Sunday, 30 June 2019

Of friends and friendships

I recently read an article called, 'How to end a friendship' in the Opinion section of The New York Times. The author discussed the lack of guidance available about the etiquette of breaking-up and/or dealing with the natural death of a friendship (platonic) as compared to avalanches of advice available about how to end a romantic chapter in ones life. 

That got me thinking.

The article resonated with me while I was reading it. Yes, I have had my fair share of not knowing what I've done/not done to warrant cold spells from erstwhile warm friends. So Lauren Mechling's (author of the article) suggestion :"when the magic dims, the best thing to do is let go." made sense, common sense to me.

However, almost as soon as I had put the newspaper down, a realisation tingled through me like realisations do. I realised that even though I agree with her wisdom of 'letting go', I don't agree with her notion of  friendships being like "beads on a string". In other words, according to Mechling, friendships should be like romantic relationships: you give your all to only one friendship at a time and when the time comes to let go, on account of dimming magic, you close one friendship and move to the next or at least feel comfortable with the demise of an old bond.

Disclaimer: Before any knickers or g-strings out there threaten to get into any twists, let me state clearly that the article was in the opinion section and therefore what I'm about to share with you is also an opinion: my opinion based on my experiences. No facts have been consulted. This post is purely based on experiential explorations of my heart vis-a-vis my friendships.

My all time favourite poet, Rumi and his best friend, Shams of Tabriz, are shining examples of giving your all to one friend at a time, but I'm wired differently.

Mundane acts like moving cities and continents, changing jobs and locations, changing interests and schedules has opened doors to many new friendships for me. But that hasn't warranted shutting doors on my old friends or 'ending' a friendship.

Of course, friendships comes in different shapes and sizes and depths: depths being of particular interest to me.  

Meaningful friendships, the kind that nourish  are very important to me. Some nourish my grey cells, while others nourish my soul and then there are those friends who feed my ambition to do better: to cook better, to write better, to be more organised or to travel lighter, to buy more consciously, to use resources sensibly, to recycle, reduce and reuse. There are friends whose knowledge of books, authors, art and poetry leaves me in awe and every time I spend time with them, I feel like I've been hugged by a library or kissed by an art gallery.  

So while Mechling looks at the individual bead and sees a single friendship at a time, I look at her analogy of  "beads on a string" and see a collection of friendships co-existing side by side, completing the equation of my life, complimenting each other, never competing for attention.

Ambica, my best friend in high school, opened her heart and offered me her family's love when I needed it the most. Asha and Anu were my rocks through college: my go to buddies for food and shelter who were always ready to listen to my latest 'crush' stories. I used to fall in love often: one sided, admiring from a distance kind of love. The kind my adult children find lame and don't see the point of. The kind Asha, Anu and I spent hours discussing and dissecting and drooling over. We pick up where we left off whenever we meet or talk. Time spent apart shrinks to zero. 

Payal and Fakhra, whose daughters were the same age as Arshia, my two year old, when we moved to London, got added to my string of dear friends when we took our toddlers out to the park together, baby-sat for each other, emptied our hearts out about in-laws, husbands and the general grind of busy London life as young mothers.

Angela, Di, Helen, Jess and Jane appeared on my life's primary school teaching horizon and shine brightly to this day. My string of beads would be bare without their love.

My sister and my cousins, my sisters-in-law, my nieces and some second cousins play the dual role of friends and family. Their presence in my string of beads is precious to me.

Doha's easy going pace and the job-free last three years of my life have conspired to add not just beads but entire strings of beads to my necklace of friendship. There are so many friends I've made here that I'm in danger of missing out a name or two if I start listing them all. 

Friendships, to me, are like mountain ranges. 

On bright and clear days, when the skies are blue and the clouds are invisible wisps of  vapour, I can see all the peaks and hills around me that make up my range of friendships. Some seem far away in the past, others reachable after a day's travel and some shine with snow covered peaks in my future. The mountain I'm climbing or walking on at this point in time is the friendship I'm experiencing right now. I do it with all my being, all my attention, all my love, all my laughter and with all my tears and emotions. For the time I'm on this mountain, with this friend, I step with care on her jagged rocks, I relish in her gurgling streams, I see heaven in her alpine blooms, I take shelter in her forests of trees when the sun starts to get too hot. When I'm with her, when I'm climbing this particular patch, I'm all hers, I'm all his. But, the range that holds this mountain, the string that holds this beautiful bead of a friend is also always present. 

