Shahrukh Khan in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai makes a solid argument when he says that Pyaar Dosti Hai ( Love is friendship)
I quite agreed with him. I’ve had two long term relationships, and I think that from a while before the relationship began to a while before the relationship ended, my partner was my best friend. Because just like Shahrukh, I too believe that “Agar wo mera sabse acha dost nahi ban sakta, to mai usse pyaar kar hi nahi sakti.”
It’s been two years since my last break-up, but there is no dearth of pyaar in my life, because there is no dearth of dosti in my life. Because if pyaar is dosti, it took me a while to understand that that dosti is also pyaar, but more forgiving.
Two years ago, I was in a relationship that had me in the worst phase of depression I have been through. During the two years that I was in the relationship, I had started to slowly distance myself from my old school friends. We were a small group of classmates from boarding school that landed up going to different colleges in Delhi. While my friends from school met with each other frequently, hanging out, going on trips together, I was too caught up in exploring my college life through theatre and then later filmmaking in my masters, to give too much importance to ‘hanging out’. I’d go every now and then to a birthday party, but I realized more and more that there was a lot in my friends’ lives that I didn’t know of, and that there was little of mine that I was sharing with them. All this while I also knew that they were still close friends of mine, just ones I didn’t have any time for.
Five years of college went by rather smoothly. I was self involved, and that worked out very well for me. I made good friends in both the institutions I went to, and between relationships and current dosti, purani dosti was sitting around comfortably in the background, the pyaar for the dosts was still strong, but I was cashing in heavily on the forgiving nature of friendship.
College done, work began. A year into the working adult life, I found myself in a really tough spot. I hated my job, but I couldn’t leave it right away, and I was in an abusive relationship, that I didn’t have the courage to leave. I realised that one of the reasons why I had become even more distanced from all my friends was because of the relationship I was in. Any amount of time I spent with him was not enough and every time I had to spend one evening away from him and with my friends, he would sulk and behave angrily with me. So I avoided my friends even more. Add to that the fact none of my friends knew that I was dating this guy. Because we were in the same college, we had decided at the time we would keep our relationship a secret, and then it just went on for too long as a secret and it seemed like it was too late to tell, and he was paranoid about sharing the information with anyone.
So when the depression hit, I had nowhere to go. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have any friends but I had just acted too selfish for too long to be able to ask for help. Or so I thought. One night, after a bad day at work, I was sitting my bed, tearful and lonely, because my partner had refused to meet me because I had gotten late at work ( abusive relationship 101). I reached out for my phone and texted Kirat, a friend from school who lived nearby but I didn’t visit very often.
‘Hi, what’s happening?’
‘Nothing. You tell me.’
‘ Nothing, just getting bored at home.’
‘ Come over?
‘Okay!’That’s how easy it was. I went over and drank some wine and mostly bitched about work.
Then I texted again the next day.
“Should I get some wine?”
Kirats house is like the couch from Central Perk in Friends.
There were always people there, her friends, her sisters’ friends, who had in turn all become friends with each other to create this ever growing and ever changing group of familiar faces that was always there. It was a great relief from my isolation. Here, I wasn’t constantly being criticised for everything I did, people laughed at my jokes. I laughed, in what seemed like ages. These were people who were very different from me, sometimes had unfamiliar tastes in films and books and probably different priorities in life. But that didn’t matter, they just happened to be in the room and I enjoyed being there. I used to think that I needed to constantly stay in the company of people who gave me something to think about, who added to my intellectual and professional growth, but I was wrong. I just needed to be around people who responded to me as I was – and in the process gave me practice in becoming a little more like myself.
I starting being relieved whenever my partner would refuse to meet me in anger, I’d run over to Kirats, ready for a great session of wine and gossip. I was slowly able to build myself up from a place where my image of myself was based solely on my partner’s opinion and expectations of me to a more multifaceted self.
I told her I had been seeing someone, she wasn’t surprised. I told her that I was in therapy, she was surprised. She asked me if it helped, I told her it did. She said she felt as if she could use some help too. I found out that she too had been dealing with a messy relationship. I eventually broke up with my boyfriend, as advised by my therapist and the few friends I confided in about my situation. But I don’t think I would have been able to do that and deal with the severe depression that I was in, had I not reached out to my friends and regained some kind of emotional support system. I leaned on them heavily, we leaned on each other heavily. Cursing men who hurt our feelings, telling each other the extra weight was looking great! I found great camaraderie in my female friendships, because somehow even though we were living very different lives, being the same age, our experiences were similar.
When you are in your mid twenties and not quite happy with yourself and your life- assurance from a comrade takes you a long way. Which is not to say that a good friendship is just one big ego boosting bonanza. A trusted friend has to be able to call out your mistakes and shortcomings, the really close ones have to be able to be harsh with you sometimes.
I eventually opened up to a few more of my friends about depression and anxiety, and the sharing of such information was often returned with unloading of some burdens from the other end as well. There is great comfort in knowing someone’s miseries and having shared yours with someone.
Many of us grow up to think friendships are an auxiliary relationship that go along with our lives as we engage in more important matters like professional growth and romantic relationships. But friendships take work too. Many of us, who live away from their families, find ourselves developing friendships that are as intimate or even more than the ones with our families.
While we try to find a place for ourselves in the adult world, where we are worth as much as we are able to present, friendships allow you to be yourself. You are loved for who you are, not what you are able to do. They are like log sheets of your life, they know you well enough to not judge what you do, they pull your leg endlessly for your quirks and shortcomings, but they’ll never want you to change according to some template.
Also, friendships are not just support systems that we NEED when we are down, they are an essential part of our everyday. Granted that sometimes, our regular contact with our friends could only be through the memes they share on facebook or through their snapchat or insta stories, but they are part of our daily lives. Tragedy doesn’t strike every day, and while I am grateful to have friends whose shoulder I can cry on, I am equally grateful that I can watch Game of Thrones with them. That’s what we need friends for, to watch films with, to try out new places to eat, to share a pizza with, or just to share book quotes and memes that resonate with us – to find out who we are, to become ourselves.
Friendships command immense amount of affection, like any other relationship. They require as much work. There are rules and commitments. And they have as much value, if not more, than any romantic relationship or professional achievement. What’s more, having a good friend-life can help you be more together, more confident, and maybe, more likely to have a good love-life, instead of a needlessly messy one.
Pyaar is special, I want it, but life is good while waiting for love to come around. Currently, the most intimate relationships I have are with my friends, activities span from an ‘Eli re Eli’ kind of girly evenings spent talking about boys and clothes to all nighters discussing script ideas that will make us the next big thing in the indie film scene of the country. I think back often to the lonely place I had put myself in, uncertain that I had someone who I could have reached out to, and I feel happy that I gave dosti my best shot!
Geeta is a 25 year old filmmaker .