A couple of incidents in the past two days has urged me out of the blogging stupor.
It started this weekend, which led to a friend X, understanding something about another friend Y. I know both X and Y pretty well, with the criteria for the pretty well, being something that I hope I can convey properly in this post. X, has a lot more trust in people, and tries hard to not have any person he knows (even in many cases Americans and other foreigners) in the casual friends or acquaintance category, while Y is more demanding about the types of relationships he wants to keep, and has a different set of rules for different categories of friends. (I don’t necessarily agree or dis-agree with each person’s attitude). Knowing each-other for two years, X assumed that Y would not treat him as an acquaintance, while for Y, X was just an acquaintance. X, upon realizing this, felt really bad (and also because I got a little too angry with him).
Another couple of friends that I know “pretty well”, got into an argument yesterday. Let me call them X_1 and Y_1. Now, we all take liberties among each-other to make fun of each other. Y_1 is the butt of many of our jokes, and X_1 has no qualms about dragging him into many more jokes. Y_1 did not miss the chance, when he got an opportunity to make a little fun of X_1 ( Although, I think the ‘prank’ that Y_1 pulled off, was a little below the belt, I am pretty sure, X_1 would have pulled the same prank off, if he were in a position to do it). X_1 did not like it, and started a public argument in what should ideally be a private chat.
I was hardly involved in any of these incidents, but as I rolled over in bed a little while ago, trying to think simultaneously of many things, I felt really bad, and not for the first time, asked myself the question, about how and why we go about choosing the friends we do. I am not an authority on others, nor am I am psychology major, so all I could do was reflect a bit, think a little, and that made me more uneasy.
Leaving aside my Sister and Parents, people who I can trust anytime anywhere, I can easily see that my sphere of “trust” is rapidly shrinking. Firstly, there are my oldest friends, the friendship forged during games of Hide and Seek, or during “rebellious” behavior of talking while the teacher is teaching in the class. Presently, I am not in day-to-day contact with a few of these people, but as I recently found out, it does not even take a minute to reconnect with them, even if you are talking to him after 8 years!
I am always in awe of kids, and jealous of them, because they are innocent enough to courageously call a spade a spade. Perhaps, it is the friendships forged with this innocence that makes childhood friends so dear (Appa still hangs around with his school friend, and they maintained connection in a non-telephone, non-internet era, and in an era in which letters did not always make their destination, even though he was in Calcutta and his friend in Madras). We do not have the self realization of who we are as kids, nor do we have the image of who/what we want to become, to show the world. And in this shroud of not-knowing, (at-least in my opinion), we really show our true-selves to our childhood friends, and as we age, somehow, we know that they know!
As I moved into college, I went to a new city, and a new beginning, with hardly any of the people I knew in Calcutta coming to my college. From then on, at every moment, the real I was hidden underneath the presumptuous-I, the Kaushik that I wanted to become. But still, those were early days, and strong bonds, I made, in college. (For me, many of those friendships were tested in a tumultuous final year, but they have survived. Not the ideal case about how I want to remember my college friends, and the type of relationships I really want to carry forward with them, but, I will have to live with what I have). And for many of us, from among the hundreds of people you get acquainted with in college, a few friendships are really strong. Also, quite a few relationships that in college, was nothing more that general chit-chat, turn out to be more fruitful later.
In IIT, and later in UW, my transformation has been complete. I now, have a public face…there are some topics which are not to be touched. So, I have friends with who I discuss movies, some with who I discuss books, some with who I discuss college escapades, some with who I show off etc etc, but none, with whom I am just plain myself. Although, I can never be 100% sure, I know, most of the people I hand around with also have decided about their public face. For instance, quite recently, I met this person, and we were discussing all the kosher stuff, when quite organically, the conversation drifted to some things that I had decided not to share with that person (at-least not then). Things from then on, have been pretty trite with that person.
And, I think, that this public face, that I decide to pass off as me, is what is keeping me from making those strong friendships as I made in School and College. Sure, I can decide to be totally me and open, but then, I am a cynic enough not to trust that the other person is also the “true” other person. This brings me to my definition of “I know him pretty well“: People I hang out with generally, people about whose likes and dislikes I know, but people with whom, somehow, I cannot want to go the extra mile. The type of friends, I know I can turn to, if (heaven forbid) I meet with an accident, or if I am sick, or if I need money, but somehow not the people I would look forward to talk to for emotional satisfaction. People, I can feel with whom connection after PhD days will be through sporadic chats, or in some reunion parties or through Facebook and Twitter.
This realization makes me feel lonely…
PS. How many of you think I need a shrink?