The Friendship Conundrum...

I have always looked at human relationships from the perspective of an outsider. You can attribute this to the fact that my upbringing was less usual than others. If you read my blog, you know about my childhood, the fact that I was orphaned at an early age and was brought up by my father's parents. All relationships have been difficult for me to understand. I have written in length about my chemistry with my family and my old flames. But another relationship I haven't written much about is friendship. I usually had a tough time making friends. It was just one of those things that allude you. There wasn't anything I was doing wrong, there was just a lack of  the basic connection. 

I did make some friends along the way, but when I look back at those friendships today, I can't help but feeling they weren't normal. You know, take for example, Buddhadev, one of my very first friends in the second standard. He and I were both a little nerdy back then and maybe that's why we bonded.  I guess he hated sports as much as I did. We felt normal in each other's presence. We used to steal mangoes and tamarinds from the neighbour's trees. All I remember from that time is that and Buddha's kind face. I actually reconnected with him last year on Facebook, but we didn't have much to talk about, since a lot had transpired in our lives since the second standard and the common ground was lost.

My next bunch of friends were Priyabrat, Subrat and a couple of other people who didn't matter.  This was in the eight standard. Again, these were outcasts, much like I was. (Or I considered myself to be.) It is hard to pinpoint what drew me to this group, but I can tell you that one of our favorite pastimes was making fun of the snooty rich kids as well as the so called 'good students'. That should tell you which part of the high school food chain we belonged to. And all of it was ridiculous too. Priyabrat was the son of a well to do public servant. His only grief in life was that he was dark skinned and had a scar on his nose. He pitied himself so much that he made a sport out of it. He would spend hours everyday, wallowing in "self-pity", a kind of reverse snobbery and we were all made a part of it. It was toxic, to say the least, and got simply weird after a while. And Subrat was like a born lackey, what without a very strong personality of his own. I guess he still hangs out with Priyabrat. 

Everything was fine till I was playing along to Pritabrat's tunes, but the moment I ventured out on my own, he turned venomous so fast, it was crazy.  I was seeing the 'bloomer girl' back then and these guys used to shame me about that. For the first year or so, I was bothered by the whole thing, and succumbed to the peer pressure and started seeing less and less of her. But eventually, I realized that it was silly. That's when I found out how much of a snake Priyabrat really was. The whole time, when he'd been shaming me about how the 'bloomer girl' looked, he'd been putting the moves on her, unsuccessfully of course. When she & I got back together, I told Priyabrat his jig was up and I no longer wanted to be friends with him. This hurt his ego so much that he abused my family, whatever was left of it anyway. And that was that.

After this, I met the bunch of people that I am still friends with. Anjaneya, Amit, Sandeep & Keshav.  For once, these weren't outcasts, they were just a quirky bunch of people. Anjaneya was the universally liked, witty boy. Sandeep was this neurotic eccentric weirdo. Keshav and Amit were poles apart in their personalities, where Keshav was the king of congeniality and Amit didn't give a shit about what people thought of him. And somewhere in between them, stood I, a misfit. But they never made me feel like it. I was the class clown by then but these guys treated me as an equal and I loved them for it. I think what really got us together was the fact that we understood where each of us came from, even though our family backgrounds couldn't be more different from each other.

That served as a catalyst. For after this, I did manage to make a few friends. A few, not a lot. I was still not the most liked guy. I was still selective about the people I liked to hang out with. But a few people did make the cut. But even now, I am not sure why we bond with some people and detest others. I can name twenty people from my school and college days who actually hate me. And I haven't done anything to invoke such severe reactions from them. I used to really worry about it, often wondering if I had some kind of personality disorder that made me detestable to others. But now, I have accepted that it is normal. 

There's also the concept of "frenemy". I came across the word very recently and realized that I do have a few frenemies. Praveer, for example, can be categorized as a frenemy, because for the better part of our college days, we were in a constant state of silent competition, mostly for other people's attention. Neither of us meant the other any harm, of course. And we actually got along very well too. And then, there was Prathamesh, a guy who I got along with very well. But to be honest, that was more about him than it was about me. Everyone liked Prathamesh. He was that guy.

And lastly, the friendship I had with the women I have been with. The 'bloomer girl' of course takes the cake in this department. She and I, having known each other for nearly two decades, share a very exclusive kind of friendship, even to this date. We don't keep in touch per se, but can still check up on each other and talk like it was 2001. I am friends with most of my exes, with a few exceptions. But these friendships are complicated and nuanced in nature. For a guy who anyway overthinks everything, I prefer not to analyze these friendships too much.

So I am a guy who's on the uglier side of his twenties and still unclear about how most relationships work. But I believe I might have cracked the code on the friendship thing, what with people like Anjaneya, Amit, Keshav, Sandeep, Prathamesh, Praveer, Bicky and a few more that I can count on to be there for me, even if I am really bad in keeping in touch.


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