‘I would take 100 real enemies over one fake friend any day. At least the enemies let you know where they stand, and don’t pretend to care’ - Anonymous.Firstly, all those who sent me mails after last week’s column addressing me as Maa Sonal, please stand up and do 10 push-ups. Hadd hai. Mazaak udaate ho? After such a well-meaning but highly unspiritual advice about spirits, this is the tag I get at such a ...umm... young age? Don’t you dare laugh now. Chalo, answer this week’s question.
Are you one of those who feel that the ‘friends’ in your life are actually around only till — and because — it suits them? A 21-year-old college student wrote me a very emotional letter recently where she shared the pain of having her ‘best friend’ cheat on her by having a fling with her boyfriend. A 37-year-old colleague vented at being back-stabbed by a ‘friend’ at work who spilled the secrets he’d shared in confidence, in front of the boss just to score brownie points. And a 46-year-old bureaucrat friend told me about how his so-called ‘close friends’ withered away ever since he got transferred from a position of power to a not-so-enviable department.
And please note, these are friends in flesh and blood, I’m not even touching upon the rather sensitive topic of 5,000 virtual ‘friends’ that platforms like Fakebook, I mean Facebook, allow you, where half of the people on the list are those you may even have trouble recalling.
Why do we sometimes get a feeling that the people close to us are actually putting up an act when they don’t really care? Similarly, someone else might just be thinking of us as fake friends in their lives. Allow me to share my analysis of how this one word ‘friend’ may just be the most ill-defined and abused word in the history of err...words.
I think the problem of mis-definition starts from childhood itself. You meet a relative’s cute, little child. You have no real conversation points when it comes to chatting with a 5-year-old. So you ask, ‘beta, which school/class do you study in?’ The child mumbles a rata-rataya answer, knowing that otherwise in 3 nano seconds, mom or dad would say, ‘c’mon answer auntie’s question’. Your next question then is ‘And what’s the name of your best friend?’ Considering it’s highly improbable that a 5-year-old has had the opportunity to judge or analyse friends over qualities such as sincerity, the child invariably names the classmate who sits next to her or the one with whom he plays the most. In that child’s mind then, the term ‘best friend’ gets firmly associated with someone you spend the maximum time with. And that’s where the distinction between ‘acquaintance’ or ‘classmate’ or ‘colleague’ and ‘friend’ starts to get blurred. By the time we become adults, the distinction is totally gone ... and we start defining most people of our age that we hang out with, as friends. And when any of these people behaves badly, we start lamenting the lack of trust in friendship, without realising that most of them were not friends to begin with. Anyway, kaafi deep gyan ho gaya yeh toh. I just re-read it and didn’t understand much. Hopefully you are more intelligent.
Coming back to ‘fake friends’, here’s how you can identify them: They and their talk, is more about themselves than about you. Yeah yeah, I know that friends are bound to share their problems with you, but is that opportunity also given to you or is it always a one-way road?
They mostly come up with some excuse when you really need them. Think of your friend, close your eyes and ask yourself a question: ‘If you were in an emergency, could you depend on that person to leave everything and be by your side?’ The answer would give you the answer.
They say things that they don’t mean. I know someone who always ends a telephonic discussion by vaguely saying ‘let’s meet someday. Kabhi is side aana ho toh chakkar lagana (whatever that means!). I also dutifully reply, ‘sure’. I know she doesn’t mean it. Nor do I.
They make fun of you, behind your back. In fact, if they gossip about most people when they are with you, you should wonder if they are capable of doing the same to you in your absence.
The frequency of their calls increases or decreases proportionately when you are having it good in life, or otherwise. Who knows this better than filmstars, politicians or people in powerful positions. Everyone’s a friend when you are on the top, everyone’s suddenly busy when you start sliding down.
Now that we know how to tell a FF (fake friend) from an FF (friend forever) (I should get an award for being this cheesy. Yuck.), here are calmness tips:
1. Revisit and revise the definition of a friend. Do not try to merge the entire world into this one category, maintain its sanctity.
2. Do not burden your friends with undue expectations. Galti thoda kar li unhone tumhaara friend ban ke. Don’t always be in a Devdaas mode and use them as bouncing boards. Have a balanced equation ...expect only that from your friends what you are ready and willing to do for them.
3. Slowly withdraw from fake friends: Remove the clutter from your life, so that there’s room for meaningful, positive relationships. Don’t suddenly snap all ties, but slowly withdraw from those people you are certain are not your true well-wishers.
4. Try and be the kind of friend you would like to have. Show your care to people that you care for, and do not take them for granted. Also, stick by them through their bad times more than their happy moments.
5. And finally, befriend yourself. I’ve realised that the biggest high in life comes from being good to your own self. The world is quick to respect those who have a high degree of self-esteem. You’ll never have to chase friends if you are a friend to yourself and live in your own happy little universe.
Kuchh zyada hi ho gaya. Sorry.
(Sonal Kalra started this column by punishing those who called her Maa Sonal. After all this preaching, it’s time she did those push-ups. Mail your thoughts to her at email@example.com or on facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.)