It's Friendship Day, a recently commemorated holiday which I do not observe, since I am not 16 and have an aesthetic issue with friendship bands. But I do think it's a worthwhile thing to have a day dedicated to a consideration of The Big F, yaniki Friendship.
Every day is not a good day to think about friendship, mostly because friendship is a practice, like feminism or art. It has some basic tenets of loyalty, commonality and enjoyment; a basic craft – reciprocity, engagement, appreciation. But eventually, each friendship defines its own rules, rhythms and intensity, finds its own optimal combination of togetherness and separateness.
The other night, my friend N wondered aloud to me, "What is it that makes someone who lives in Thane, call someone who lives in Versova, and on their one free day, make a plan to go 30 km across town to Colaba, to just do things together? It's a lovely mystery, isn't it?"
Sometimes family members do not like this hectic mystery of friendship and can go a bit vampy on it. They are ekdum right to be nervous. Those who can build bonds with others for no reason but pleasure or celebration of individuality, out themselves as subversive elements, potentially destabilising for social conventions, yaniki constrictions, where family and marriage within caste, class, sexuality and religion, are the only relationships to which we owe fealty.
In an age of social media these family members have been digitally upgraded into those prim folks who say social media has cheapened the idea of friendship. Like those who say they don't need Tinder because they have 'actual' relationships, this is an inherently conservative position. Yaniki you don't want to make friends on Facebook or find lovers on Tinder, for fear of crossing the kala pani and losing caste, but aapka kya jaata hai janab-e-Ali if others do?
On social media, I've felt strange connections and solidarities which have expanded the meaning of friendship for me. I have loved someone's way of dressing, another's droll cooking experiments; learned from someone's immense knowledge of Urdu poetry or geopolitics; discovered someone's talent for photography and writing; marvelled at someone's capacity to share their vulnerabilities and vanities. This has grown into some sort of community of support, political exchange, drinks in different cities, wedding invitations even and a modification of my own views. Perhaps the right word for these friendships is comradeship.
Comradeships I took for granted have felt flimsy in the light of social media. I've felt impatience at political views, film and book reviews, sexism or pomposity from those I thought of as friends. But love has helped me see beyond exasperation to a reformatted friendship.
Sometimes, when a friendship is in a resting phase, you may still enjoy your friend from afar online. Art, articles, music , new clothes, travel and opinions give you a taste of them, until you are both in the mood to be more actively in touch again.
There is something patient and beautiful about friend-love and friend-like. It softens our egos to enjoy other people in all their gadabad ghotala human glory, and also, to accept that you both matter and don't matter to others. It is one of the few ways we have of overcoming our terror of difference and change. So Happy Friendship Day, doston.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com
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