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     Volume 4 Issue 26 | December 24, 2004 |

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Straight Talk

Who Goes there

Friend or Foe?

Nadia Kabir Barb

We just said our goodbyes to some friends who had come for lunch. It was a rather relaxing day spent eating and chatting which in a way seems like a contradiction in itself as they have four children in addition to our three. So it's not very often that one can say having seven children running around the house is relaxing! But luckily, every now and then you find that you meet people who you just have some feeling of affinity with and in this case not only are the adults on the same wavelength but the kids are all of a similar age and get on exceedingly well together. It's strange how we tend to meet a countless number of people in our journey in life and from those we end up staying friends with only a handful. Some people make friends in childhood and keep those relationships for a life time. Many of us meet people in different stages or areas in our life and make a lasting connection with them. In fact I met a friend of mine in the unlikeliest of places. As I recall, we were on a flight from Dhaka to London and happened to sit next to each other during the flight. We spent the entire 14 hours chatting away about everything under the sun and barely noticed the time fly by (pun intended!). Seventeen years later, and we are still in touch, only these days when we meet, we have spouses and children in tow and are not 30,000 feet in the air.

According to a saying, "A good friend is hard to find, hard to lose, and impossible to forget..." I have to say I totally agree, but if we ask any two people how they would define friendship or what friends mean to them we would inevitably get an array and diversity of answers. In fact it is not just difference in perception between different people, but even the same individual may change his/her definition depending on what stage in his or her life they may happen to be at the time. But one thing remains unchanged and that it is no matter where we are in our life, we do need friends.

When I observe my five year daughter, what I see is that friendship at her age is something that seems to exist on a day to day basis. One day they could be best friends because they both like Scooby-Doo and the next day not on speaking terms maybe due to something as trivial as not sharing the colouring pencils. But aged five despite the volatility of the nature of their so called "friendship", one thing that is visible is how quickly they are willing to forgive and forget each others transgressions. Something that maybe we as adults need to take on board. As we move on to the teenage years, you may recall from your own experience how complex and sensitive everything appears, even friendship. This is probably more so for girls than boys. Girls are more likely to confide in each other and share their hopes, fears, likes and dislikes with each other. Boys on the other hand don't seem to feel the need to spill their innermost feelings to their closest friends. There is the possibility that when things get tough or they have a problem they may discuss it with each other but the whole need to bond doesn't seem to be a priority. When we enter those awkward and confusing years where we transform from children to adolescents to young adults, we discover the need for friends not just as playmates but as confidantes and as our support system beyond the family perimeter.

It seems that the younger we are, for example in College or University, the more willing we are to make the effort to get to know people and to try and cultivate friendships. Even if initially you don't get on, you still attempt to make a go of it in the hope that first impressions may not always be the lasting ones. On speculation, this may be due to the fact that we have the time, inclination and willingness to keep trying. But from personal experience and observations made by friends and contemporaries, the older you get, the less you feel the need to constantly make new friends finding it more comfortable sticking to the tried and tested. It is also due to the constantly changing dynamics of our lives that makes it harder to spare the time to invest in new relationships. Marriage, children, work etc. all take a toll on the way we interact with other people. Sometimes it is easier to socialise with people in similar situations or when you meet new people you either hit it off or you don't and frankly speaking if you don't then at times it just isn't possible to invest the time to see if you have anything in common or not.

The other day a few of us were discussing how we define friendship and what we expect from them. The conversation basically culminated in most of us agreeing that what we look for in a friend is someone you can talk to, who will accept you with all your faults but will tell you when you are at fault. Someone you can spend the good times with but won't desert you or think twice to help you when you are at rock bottom. How many times have we heard sayings such as, "A true friend walks in when the rest of the world walks out", "Friends in need are friends in deed", or "I get by with a little help from my friends."(John Lennon) But however clichéd and trite these sayings may sound, they really do say it all…


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