HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

Friends and shadows

Syed Nooruzzaman, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, August 11, 2014
First Published: 09:49 IST(11/8/2014) | Last Updated: 09:54 IST(11/8/2014)

Human Resource Development Ministry's idea of celebrating Sanskrit Week from August 7 to 13 reminds me of what a sage had taught the world in the days of yore. His teachings were the theme of a Sanskrit poem in a textbook prescribed for Class 8 in Uttar Pradesh at least five decades ago. Those teachings have served me as my best guide throughout life.

The sage told the world that there were "good friends" and "bad friends", like the "good Taliban" and the "bad Taliban" in a different context. That is why, if anyone offered me a hand of friendship during my days of working on a prestigious newspaper, I would first question myself: "Is this person worth being called a friend? Can he remain loyal indeed with the passage of time or is he just one of those who can never be depended upon in need? One comes across many opportunists and pretenders but how to find out who is a friend?"

The guidelines left by the sage suggest that a friendship that develops quickly or all of a sudden may become meaningless or disappear as your shadow in the first half of the day. The morning silhouette is long but shrinks by noon. The noon shadow starts small but is only going to lengthen. An everlasting friendship is like the afternoon shadow that grows continuously and becomes 'anant' (unending).

In the 17th century, French poet Jean de La Fontaine reemphasised what the Indian sage had said hundreds of years ago. "Friendship is the shadow of the evening, which increases with the setting sun of life," runs the translation.

I am reminded of a soul who came into my life as I entered the twilight zone of my association with an organisation that had provided me with sustenance till a few months ago. He would always come to me with folded hands, pretending to be my friend and well-wisher.  But I could see in him somebody who could never be trusted. The unforgettable Sanskrit poem played in my mind whenever I met that person. It words were true.

The behaviour of bad potential friends can be well illustrated with the help of a poem recited by celebrated Urdu poet Basheer Badr a few years ago: "Ye roz roz ki justajoo/ Ye aap janab yeh minnatein/ Ye sharafatein be-gharaz nahin/ Inhein aap se koi kaam hai (These everyday quest; these courtesies and pleadings; this kindness, nothing is unselfish; he sure requires you for some business)."

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