“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into friends”. We explore the many facets of friendship through the words of our friends.
“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.” : Sylvia Plath, Bell Jar
Friendship with us women is more complicated than the bromance of “Yeh Dosti”. A true friend is someone who won’t judge your life choices, but will tell you if you need to lose that hairstyle. She will put up with your favourite Khan (even if hers is different), but will tell you to kick that loser boyfriend to the kerb. She may answer your phone at 3:00 in the morning and agree to go for early morning anda paranthas at Moolchand after a break-up, but she will also tell you to shut up if it’s been three months and you can’t stop mooning over him. She may disagree with you about every thing under the sun, but it is imperative that you love the same ice-cream flavour. How else otherwise, would the two of you commiserate over all the nasty curveballs that life throws at you?
For our issue on friendships, My Big Red Bag asked a few of our friends what friendship means to them. Some of them replied over mail while others cried their hearts out over copious glasses of Pinot Noir. But between all those crazy weirdos (and we added a couple of our male friends for good measure), we think we have a better understanding of friendship and the way women experience it.
On the changing nature of friendship as we grow older
As one of our youngest respondents succinctly put it- “When I was younger it was chocolates and games – now it’s daaru and outings” . But others talked about how now they no longer have as much time as they would like for friends – so the quality of each interaction becomes so much more important. Also, keeping the “chocolates and games” theme going, respondents mentioned how a lot of our earlier friendships were almost thrown upon us – the child who sat next to you in class or the next door neighbour. But as you grow older, the foundation needs to be stronger in the form of shared experiences or shared interests. As you grow older and the likes & dislikes start getting cast in stone, it becomes increasingly difficult to make new friends. So it’s no surprise that most of our respondents named someone they’ve known at least half their lifetime as their 3:00 AM friend.
Our favorite response came from a true Red Bagger who laughed and said:
I always wanted love , adoration and company to do mad thing from my friends …and I still do!
Facebook Friends vs Real Life Friend
Maybe it’s a reflection of the average lifespan of our respondents being older than Facebook’s average demographic – but everyone remained remarkably unimpressed by the ability of Mr. Zuckerberg’s invention to develop “Friends Forever”.
One of them told us that she interacts with her ‘real’ friends outside Facebook and can go months without compulsively checking her feed; another asked if we could help her post something on FB! One did concede it was a boon for someone as “reserved and shy” as her, who almost prefers the virtual retreats to raucous conversations. But the others dismissed this benefit, preferring to meet up over ‘real things’ like coffee and food . Personally, we couldn’t agree more with this straight talking friend who declared:
The 600 friends that I have on FB are just people I have known through my life – not necessarily friends.
Not so long ago, there was a phase when we were ruthless in our ambition to keep our Facebook friends’ list culled to a manageable 100 (passionately believing that Facebook was an extension of the real world of friendship). But age, alcohol and food have made us mellow. Facebook friends may not be real to us, but we’d much rather just ‘accept’ your friend request and chat occasionally than make the effort of befriending you.
Ek Ladka/Ek Ladki: Gal Pals and Man Fridays
So, men friends or women friends? And can men and women stay friends? It was almost surprising to us how divided the group was on this issue. Quite a few of them conceded that in their experience, one or the other of the two parties developed an attraction towards the others, which affected the friendship. Another just referred to this attraction as an occasional ‘hiccup’ which in no way took away from the many excellent male friends she’d had. A couple of respondents from both sexes pointed out an an additional ‘comfort-level’ that comes from same-sex friendships, while others said they found their male friends more ‘decisive’ or female friends more ‘easy to talk to.’ A single friend winked and told us that she could only ever be platonic friends with “boring or not particularly good looking men”.
We’ll let our favorite response to this question have the last word:
I would actually say that there is no one kind of friendship I share with men, and so I cannot make a generalization about how it is different from my friendship with women.
Baa, Bahu or Best Friend: Friendships with Family
“They fuck you up, your mum & dad; They may not mean to, but they do” – Philip Larkin famously declared in This Be The Verse.
Unlike the West, Family is a complex word in India – it includes not just your parents and siblings but also a complex matrix of aunts & uncles & first cousins & second cousins. You may never know how you are related to Bunty Bhaiya, but you know he is Family. For many generations right upto our parents, your best friends and business partners and co-travellers would all have a “khoon ka rishta” (blood relation) with you.
So when we asked about friendships amongst family members, we got a mixed bag. Most Red Baggers did not believe in the “family is friend” adage; as one respondent said “My relatives are a bunch of lunatics and very competitive – so no friends there!)”. But there were also a couple who mentioned how their siblings were their 3AM friend.
What turns siblings into friends? Usually, it’s not being “opinionated and judgemental”. As one of them remarked:
Trust is the biggest factor in friendship. My sister knows me in and out ..she may not always approve of what I do, but she will still love me to the core
Can Friendship survive working together?
Can work and pleasure mix? Most of our friends felt that colleagues are great for networking, office gossip and casual catch-ups for movie or drinks, but it’s difficult to form an enduring relationship, especially after one or both have changed jobs. As one of them said:
Most office friendships tend to revolve around office matters. So unless the friendship has grown beyond the office, it will die when one person leaves.
Incidentally, the two women behind My Big Red Bag also met at the workplace, and we are pleased as punch that our friendship has endured beyond office matters!
Comfort. Trust. Faith. Sincerity. Happiness. Honesty. “Dil Se”.
These are the words respondents used to describe friendship. One of them felt that ” Friendship is being comfortable in your weirdness”, while another felt that “You must tell your friend the truth about themselves, but protect them completely from the outside world , even if they commit murder !”
The last word came from someone who said that
Any relationship is like a rollercoaster – swinging you between Heaven & Hell, and often dangling you midway! But friendship is the only ride than never lets you fall.