Facebook – Saving my friendships since 2009

Friendship is like a plant, it requires tender loving care and attention to blossom. And I suck at it.

I am one of those people who is neither a true extrovert nor a true introvert. If you ask people who knew me at different stages in my life (i.e. my school friends, my college friends, co-workers etc.,) they will describe completely different persons. My school friends will describe me as an introvert with my head buried in a storybook all the time. My college friends will describe me as describe me as an extrovert and one of the most friendliest in class. The fact is, I go through stages in my life when I am an extrovert and then regress back to an introvert when I can’t be bothered to make the effort. Just like extrovert-ism, friendship requires a lot of effort.

Friendship comes easily and more naturally when we are in school. Through my school days I had 2 best friends, lets call them K and B. We became best friends in 8th grade. Both of them moved to a different class in 11th and 12th (they were both commerce students, I was a science student). In the last year of my school, B and I would get together before school and people-watch from our balcony on the 3rd floor of our school. K, B and I would eat lunch together every day. K and I were born 4 days apart and we celebrated our birthdays together in 12th grade. We all went to different colleges but still stayed in touch. We all have birthdays in July and even if we haven’t heard from each other in a long time, we always make an effort to connect every July, especially when I am in India. We remained in touch even before Facebook. Even if I was not in the country, one of them would call and talk to my parents.

I had two best friends in college, A and S. I am still in touch with A, but I have completely lost touch with S. We had a misunderstanding towards the end of our college, she got married soon afterwards and I never heard from her again. It is quite ridiculous when I think about how close we used to be. I sort of remained in touch with A even through pre-Facebook years and now with Facebook we keep up with each other nicely.

After college, I found it very hard to make and retain friends. I think its genetic. Both my parents hardly have any friends. They never had any close family friends when I was growing up. Maybe that’s why my mother never stressed that it is important that I make friends. But, I find myself telling my children to make friends and to work at it. Now my husband is also a person who doesn’t have many friends. So I still belong to a family with very few family friends. I think I quite easily passed a whole decade in my life without any friends. Some of my friends from graduate school remain my friends thanks to Facebook. It is a blessing to friendship-challenged folks like me.

Friendship is a big deal in India. We have historic examples of great friendships – like Karna and Duryodhana from the Mahabharatam. There are many Indians who swear by their friends, would do anything for them and prefer them over family. So I am definitely in the minority. Being back in India after so many years, I notice afresh how close Indians are with their friends. I still find it difficult to make and maintain friends and I know that its wholly my own fault.

Friendship requires give and take. Although I don’t demand much from my friends, I don’t give much either. I am a soul who is comfortable being alone and sometimes protect my alone time fiercely. Most times, all I need is a book. This time around, I have made some good friends at work and I will go back with to the US and I know I will keep in touch with them. I have Facebook now!

I guess the reason I wrote this post is so I can thank my few friends and let them know how much I appreciate them. They are truly special because the only reason our friendships last is because THEY make the effort. If a normal friendship is 50/50, my friendships are 20/80. I participate 20% and my friends carry the rest of the weight. This post is an effort to contribute another 10% on my part.

So thank you for being my friend despite the lack of my friendship skills. I am truly thankful that you are in my life.

-AB

What’s in a name?

Parents tell you lots of things and try to pass on all kind of advice. Not all of it sticks though. Sometimes, somethings make an impression. One such piece of advice that my dad gave me that made an big impression was this:

“Always ask people their names and refer to them by their name. No matter who they are, what they do, try to remember their names. Especially the names of the people who serve you.”

This little piece of advice really stuck with me and it has now become an unconscious part of me. I make it a point to ask people their names and try to remember it and refer to them by their name. In a country like India, with so many people, this really makes a difference. I know the names of several drivers who have driven me around, the kid who brings tea to my dad’s office, the ladies who wash dishes and clean bathrooms at my work, and the man who sells fruit at the end of my street. Whenever, I meet them I greet them with their names, stop for a minute or two and ask them what’s going on. In return, I get surprise, delight, friendship, concern, and love.

Most of these people get treated like they are part of the scenery all the time and not as the unique individuals that they are. When you make an effort to remember them, they make an effort to get to know you as well. Sometimes you learn hear amazing stories, learn new things, and get to know some great people. For instance:

-My driver supports his wife, their new baby, his mother, his sister who was abandoned by her husband and her kids. His father and brother drank themselves to death, so he never touches alcohol.

-The kid who brings tea to my dad’s office – actually its 2 kids, they are brothers and they are from way north, near Nepal. They work here and send savings back to their family. They visit them once a year, mostly around Raksha Bandhan, because they miss their sister so much. They have only been here a couple of years but can speak Tamil quite fluently.

-One of the ladies who washes dishes and cleans the bathroom, she is covered with burns all the way from her neck down. One day I noticed the burns on her hand and asked her about it. She said that she set herself on fire when she was a young bride because her mother-in-law scolded her about something. She says she doesn’t even remember what she was so mad about. A couple of days ago, she noticed I was limping and stopped to ask me about it.

-The old guy who sells fruit down the street, he had been semi-retired and then money got tight and he started working full time again.

These are little stories I gleaned from them over many encounters. Some of their stories take my breath away. They teach me about human resilience. Its amazing to glimpse into the life and personality of someone you pass by every day. I believe that these experiences make my life richer.

I now remember to pass on this valuable piece of advice to my children. hopefully, they too will be richer for it.

So next time you see someone you pass by every day, stop for a moment and ask their name.

-AB