Relationships! Hmmm! Come to think of it, that word takes in a lot of territory. Including trolling, hating etc. What’s that catch-phrase? Ah, yes, Toxic Relationships. Those are not the sort of things that I wish to dignify with the word ‘relationship’, so I shall only speak of those inter-personal interactions which have a modicum of positivism associated with them.
You know, when things are going well with people, when it is all fun and games, everyone seems to be a great friend or well-wisher. Your birthday pops up, bang come the good wishes; you put up a ‘Hey! I got my idli perfect today’ and people chime in with congratulatory messages worthy of your winning a gold medal in the Olympics; and so on. It’s tough to differentiate between relationships when things go well.
But, comes the time when, say, you have been busy or stressed and unable to respond to their posts…THEN you will find a lot of them have suddenly found the need to cull their friends list on Social media and you are among the culled…unfriended, is the appropriate term, I believe. A lot of the people you know are the ‘What have you done for me lately’ type of friends for whom memory of past deeds last only as long as it takes for their twitter feed to refresh.
Such relationships happen in real life as well. At any point in time, you have a group of people around you in the circumstances that you are in. At school, college, in your current job location, whatever. Most of those remain friends only as long as you are there. Once you split, the relationship totally dies with some…to the extent that they will fail to acknowledge you if you bump noses with them later in life. Except, of course, if you have become the next Zuckerberg or Prime Minister of India or whatever, in which case ‘What have you done for me lately’ gets substituted by ‘What can he do for me now’; and their memory makes a miraculous recovery.
With some others, you can meet up again with goodwill and a ‘Hail fellow, well met’ sort of relationship, where you enjoy spending a few moments, down a couple of drinks, and part happily. What we guys used to call ‘Time Pass’ friendship. Good for a few laughs but a relationship that is strictly to be undemanding. If, perchance, you are sick in their city, say, and need them to care for you…Ahem!!!
Then there are the others who you can meet after ages and get along like a house on fire as though the intervening years never happened. These are the people with whom you have a bond that transcends having common interests (like trashing the same boss, say) and frequency of interactions. If you are lucky, you may have a handful of such people in your life (never mind the thousands of Facebook followers who Like your every pic).
Be it family, or be it friends, there are those relationships which are almost self-effacing, but are worked into the very essence of your being. Like the tanpura or harmonium in a classical concert, they are the very back-bone of the music of your life but, like the backbone, they are generally invisible. And, yet, without them, you would not be you. If one were to ask people if they had someone who was like that to them, the most common answer is likely to be parents and, perhaps, siblings. You take them almost for granted but whenever you do spare a thought for them, it is with gratitude that they are there in your life. (Yes, there are a few who may be unfortunate enough to have bad parents. AND a lot more who realize what their parents meant to them only when they are no longer around.)
I have been lucky that, in addition to parents, there have been others who have woven themselves into the warp and weft of my being. People who I, almost unconsciously, always assumed would be there for me through all the travails of life and regardless of my own position and achievements or lack thereof. (Yeah, yeah, lack thereof IS the thing. Who realizes the selflessness of someone’s affection when he is hugely successful? It IS failure that brings you face to face with true affection or…err…lack thereof!)
This year, though, has been depriving me of some of those who have been the mainstay of my being. First a cousin. The man who, when I told him that I had been a sick for a couple of days, was enraged that I did not call on him for help; who had hosted my family for months on end when my mother was being treated at Adyar Cancer Institute and I was working in Delhi; who practically commanded me to come over and stay with him when I fractured my hand. He went to sleep one night and did not wake up.
Now my aunt. She had always been a mother figure, most especially since my own mother passed away. The sort of person who, while recovering from surgery, can worry about my straining myself in coming to the hospital because I had twisted my ankle a couple of weeks back; who would, regardless of the pain of arthritic knees, would insist on cooking my favorite dishes turning a deaf ear to my pleas to not stress herself; remember my birthday, my star birthday and be the first in the morning to call me to wish me (Large families and she would call up everyone, so we are really talking about a mind-boggling database of information); small and big things which demonstrated how much she cared. It probably was a totally different model of human, those days, those few who had such large hearts that they could care for so many people with such selflessness that they took little heed of their own needs. Gone, now.
And, yet, I cannot bring myself to grieve. For, to grieve would be to admit that they are no more there for me. And I…I would prefer to hug to my heart, like the warmth of a hearth, the thought that they are still there for me…somewhere!