If I look at a bead as separate from the one sitting next to it, am I not in danger of snapping the string? When was the last time you saw a mountain separate from its range?

For me, therefore, all my friendships have painted my life's canvas collectively. There are no solo stars or villains. 

I may not have spoken to some friends in decades or they may have travelled far from me in distance or interest, but I've not had the need to 'end' anything to move on to the next. Perhaps, I've been extremely lucky. 

I suspect, instead of letting go when the magic dims, I've learnt to let go of expectations. 

It wasn't always like this. I've been harsh with my words and put the phone down on a friend when I've felt let down by her actions. I've been moody and broody and no fun at all when I felt I was being excluded from plans and parties. I was there, in that land of expectations and 'why me?' woes. 

"Oh! you don't call any more." I've used that needy, clingy group of words too.

It was exhausting to live in that land of expectations. I wasn't happy. 

Anusha once asked me when she sensed I was hurting about a friend's actions, "Did you sign a contract before becoming friends that she should always include you in her movie going plans?"

It was a rhetorical question, of course. But it showed me what I needed to see.

As if by magic, old friends started behaving more gently and generously. New friends walked into my arms with open hearts, their world views not necessarily compatible with mine but it didn't matter.

How did this magic happen?

Almost as soon as I let go of my-friends-are-bound-by-unsaid-and-unwritten-contracts-of-expectations, my friends changed. They all became beautiful. 

I no longer needed to think up of excuses to get out of catch-up-coffee-sessions-which-I'm-not-keen-on-but-feel-obliged-to-attend-or-I-may-be-excluded-from-the-group-and-not-invited-for-the-next-birthday-or-anniversary-celebration. 

I no longer need any excuses. I speak the truth: sorry-mate-can't-meet-got-to-do-yoga-or-write-or-just-be-with-myself works perfectly these days. None of my friends have disappeared from my life. On the contrary, beautiful souls infuse my time with love, grace, home-cooked food and hugs whenever it's needed.  

As a lover of mountains, I know that the path I'm currently on seems closest to me. The light is right for me to see what I need to see to travel this stretch of land, this mountain, this meadow and to bask in the warmth of this human, this friend, this soul who holds my hand and my attention today.

Why do I need to worry about how to end anything when there is no such thing as an end?

We're all connected. 

For me, at least, letting go of expectations has opened my eyes to the vast vistas of mighty ranges of solid friendships that stand witness to my journey of self discovery.

What are your thoughts about friends and friendships? How has your journey been? You know I'd love to hear about your experiences.


Wishing you all the sweet fragrance of friendship, wherever you may find it.
Photos taken in spring of 2019, on my way to Kuari Pass


  1. I’ve missed reading your blogs and this particular blog happens to be in a topic close to my heart too - friendships.

    You’re right in saying that sometimes one tends to invest too much into a friendship and then it upsets you for any reason whatsoever.The ‘movie’ friend ? I have one too but we’re not bound by any contract as such ! Easy- going ‘deal’ that one.

    Growing up I had no close friends since my dad’s line of work took us all over- so schooldays were more of friends for a maximum of three years .
    But as I grew older , friendships were of the ‘cemented’ variety .
    I can gladly and proudly claim to have friends who’ve been with me for the past thirty years ! A very good feeling indeed😀

    And I was pretty apprehensive about finding a friend post the age of forty- not that I was looking- but I did and have found a friend just recently- proving my theory wrong - you CAN make good friends post forty !!

    I consider myself totally blessed in this department and yes they all do feed my soul as you mentioned . They’ve held my hand through rough patches. They’ve lent me their strong and sturdy shoulders too. I too have been their ‘in- house’ counsellor all these years !

    Guess it takes two(or more) to tango!!

