“Think where man’s glory
Most begins and ends
And say my glory was
That I had such friends.”
― W.B. Yeats
Dedicated to (yes, I am intentionally cryptic here): the one with a pure smile, the mint, the goddess of speech, the lover, the one as beautiful as the moon, the welcoming one, the abode of god, the flame, the dew, the one who never extinguishes, the silent ascetic, the limitless one, the tradition, the calm beauty, the one who unites with god, the king who reigns as a saint, the one who knows and another one who doesn’t have a fancy name
“All Scorpios are highly selective in friendships. They’ll keep the worthy companions through an entire lifetime, and freeze the shallow, the common or the unworthy.” Linda Goodman
I was interested in zodiac signs only after I found people exclaiming, “Oh! You’re a Scorpio!” as if I am something to be scared of. After I had read all that I could get hold of regarding Scorpios, I conclude that this is a trait that fits me undoubtedly.
One of the few chemistry lessons that I had enjoyed was the structure of an atom. That the nucleus is at the centre and the electrons navigate around the nucleus in their respective orbits or shells: ‘s’ shell being the closest one and ‘f’ farthest. I have seen my friends in the same way.
I have no all-conclusive definition of the word ‘friend’. I am mostly a live-in-my-own-world kind of person and do not have too many ‘friends’ in the sense it is generally used. The ones to whom this post is dedicated is the longest list I could make, and the aspect that is common to all of them is care. Now that I am more than a quarter of a century old, I don’t think the list is going to change much. The ones I mentioned may fall out, but I do not foresee much addition from here. I have been completely honest, I don’t intend to hurt any of you through my assessment for I love you all and I believe that I am fortunate to meet you, fellow-sailors, as I sail my little boat in the ocean of life.
Although all relationships require a degree of friendliness to grow, this post is only for those whose foremost identity to me is ‘my friend’. I have left out all those who would get in touch once in a while (mainly when they need me), only to disappear and emerge months, even years, later. And the ones who wish me on my birthday (after seeing the reminders in Facebook), ask me what I am up to these days and then forget all about me. For these two kinds, I remain indifferent and pay back in the same coin- birthday wishes. I neither bear grudges nor expect more of them. I prefer to be a small atom. Aren’t the bigger ones unstable and radioactive?
Only four (or three? I give the benefit of doubt) neutrons and protons inhabit with me in the nucleus. These are the ones with whom I connect both intellectually and emotionally, with whom-as the fox in The Little Prince says-I have established ties at the highest level. I hardly speak unless it is necessary, but when I find a worthy companion, I never stop. They are the ones with whom I never stop. They have the same interests as I do and we discuss everything, from philosophy and religion to Harry Potter. I share with them all that I read and write (even the ones I do not publish) and they take care to respond and criticise, they can be very harsh critics at times. They never seem to tire of my ramblings and will listen both patiently and impatiently. They listen, that is what matters. They care to know what I think. They will push me to write and think and do. Often, I am astonished to see their faith in what I can accomplish. They are the ones who take the trouble of calling me up although I don’t. The ones who will share with me every time they get to do something new or good, to see or to eat, even when I can’t keep my promises. They are the ones who give without calculating what they would receive in return. I am always the one sending them return gifts, they begin it. It seems I am quite selfish when it comes to them! I promise to make amends. These are the closest ones whom I allow inside that impenetrable nucleus. I do not need shields or masks before them and I can tell them whatever I feel, I don’t need to pretend and put up the sham. I do not care if they forget my birthday. But they care enough to make sure that they don’t! Birthdays or no birthdays, these are the ones I treasure most. They are the ‘kindred spirits’, as Anne Shirley of Green Gables would say. Yes, they are the Piglets, Diana Barrys and Gilbert Blythes, Huck Finns, Heathcliffs, Rons and Hermiones, the tunes that sing in harmony to my song. As Walt Whitman says, “I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends,” I don’t believe that I deserved them. The most these friends can do for me is to be my friend for the rest of our lives, which I believe they will. The nucleus gives the atom mass, so they are the ones that make me what I am in a big way. Interestingly, the Big Four belong to the four different elements- fire, earth, air and water- according to their zodiac signs. No more hints. 😉
There are some who don’t bother to know what I think or read or write. But that does not mean they do not care. They do that in their own way. They would not think twice before helping me out if I am in a fix. I hardly converse with them, often not because of a need to converse, but to show that I care. And I run out of things to say to them. But I know I can turn to them when I need them, and they will be there. They are the sentinels of electrons that guard my atom-fortress. I don’t think they are any less important, it is these that determine the nature of the element, don’t they?
