Today even though I started with a mind to write about my recent trip, but I am more into introspection about my life and relationships today. Somehow out of the blues something my dad had said the other day popped up into my head – that some astrologer had predicted that my brother would be very close to his friends which won’t do him any good. And that he should be beware of them.
I grew up in a close knit family. Many of my relatives stayed around and I had many cousins to grow up with. So, there was not much space, time or approvals left for friends. Moreover, my parents where over protective and did not approve of any of the friends I made. If at all any of my friends called, they would say that the call was purely to distract me from my studies. This was the most ridiculous explanation they gave for not approving any of my friends. I was the Vishwamitra and my friends were all Menakas, out to break my penance to study till I top each grade! Each of the calls I got was screened, spied upon and ridiculed by my parents. So, I didn’t have any solid friendship all throughout my school, because I was too stressed out about constant complaints my parents made about my friends. This did made me have a feeling that I will never fit into any group or with the normal kids of my age who had loads of friends and chilled out with them.
There were classmates I so badly wanted to be good friends with. But I never dared to knowing I wouldn’t get much green signal and I didn’t want to be a disappointment to either of the people involved.
Then I moved out of home and the protected surroundings for my graduation. On the very first day, I met a girl and we hit it off instantly. Lets call her Amy. The fact that there wouldn’t be anybody to judge the friends I make, gave my ego a much needed boost too. I made more friends. But Amy is the only one to last till the moment I am writing this, from my graduate college days (16 years later). Still I didn’t then dare to venture into making any guy friends because, for me the sword of my parents’ disapproval still hung over my head. So, I threw around so much attitude that guys thought me arrogant and unapproachable.
In my post graduation, I made most of my friends and the first proper male friend. All of them are today, a part of my small circle. I was more mature and thought that the sword of disapproval had started to rust off. All of them were really close friends for me, but I still had put them off limits to the real me hiding inside.
My brother had grown up by then and had steady friendships. Even though My parents didn’t approve much of his intimacy with his friends, somehow they stood the test of the time and emerged out strong.
I knew I needed someone to whom I could say just anything under the sun, without being judged or misunderstood. I am of the type who bottled up a lot of emotions inside without any vent. I could never open up to my parents and even though my father tried a lot, they couldn’t be that ‘best’ friend to me. Of course I had Amy to whom I could talk absolutely anything under the sun. I wasn’t into any sort of affairs – neither casual not serious! I just wanted a bestest girl friend and a boy friend (not boyfriend) to complete my small world.
Then I met this guy. We did not hit it off immediately. After many days of Hi!s and Bye!s and irritating talks, we started to hit it off. I was sure he was going to by the best guy friend I was looking for. He was older and mature. But then one fine day he said he wanted to marry me. I was more shocked and sad. But by then the talks about my marriage had begun at home and each moment it was dreadful for me. For me, who didn’t feel comfortable among strangers a bit! I told him to talk to my parents as I thought that would ward him off and finish the chapter forever. I had used this ruse successfully with two other guys before and this was a sort of ultimate weapon to me. Surprisingly, he did talk to my parents but he twisted the whole situation to give it a totally different meaning. Eventually I also thought, if I marry a person who is my best friend, what more good could happen. I used to ask my mother who her best friend is, and she used to tell that my father is her best friend. Though it never seemed so with them, I too wanted to be able to say that about my husband. After many setbacks, I realized that I can’t even say that about my cousins!
Eventually we got married and I lost the friend I had in him. It was like I had married a person worse than a stranger. A person who knows you and still doesn’t is worse than a total stranger! After enduring the suffocation for 8 long years, I decided to call it quits with him.
When I faced the first major marital crisis, barely a month into my marriage, I informed my mother, she told me to ignore it and tried to find my fault in it. I understand that she did not want me to take it forward or make any issue out of it. She was doing what every dutiful mother would do. Some astrologer had told her that I am going to make the life of my husband hell and she believed it too. She was sure I was behind all the mental discomfort my husband faced. But in my shoes, I couldn’t see that my mother was doing her duty. That was the first moment I totally felt lonely and orphaned. I couldn’t tell my own parents what I was dealing with.
That was also the moment the power of friendship started playing its role in my life. I wanted someone to listen to me and understand. I found that all the friends I had (I could count them on my fingers) were ready to hear me out without judging me. All the friends who were close to me but still out of the some invisible limits became saviors for me. The boundary started to dissolve. They heard me out and did not judge based on pre-conceptions or based on some stupid astrology predictions. They would point out what was wrong irrespective of who did it. I looked for support and I got it from friends.
As I got deeper into the inevitable marital drama, on one side I had my family, who wanted me to wear a diamond ring, again suggested by an astrologer, to stabilize my ‘mental instability’. On the other side, I had friends who ridiculed the astrologer and were ready to talk and put some sense into the people in my family. I had a friend who talked to me all night and advised me not to lose hope or strength, when I was feeling lonely and suicidal.
In between I joined for my higher studies about an year after marriage. By now, I had opened up a lot. I was more confident and in control over the insecure me. I had a good number of close friends of all sorts! When I was contemplating getting out of the marriage that was killing my faith in people and God, I had friends ready to stand by me without judging or blaming and trying to put sense into me gently, without using that blaming or ridiculing tone. They helped me go on without losing myself each day.
So, how is my world different now? When I passed through a tough situation, I had enough family members to point out where I went wrong and to advise me without even understanding how and what I felt. Many of them spread stories. But I would have a friend who would tell me to chill and that we can deal with anything that comes our way. Family made me feel guilty and Friends made me feel empowered to learn from and rectify the mistakes without feeling guilty about it. Relatives advised me to compromise with the situation to keep the society happy. Friends advised me to deal with the situation and to let the people who cared more about society than me and my feelings be damned! Every time a relative brought me down I had a friend to pull me up.
I am not saying friends are everything over a family. But yeah family are bound to you by duty to keep you socially safe, while friends are bound to you by some unexplained sense of belonging and keep you mentally safe. Family and Friends are two totally different realms in the universe of relationships. It is impossible to have a balanced life without either of them.
A good friend never complaints. They are just there invisibly visible. None of them would complain ‘you did not tell me this or that’ or that ‘ you told her and not me’ or ‘I told you so!’. They are just there. unconditionally accepting you with all your flaws, even when they have a choice not to! Pretension is the last thing I need to do when I am with friends. But with relatives, every single moment I have to be on a watch out because you never know what any of them may get to complain about anytime. God has been really lavish in showering his grace on me that I am blessed with such great friends.
The sword is shining and stronger than ever. I realized that when 2 days back, I told my mother I am going for a trek with friends and she in her usual sarcastic tone asked if my friends were guys or gals! Ohh damn! I am in mid thirties, when would this stop?