    Cheers to friendships !
    Thank you for having chosen to write about this vital topic Arti ! 🧡

    1. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings here Sharmila. :)

  2. Hari OM
    Well, this is spooky; my Sunday post touched, somewhat, upon similar themes, albeit a rather more political, world-view level. Friends do indeed come and go in life. We all become different human beings to varying degrees as we travel along in life and sometimes, just sometimes, it is necessary to 'let go'. I agree with you, it is the expectations level of things which does the most damage (to us!) and letting go of those does indeed alter the nature of our relationships in all manner of ways. Great article! YAM xx

    1. Dear Yamini,
      Thank you for this comment.
      For some strange reason, I'm seeing it today (19th July 2020!)
      As always, your words resonate with me.
      Wishing you a wonderful Sunday.

  3. I've actually been thinking about this very thing lately. (A post of my own may yet show up on the topic.)
    It seems to me that the most solid friendships are the ones that are fluid. Life ebbs and flows and people come in and out as we need them - or they us. But that doesn't have to change the friendship, just the frequency of contact within it.
    Still thinking... stay tuned!

    1. You've put it so well Jz. Love the fluid analogy about solid friendships! I'm such a fan of the way you arrange words. You're absolutely right about'frequency' too.
      Looking forward to your 'friendship' post.

  4. What a beautiful piece on friendship ❤️. Many forgotten yet strongly beaded friends on my strings of friendship came alive after reading you. Thank you for sharing your wisdom of words and clarity of thoughts, always a pleasure to indulge in.

    1. Aww! Thank you for your on-line friendship Pinkz. It's always lovely to see you here. Thank you. xx

  5. Love the blog and the photos too, my friend-now-far-away-and-yet-near-enough-to-reach-instantly,thanks to socialmedia and technology!

    1. I know. Thank heavens for the connective quality of modern technology. My life is richer for knowing you as a friend Ketaki:)

  6. I'm super late in reading this beautiful post about friendship. I loved every word of it and can't write as beautifully as you but will try to post a comment! Each friendship is unique and super important for my sanity.

    1. Thank You Seema:)
      And I can't bake to save my life;) Whereas you bake like a dream. So, like friendships, what we can do is also unique and important. No?
      Love you and miss you sis. xx

  7. Sailing beyond those challenging posts, I am on the shore of the friends and friendsship....the magic of expressions doesn't confine it to an opinion, but a tale that whispers on the journey of a dreamer with intense urge to attain realization of truth...I love to listen to music of the mountains and its tuning up the life in you...
    Friendship is a magical word that always takes me to a childhood poem...I don't remember it all, but a few lines have not left me so long my dreama connect to read like..."I tremble not even to face the strongest of my foes: but heaven defends me from a friend, who comes but never goes..."...
    The presence of those honourable friends make the life heavy, but their absence cost it more...
    I see friends as my faces...they are I in different order, mood and sense...they don't exist so long I exist...once I gradually evaporated into sky, I started missing you rightly said, there is no point to end it when there is nothing to end...ending it means snapping a tie between I and I...friends are not acquaintances...they are the cruelest critic, but hardest believer in me...they are air around me, light in a newmoon night and love without any purpose of loving...
    my regards

    1. Dear Saibal,
      Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing these words here.
      I have goosebumps: "they are I in different order, mood and sense"
      I'll be sharing your comment on my fb page as these words (I believe) are like balm, especially these days.
      I was talking to a gentle soul recently who guided me to the 'I'--the universal power plug we are connected to at all times. And after reading your words, I'm smiling a broad smile at the ease with which this universe connects dots.
      Thank you for visiting and for sharing such beauty with me.
      Much gratitude.

  8. What a beautifully penned article, Arti. I love the way you puts friendships as the beads on a necklace. I have been blessed with many wonderful friends having lived in India, Canada and Qatar. I am still in touch with some of my kindergarten friends and I truly feel I have a home in all these places because of these warm friendships. I am a firm believer in zero expectations and looking for positives in any situation; makes life very peaceful like this.

    1. Thank you so much for your beautiful words of appreciation. I don't have your name in the comment--so am unable to address this note to you personally.
      Zero expectations open us up to the vast benevolent and loving nature of the universe:)
      Great place to be in.
      Thank you.


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