A Yardstick to Remember…..

Drinks Menu
The menu I described looks something like this!

On February 2008, I went to meet a friend of mine who happened to reside in a different city. We went out to many places and in the evening at the dinner table of a famous restaurant at the heart of that city, we were given two menus. One was for food and the other one was for liquor. I jokingly said that I need to order white wine. She immediately snapped saying, “Pleasant! If you order anything from that menu, I will never ever talk to you again!

I just smiled but something within me said that I shouldn’t order drinks because it will hurt her feelings and I didn’t order anything from that menu. Even for a long time after that incident, I didn’t feel like drinking because whenever I thought of it, her face came to my mind. She never liked people who drank and a few months later, there was a retrospect of this incident and she mentioned that probably it is because of the strength of our relationship that I refrained from drinking for that long. (Why I took up drinking again later on is a different story.)

Almost two years later, I mentioned this incident at the lunch table to my father. He started pulling my legs in her name immediately. I told him that it is not what he thinks and that we are just good friends. He was still making fun of me. Later my mom returned from school and asked what was going on. My dad started the leg pulling again. He said that either this girl is a true friend of Pleasant or she has some strong feelings for him. I said probably it is the former. He then asked me to read the essays of Sir Francis Bacon. He said that those essays describe the characteristics of a true friend.

Image of Sir Francis Bacon

A Portrait of Sir Francis Bacon

I read the essays and learned a lot of theoretical aspects of friendship. But that is not the subject of my post today. Today’s post is about another quote of mine. Just like any other quote, it came out instantly during a conversation. Let me describe the incident. This August, I went out with one of my close friends to a pub near Atlantis. It is called Silica and it is one of the best drinking destinations in Kochi.

Mojito is my favorite cocktail. It tastes so good and you can actually drink a lot of it without passing out. I liked it ever since I first tasted it at OPM Dance Bar in Chennai. Anyway we ordered two Mojito and started chatting. Just then a guy came and sat at the sofa on the other side. About 10 minutes later, a girl wearing yellow churidar, arrived and walked towards this guy. While passing us, she gave me a quick stare. There was this friend of mine who studied with me in KV. He was a ladies man and he taught me that whenever a girl stares at you, just stare back at her the same way.

Her gesture reminded me of his advice and I also returned a stare of the same degree. She had an average looking face. But she was fair and moderately plump with fantastic assets. Anyway, after we exchanged stares, she went and sat with the other guy. Unfortunately, there was a wall preventing me from having a full view but I was still able to see the girl. I was happy because who wants to see the guy anyway? Once they ordered drinks, they started getting busy.

Mojito

Mojito - My Favorite Cocktail!

My friend was frustrated because he was not able to see any of these. After two rounds of mojito, my friend wanted to order something else. He ordered a different cocktail made of Kiwi Fruit and vodka. I got to taste it too. It was too sweet, so I continued with mojito.

My friend and I went to the same GRE coaching center “The Chopras”. So we were talking about the life in US and the universities we chose etc. He mentioned that he liked me very much because of my outlook towards life which in his opinion was different from others. He said that I am a person who spreads positive radiation. The only thing he didn’t approve of was my atheist point of view but more importantly since I am a good person, it was okay with him. I just smiled impressed by his sincere praise. I said sincere because there is an old adage which states that a drunk person cannot lie.

He liked my helpful attitude when it came to sharing useful information. I said that I didn’t like the attitude of our contemporary society regarding sharing information. It is true that we need to search for the information we want. But it is not good, if someone asks a question and we show attitude saying “why can’t you search?”. My point of view is that, if I have a useful information in my brain that can be helpful to others and also the time to explain it and that the information is not private or secret, then I should explain it rather than saying “please don’t mind, but you are supposed to search”. Only in extreme situations I ask people to do the search themselves. And it makes sense too. We learned in 5th grade that knowledge increases by sharing and I kind of follow that principle as much as I can.

Friendship

Friendship - An undefined relation!

