Forever is long time.
Actually I kind of lifted it off from an old Roxette song that never quite fades from my head (“Never is a long time”). But that’s not the point. Nothing about this post is original. Even that is not the point.
I just returned from a trip to Mumbai, meeting a few people after a gap of years. One has been my closest friend for last twenty odd years. I have met him perhaps five times in last fifteen years (although we never stayed more than a few hours of journey away from each other in that time, except for an year). We met for just a few hours every time. I have probably talked to him about twice an year on average for this time. He is not active on FB, or any social media, or chats. We have almost never written a mail to the other. Less said the better about letters. But there was one year, a sort of gap year both of us had for different reason, when we practically met every single day, and let the competitive/busy/purposeful world pass by us, as we sat next to a railroad track for hours, our degrees and our dreams temporarily shelved, as we pondered the nothing, or almost nothing; and shared everything, or almost everything.
The other person is my M-Tech guide, whom I’ve met next to never in the last fifteen years. We never shared anything with each other. No long discussions over long walks (I think he positively hates them), or coffee (he doesn’t drink it), or beer (ditto). No heart to hearts. I had talked to him maybe thrice since I left the institute.
The test of friendship is not longevity. Longevity can be accidental. It can be the result of sustained deception — white deception, if there is such a thing. Call me opinionated, but I think most of the time what we think of as true friendships are successful mutual deceptions.
The real test of friendship, or a real test of friendship, is how it survives the empty spaces. They say that a friend is someone with whom you can be comfortably alone, or together alone. I’d not contest that. Sometimes life affords us the luxury of being around our friends — so much that silence is an option. But a lot of times, it’s how we manage the absence of a friend that underlines a friendship. Of course it has to be mutual. Like mutual deception, only a lot more positive, maybe. Or maybe it’s just mutual laziness, assured that if we make that phone call tomorrow it would be fine, we don’t have to do it today. Day after day.
Maybe it is all that combined. But when I walked into those two homes that day, last week, it was as if those “days after days” really didn’t register on the timeline of those relationships. The empty spaces, if anything, were just redundant punctuation. The semantics of friendship doesn’t heed them. They just are. Waiting for the meaning to be found again, and again.