell you, in class 11, I was psyched at seeing people solve Mathematics questions of IIT Exams JEE. So it was kind of difficult to imagine and believe still that India's cricket captain, Dhoni, was a senior to me. Though I never spoke to him. After all he was not my friend! :)
And yes, this again was a co-ed school. So the possibility of having a girl friend was still in the picture. But as I was shy, I did not go about talking to girls for almost the first year of this new school. But ya, I did manage to make a few friends who were girls.
The concept of friends here revolved around people with whom I went tuitions with. People with whom I shared the flat. And people who would accompany to the movies.
Then I moved to Delhi for a year, and here the notion of a friend was one who went to same coaching institute with me. They sat in the same coaching classes and discussed with the same teachers.
After that I shifted base to Guwahati for a period of four years. The notion of friends here then shifted to someone who is in the same department as me. Sometimes it could also be a friend who was in the same hostel. At other times it was someone who sneaked upto the ghats to take a fag or gulp down a booze. Or perhaps just accompany to the outside tea stall for a cuppa chai.
It would also be a set of people who agreed to whatever you did. Lets call that activity as bunking classes. Or revolt against a teacher.
This was the time when the whole notion of a real friend and one who walks in when the whole world walks out came into the picture.
This was in 2003-2005.
College life was interesting. Internet and chatting was making it big. It also brought the notion of a friend whom you might never meet. I would have not thought about this some years ago, but then it was happening. So when the hunt for a friend would end in failure in the campus, a lot of us would be seen in the computer centers, looking for "that special friend".
2005, I shifted base to Bangalore. Initially it was the notion of anyone i knew was my friend. But then this was the time where we get to face the "real world". So the notion shifted strongly to someone who could help you in even the smallest possible manner when you are in deep sh**.
Also, after the job started, notion of a friend revolved around someone who could accompany to the pubs and the theaters and go on long bike rides.
Then Flickr, Orkut and other internet related things happened. So now there was this notion of an e-friend.
Over the past 22 odd years, I managed to make a few great friends. A few lost touch with and a lot few I am still are able to keep in touch with a lot of them.
Why this post?
It was my birthday and I was really surprised at the number of scraps / wall posts / comments I got. I had a lot of people that just wished me, because the reminders said them to. I am sure I would not have got even 10 % of that if it was hidden or not mentioned anywhere.
What was more disappointing that the notion of a friend that was imprinted in my mind made me sad. People whom you thought to be close, did not wish. Not a big deal I know, as people are busy with their own lifeworlds.
But still, I wish I had the handful of friends that would stand by the definition of a friend that I have.