Rosalyn D'Mello: Celebrating the highs in friendship

Your closest friends are like the family you choose for yourself, and it’s around them that you can truly be your most honest self

Even though I’ve been a frequent flier for the last year, jet setting through different cities in India and abroad, either in my capacity as art writer or as a consultant for a gallery or as a debut author on a prolonged book tour, I’ve never felt as much anticipation about journeying as I do right now, with less than a week until I set out with some of my closest friends for a trip up north. “I’m so excited about our trip to the hills,” I told Simar, whose 30th birthday is the occasion that spawned the plan. “Not hills, Rosa, we’re going to the mountains, snow-capped mountains,” she emphasised over the phone. There’s a fabulous back-story to this whole plan. I’d moved to Delhi, books, stock and barrel, in 2010, and at the time lived in a tiny barsati in Hauz Khas Enclave. Ten months later, I quit my job so I could work full time on my book. When my landlord announced he would be increasing the rent by 10 per cent, bringing it up to almost R10,000, I knew I’d have to let go of that room and look for cheaper accommodation. Through an acquaintance, I got to know about a flat in Khirki where two people lived and were looking for someone to occupy the vacant third bedroom. The rent per head was a mere five grand. It was ideal. I fell in love with my flatmates, Malini and Ari, and came to be introduced to Simar, who lived in the flat right across from my balcony. We soon grew experienced in the art of throwing things across. Our only casualty was a box of ice cream and a mattress, which the movers accidentally had land on the ground four floors below. When Malini and I had to give up our flat in Khirki, we ended up moving into Simar’s flat, where we lived for a little more than a year. The flat was a hub. It was the de facto after-party venue. There were nights when we played badminton on the terrace at midnight, or Pictionary on the rooftop under the naked glint of stars. It was there that I came to be attached to her circle of friends who adopted me into their tribe, the Khirki Gharana.

friendship
I’ve never felt as much anticipation about journeying as I do right now, with less than a week until I set out with some of my closest friends for a trip up north. Representation Pic/Thinkstock

It was when I turned 30 that I realised how these people I’d met so randomly, simply through the act of living with someone, had become family. Among us is none of the geniality or politeness of friendly interaction. We’ve got each other’s backs, but we’re also not afraid to be our most honest selves. We’ve no inhibitions; in fact, I sometimes think we actually are often our truest selves when we’re together. Given my general awkwardness around groups and my preference for one-to-one relationships, this has been the great anomaly for me, feeling like part of a network of intimacies, each one inextricably linked to the other.

Beyond the sanctuary of such solid friendships, I’m also looking forward to a real vacation, even if its span is less than a week. I realise I haven’t had a vacation since last October, when a bunch of us from the Gharana went to Goa together and did mad things on the beach at midnight, and got jointly obsessed with sweet Goan bread and fresh crab masala. I’m hoping this will be the first time in years that I travel without my laptop, where the focus of the trip is squarely on the act of simply being and enjoying the company of each other, not wishing for anything other than what is already available in the immediate periphery of our existence. I’ve been fantasizing spontaneous treks and chilling against the backdrop of mountains, dipping my body in hot springs, and ringing in Simar’s 30th with all the excitement and warmth with which she helped ring in mine. [She’d made a cake, had iced it and put different coloured gems over the glaze, thus re-invoking so many childhood pleasures.]

I consider myself truly privileged to have the friends I do. We are born into our families, but we choose our friends. We are not compelled to love them, and yet they elicit in us the kind of affection that is often hard to justify. I am audacious enough to believe my life is peopled with amazing friends. It is nothing short of a blessing from the plentiful bosom of the universe. Lovers may come and go, and they variously anoint and scar your life. Friends only ever enrich it, even if eventually bonds are severed. When I turned 30, I realised my greatest accomplishment was my friends. A month away from 31, it continues to be the case.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputed art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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