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Like at first sight, and that thing called friendship

We do not Like each other, but we like each other. For me and my favourite midnight pakoda-seller under the Zirakpur flyover, it's actually impossible to press that much-liked button on each other's Facebook profiles. Aarish Chhabra writes

chandigarh Updated: Aug 04, 2013 10:53 IST
Aarish Chhabra
Aarish Chhabra
Hindustan Times

We do not Like each other, but we like each other. For me and my favourite midnight pakoda-seller under the Zirakpur flyover, it's actually impossible to press that much-liked button on each other's Facebook profiles. After all, how do you search for a friend on the revolutionarily friendly website when you don't even know his name?

We have that kind of relationship, that non-nosey but cozy kind, quite impossible to imagine for a generation that measures friendship by the number of hits on the Like button under a 'selfie' clicked in front of the bathroom mirror while spending crucial, careful minutes on perfecting that famous just-out-of-bed-and-I-don't-care hairstyle.

It's not that I haven't asked him his name; or he mine. But call it impolite or simply unimportant, we don't really need to remember.

He knows I don't like spice and prefer self-service, and I know he won't keep the change even if it's one rupee. Defining traits, knowing nods, and a shake of the hand matter more.

On Friendship Day, at the risk of angering my chaddi- buddies and insulting some of my drinking chums, I admit feeling friendless quite often in the urban space that I encountered only after my teenage.

In those moments, usually during the squeaky clean nights of this irritatingly pretty city, I need my breadpakodas and chai, sometimes even a murderous drag, or two, from cigarettes bought one at a time. In those moments, I am logged out.

In those moments, I am among friends even in Chandigarh.

So let me, this one time, dedicate this column space - usually about 650 words of alleged profundity, suppressed profanities and borderline vanity - to friends whose names I don't know, or forget too often to ever be sure.

These include two contrasting Baba characters - one eyeless and the other who claims to see what the human eye cannot. The eyeless Babaji sells chewing gum and cigarettes opposite the bus stand in Sector 17.

I buy chewing gum from him, but those who buy cigarettes marvel at how he can tell each brand and count money with a fleeting touch of his slender fingers, sometimes more quickly than his drunk customers. Surdas, they call him, after the 15th century blind saint-poet who was known for his devotion to Lord Krishna.

Our Surdas, too, idolises Lord Krishna, for reasons too sensitive to mention here but mostly concerning his popularity among the women of his times.

The other Baba relishes telling ghost stories, appropriately dresses in red, and repeatedly refers to himself in third person. Forget the real name, it's hard to miss that he prefers 'Niranjan'. Yes, that one who sells paronthas near the Sector-16 hospital! I know he's your friend too, though unfriendly cops have made his all-night vend a rarity these days.

The one who has no such trouble with the cops is that paan-wallah at Night Food Street. In love with grand gestures while talking endlessly, he likes to believe he is made for bigger things, like serving paan not to us or Manmohan Singh, but to the Saudi king, no less. His sale-purchase account is entirely dependent on friendship and loyalty, yet he has enough money to put his children through college. He insists sharaafat is not dead, nor is yaari. Dislikes he may have, but 'unlike' is a verb absent in his dictionary.

I am tempted to drag him onto Facebook, where he can display his love for exhibitionism. But I am afraid he'd be drowned out by competition.

Facebook's own study underlines how men and women who list 120 online 'friends' actually keep in touch with four and six of them, respectively. And researchers have found large quantities of socially disruptive elements of narcissism in Facebook users.

This is not supposed to be a Facebook-bashing piece; but do you, too, feel even lonelier after spending hours chatting with people whom you put in your laundry list of 'friends'?

I mean, those stalking-worthy girlfriends of my friends are welcome, and the compliments boost my ego too - what the heck, I confess I repeatedly check the number of Likes for everything I upload on Facebook - but is that really friendship? Wait, let me write this question on my Wall.

First Published: Aug 04, 2013 10:50 IST