The more we drank, the more he continued to praise me. The conversation then moved to relationships. He asked me whether I had ever loved someone. I told him that I had on multiple occasions. I was not in a mood to explain everything. Hence I gave a brief account of my past attempts to build relationships with women. From my conversation he understood that I don’t like feminazis. In fact he learned that I don’t actually like many of the new fangled forms of relationships in our society. I delineated many aspects of our evolving society which are currently undergoing a paradigm shift.

This prompted him to ask me what sort of relationship do we have between us and off came the answer from me “We should not define relationship. Because the moment we define, it will lose its beauty.” I said that there is no yardstick to measure the depth of a relationship. It is just what it is. He said, “Damn! You rock man!” and appreciated my philosophical point of view.

We finished our drinks and paid the check. I took a last glimpse of the love birds sitting on the other side before leaving. While returning home, I realized that there was a smile at the corner of my lips. And I knew that it was a smile of satisfaction that the nectar of the dreaming flower has again proven to be food for thought for another person!

End of Friendship?

The Wikipedia article on Friendship quotes the following statement by Patricia M Sias and Heidi Bartoo: “Friendship network is a behavioral vaccine that protects health and mental health”. They say that good friends encourage their friends to lead more healthy lifestyles, to seek help and access services, when needed, to enhance their friend’s coping skills in dealing with illness and other health problems and/or actually affect physiological pathways that are protective of health.

However, recently I noticed that the number of people I can call as close friends or soul mates have decreased. To check whether my observation is true, I asked some people I know about how they feel about it and not surprisingly they came up with the same answer. It was an indication that friendship was on the decline. I needed data to corroborate this and went through the Internet reading many articles some of which I have quoted at the end of this post.

Based on those links, the following could be reasons for this decline:

  • Dependence on family as a safety net
  • Dependence on a partner or spouse
  • Psychological and physiological regression
  • Attitude towards sexuality; especially homosexuality
  • Advent of the digital age which increased the hours spent on computers and internet
  • Patterns in the corporate work culture which increased the time spent at the workplace
  • Path dependency causing behavior to follow paths of countless decisions
  • Attitude towards atheism?
  • Intolerance and misunderstandings
  • Other miscellaneous reasons

These are not my opinions but I think my own views would fall into any of these. Friendship in my opinion has come down to the state of people being just acquaintances. And in the years to come, it is going to get worse. As Prof. Dawkins said: “People are remarkably intolerant”. And this remarkable intolerance is the byproduct of a rat race for which we ourselves are responsible. I don’t think social networking is doing anything other than being a medium of keeping people “in-touch”. And this “in-touch” which I define as “Internet-Touch” is not going to build any strong relation beyond casual acquaintances.

I do have a huge network of friends but how many will ever bother to come and see me if I am bedridden leaving all the others things aside? How many will I visit if I know that they are bedridden? The answer is close to zero! Recently I attended a marriage of one my college mates and I could feel the discomfort among my old friends who gathered there. None of them seemed to be happy that they got a chance for a get together and I did not have a clue why. May be they left their minds in their offices and came just for the heck of it.

According to C S Lewis, historically, friendship seemed to be the the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few ‘friends’. But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceship which those who make it would describe as  ‘friendships’, show clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that ‘Philía’ which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that ‘Amicitia’ on which Cicero wrote a book.

As I mentioned before, one of the reasons why we stay healthy is our relationships with others. If we tend to become loners  because we belong to a “modern society” where “individuality” is more important or “cool”, well I am afraid my friends, we are doomed. I cannot help thinking that we are heading towards creating a society where nobody would bother to use the word friend since it would have lost its meaning by then.

Any positive and negative comments are welcome.

Sources:

Wikipedia on Friendship
Article by
Dr. Henning Bech
Depression and
friendship

Article by
Janet Kornblum

Article by
Sebastian Mallaby

Friendship on
decline

Friendship under threat
Social networking
and friendship