Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 32, Tuesday February 15, 2005







Road to Friendship

Friendship is probably one the most complex relationships between individuals. They can form in an instant, or take years to build, and may be shattered in the matter of moments. Yet it is one of the sweetest bonds known to man.

The nature of friendship depends on many things: age, sex, culture, backgrounds, shared history, chemistry, etc. Yet the most enduring friendships all share some common characteristics. A lasting, rewarding friendship is one that is reached after a bittersweet journey that involves crossing eight milestones.

The first step is respect. This is essential to any healthy relationship, not just friendship. Ted and Zarina* are e-pals who have never met. He is a businessman, living in the West, well into his golden years, she is a young student, living in Bangladesh. Yet they share a beautiful bond, because, while she respects his wisdom and experience, he too, respects her opinions and treats her like an equal.

Peppered with this respect and mutual consideration, their discussions about books, music, philosophy and politics flow seamlessly through cyberspace, and the differences of age, culture, and physical geography between them really don't matter.

The second step is enjoyment. Friends must enjoy each other's company, and this should not come as a surprise. Alliances formed on the basis of convenience or mutual benefit (such as 'study-buddies' in school or colleges) have a short shelf life if the partners don't enjoy spending time with each other outside their sphere of work or studies.

As we learn to enjoy being around each other, we put our guards down and reach the third step, which is spontaneity. Friends don't need to engage in self-monitoring in each other's company; they are free to be themselves, without worrying about damaging the friendship.

Too often one has to put up appearances in order to 'enter the circle', and the result is a loss of one's true self. This is why it's comforting to have a friend or two with whom you can drop the charade and still have a good time.

Spontaneity is incomplete without acceptance. The beauty of friendship lies in the fact that friends accept each other as each is, without trying to change anything. When Kashmi and Johana became friends, the former was the quiet shy girl, while the latter was the friendly chatterbox. One would keep to herself, locked in her own dreams, while the other would always be dragging her off to parties, meeting new people, and of course, chatting away nineteen to the dozen.

They accepted each other the way they were, with their different personalities, and in time, filled in each other's inadequacies to build a relationship that has matured into a secure, full-bodied bond.

"A friend in need is a friend indeed". This oft-repeated proverb is a mantra for the fifth step in the road to friendship, which is mutual assistance. True friends help and support each other. Sabin and Jabeen met each other in the fifth grade. The first was new in school, smarting from a major embarrassment caused when one of the 'popular' girls in class set her up, and the second was a young tomboy, looking for her place in the scheme of things.

They struck up an easygoing friendship, each filling the other's need for companionship, supporting each other. As the years passed, they provided each other with shoulders to cry on, free car rides, quick loans, and just about any form of assistance that was needed. Even today, they remain fast friends. "I've got her number on speed dial" laughs Sabin. "Whether it's advice I need, or anything else, I know I can count on Jabeen to be there for me."

The sixth step is confiding. Friends share feelings and experiences with one another. As we become more comfortable in each other's company, we turn to each other with our hopes and dreams for the future, as well as our secrets. In fact, many friendships begin with a 'Don't tell anyone, but…" and the ability of the recipient to maintain confidentiality.

The seventh milestone is understanding. Friends understand what is important and why friends behave the way they do. Shared confidences and time spent together provide friends with a better insight into each other's personalities. The better you know your friend, the more you understand why s/he is the way s/he is.

Shared confidences, understanding, and mutual understanding form the foundation for the final milestone, which is trust. Arif, Shakil, Yaseen and Tofayel, friends since childhood can trust each other with just about anything. Arif tells Shakil his deepest secrets and vice versa, and swaps favourite jackets with Yaseen, who lives miles away, trusting his friend to take care of it. Tofayel trusts Arif enough to send him to buy flowers for his (Tofayel's) girl friend. "There's little I can't trust them with," states Arif. "Except food…I don't trust ANYONE with that" he adds with a laugh.

These milestones that we cross together with chosen individuals are the basic ingredients of that sweet relationship called friendship, and anyone who has known a true friend, can ask for little more.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Reader's chit

My memorable years in Africa

Before 1980, Zimbabwe was a British colony and back then it was called "Rhodesia". After its independence in 1980, it got its new 'Shona' name, 'Zimbabwe'. 'Shona' is Zimbabwe's Mother language, but Zimbabwe is an English speaking country. I picked up a few words from my Zimbabwean friends, my maids, but my son was almost fluent in Shona as he made many friends there quickly.

I cannot forget an incident that still makes me laugh whenever it flashes through my mind. I was having my afternoon nap and then suddenly I woke up by noises from downstairs… I heard children shouting, "Taboo, throw some more! More, more!"… I did not realize what was happening, so I got up and went to the veranda, where I saw my son standing with an apple in his hands to throw it out. I looked into kitchen for the basket of apples and saw it was empty… I had bought 3 Kg's of apples that very morning! I looked at my son and he gave me a guilty look by casting his eyes down and bloating his cheeks. When I asked him why he was throwing them out the veranda, he said in the cutest manner, "They are my friends, Mommy!" He was 3 and half years old back then. Down there they were all shouting to each other saying, "Taboo's mama, run, run…" I picked up my son on my lap and told the children, "look, here is your friend TAPOOR not TABOO and don't run enjoy your apples and stay here otherwise your friend will start crying" I heard them shouting all together "thanks, we will." I replied," you are always welcome". That was the beginning of my friendship with them too. All the mothers of these children became my very good friends. They taught me how to cook beef in African style, how to use some herbs as medicine and also how to follow pattern books for knitting jersyes. I have found these children to be extraordinarily well mannered and restrained .I saw fruits like mango, avocado, oranges hanging on the trees almost touching the ground but no one will touch a single fruit from these trees as those were public property.

In the mean time, I went to see a drama played by the children of Mablerein Primary School in which my daughter who was studying in standard one, acted as "Snow White" I watched her lying down in a glass casket with closed eyes pretending to be in deep sleep. She was only six years old and I could feel it was tough for her to remain still like that.

From that day she was called snow white by other children in the school. The schools were very systematic and perfect type as these were inspected by the people from the Ministry of Education every now and then. I found all the schools to have a very big compound having a sports complex, gardening areas for the children and of course a swimming pool. Each and every school used to follow "prep" system, which would enable children to have free time at home. The regular school timing was from 8:A.M to 1:P.M but children will have to stay in the school up to 4:P.M. From 2-PM to 4 PM children were supposed to attend to all sorts of afternoon activities after finishing there home task with the help of a teacher who used to help them in solving problems. It was amazing to see these little children digging soil by a spade and learning how to grow a plant. Gardening was a must from standard four upwards i.e. up to standard seven.

To be continued…


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