Most mentioned above, however, fall somewhere in between. The ‘s’, ‘p’ and ‘d’ shells. There are variations of many kinds in this group. They confide in me with their secrets and can be great confidantes, too. If they ever read what I write, it is not because they are interested in what I am thinking, but that they do not want to hurt me. Some of them however do occasionally enjoy reading what I write. They too would help me in times of need and can often inspire me, show me the right way and give valuable advice at times when I feel lost. I can discuss many things under the sun with them (but not all) and they will be honest with me. We share a beautiful companionship, but our interests differ, and they do not exactly fit into the mould of ‘kindred spirits’. They care about my well-being and I care about them, but the attachment is limited because we are made of different stuff. They are the particles in motion, constantly shifting from one orbit to another, but they can’t break into the nucleus, however close their orbits hover around. One of them has the potential, I believe, but we do not spend much time together. With some of them, I had shared a close camaraderie at some point of time in my life, but not any more. Despite that, we keep in touch, help each other in times of need and recollect old memories.
This reminds me of another tribe whom I have not dedicated the post to. The ones who had been great companions at some time and have moved on. I have tried to reach out to them many times, but they have not cared enough to reciprocate. They are those autumn blossoms that do not bloom again in spring. I cherish my memories with them, but with a dint of sadness. Although I wish I should have better invested the time I spent to reach out to them with my ‘kindred spirits’, I do not bear any ill-will. I shall like to see them do well in their lives. And there are the ones who need me at times and I help them. But I rarely need them. As long as they do not turn into the fiends mentioned later, which hopefully they would not, my best wishes are with them.
I have no siblings but I have huge extended families on both sides. I have witnessed the hypocrisy and betrayal of the ones I had loved dearly. From estranged brothers to slandering aunts, I have seen it all and I think I know better who my real family consists of. Not all my family is as bad as it sounds here, I love them, but yes, some of them have hurt me much more than any friend ever has. So I need to set my priorities right. It was Arjun, a brother, who killed Karna (and that too, treacherously), not Duryodhan, the friend. My friends are the family handpicked by my soul, not arbitrarily determined by my genes.
Then, there are the fiends. Shallowness and hypocrisy are my two words for them. They are the ones that pretend to be the most caring, do not hesitate to ask for my help when they require it and again, will not hesitate in bad-mouthing me in public or spreading rumours about me. I can go on, but I do not want to spoil my post spewing venom at them. Instead, I would thank them for awaking me from the slumber, for prompting me to take stock and be grateful to my core circle and henceforth, become completely private.
The last one in the dedication list is a childhood playmate who spent time playing the age-old game of ‘rannabati‘ with me. She was the one who shaped the leaves into ‘luchis’ and brought the fine sand to make rice. Her mother was the maid in our house. I had taught her how to read back then and she listened when I read out the poems. But she hated school and soon dropped out to work with her mother. She was married off at an age when I was still playing cricket in the streets and the only problems that haunted me were geometry riders. (She is hardly a year older than me). Now, she is a mother of two school-going children, has separated from her husband and works as a maid. Even today, she cares to find out how I am doing and wishes me well.
The first one is my Helen Burns. I had always wanted to write something on what she means to me but words have failed me. I befriended this vivacious girl with plaits and ribbons when I was eight. Besides those silly games, sillier quarrels, bitter fights, we shared a unique solidarity. She was the one ‘kindred spirit’ since those days, before I knew the term. She was the one who taught me to imagine and invent. To dream. The one with whom I pretended to be an explorer, own islands (we had chosen the Falkland Islands as they are side by side) and go on treasure hunts in secret tunnels and dungeons under huge castles. Now, I realise that she was the Treasure. My memories of school are incomplete without her smiling face. From my first Famous Five book to Little Women, from discussions on Mahabharat to slambooks, she remains. As we grew up, I knew of that aura of melancholy that pervaded her, but I failed to live up to our friendship. I failed to be Jane Eyre. I had been too selfish and mean to reach out to her when she needed me the most, to make her share her grief with me and I can’t forgive myself for that. Perhaps, I did not deserve her. I guard everything that I still have of her: the photo-frame, an inane game in which we pretended to be super-sleuths, the slambook page and the memories. Dear Suchismita, rest in peace. Indeed, there will be a time when we meet again.
And the rest of you, thank you for being there. I will not let go of you. You won’t either, will you?
Time will answer that better. Till then, I choose to trust you.
Signing off, with love, the one born at the end of the evening