Of friends, acquaintances and almost-strangers.

Courtesy: Alexramos10 on Pixabay

Friendship was easy when we were in kindergarten - we met those kids everyday - we played, we talked and occasionally, we were invited to each other's homes. We didn't squabble over why we didn't call each other often enough or take offense over innocent remarks. Oh, we might have broken each other's toys or given each other memorable bruises but hey, all was fair in love and war.

I had a lot of friends back then. I still do. But I have no idea if they'll be my friends seven years hence - or for that matter, even seven days hence. Because it seems like no one (including me) makes an effort any more. And when we do, the chances of causing damage seem much higher than getting it right.

Friendship is easiest when you see your friend everyday - perhaps at work, the gym or at college. But when you don't, be prepared to deal with innumerable idiosyncrasies of human behaviour and psychology (yours as well as your friend's). Sometimes you'll be left wondering why they haven't kept in touch and sometimes, you'll be the one giving someone else a sleepless night. Eventually, it becomes less about enjoying good times together and more about treading on eggshells.

It's pretty hilarious how our definition of 'friend' has watered down to something like 'Yeah we hang out together. Sometimes.' It's only the dictionary that seems to believe that a friend is 'a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection'. I think, our friendships today have become trapped in the notion of being together, physically. The idea of friendships that survive the years, irrespective of distances and time is alien to us. And this is strange because technology actually makes it easier to sustain relationships. Instead, we use technology to reach out to more people and undermine older connections in pursuit of newer ones.

Recently, a study (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2534950/We-demote-old-friends-new-ones-arrive-Research-finds-natural-limit-number-people-stay-touch-with.html) showed that when we make new friends, by starting a new job or going to university, we downgrade or even drop old ones. Who makes the cut and who doesn't? Friendship seems to have become a competitive sport and more often than not, I lack the energy to play it.

Change is beautiful.

From Pixabay (By PublicDomainPictures)
Relationships are not static. They are continuously being shaped by incidents, words, shared experiences and even seemingly unrelated events in the lives of the people involved. Given this dynamic, ever-evolving and ever-mutating nature of human connections, it would be silly to expect them to remain the same, even decades down the line. But does that mean we abandon the ones that matter or allow them to fall by the wayside, simply because they aren't what we started out with? No. We redefine them.

We may dislike the pre-attached notions and implications that come with labels but labels are inevitable. In your head, you have many different boxes, each with a label like 'Best friends', 'Close friends', 'Life partner', 'Acquaintances', 'Friends at work', 'Favourite cousins' and so on. And as we move through life, we keep populating these boxes. We do, however, have to be open to the possibility of subtracting from and adding to these boxes. We also have to be open to shifting some names from one box to another. Heck, we may even have to create new boxes altogether to accommodate connections that do not fall into any of the existing mental categories.

What I'm trying to say is, people don't have to grow apart. They just need to find new ways to fit into each other's lives. Because relationships matter. They provide joy, security, conversations, adventures and ideas. They help us find our place in the world. And with every closed/failed relationship, there is a memory deficit - a void that could have been avoided if the relationship had been allowed to change shape and accepted in its new form.

Every morning, we wake up as slightly altered versions of ourselves. We also wake up with subtle rearrangements of all the important relationships that we have chosen to cultivate. And that's a good thing. Has the nature of a friendship changed? Find new ways to bond, care and add value to each other's lives. Redefine yourself and your relationships as you go, because that's the only thing that will help you cope with changing circumstances and priorities. Do not sacrifice precious connections at the altar of marriage, job shifts, movement across cities or even countries. Allow them to breathe, transform and evolve. Redefine them everyday if you will, because that's the only way you'll save them.

The most messed-up generation ever?

Wikimedia Commons

We're such a messed-up generation. Addicted to our cell phones, going about our lives like dissatisfied robots and never entirely sure whether we're in love with our partners or not. In fact, we may just be the most messed-up generation ever. We don't lead pre-planned lives the way our forefathers did. We wake up everyday to the threat of a world war or the destruction of the planet due to climatic reasons. We don't know where our lives are headed and we are bombarded with so many options everyday that we can never be sure we've made the right choices. We talk to people we've never met; sometimes regularly and we're often not affiliated to any one culture, philosophy or way of life. We are more exposed to ideas, books, music, movies, people and places than ever before - so much that our lives don't make sense to us any more. We have more knowledge at our fingertips than we can handle; yet the answers to questions that truly matter, elude us. We express ourselves constantly; yet we feel there's no one to listen. We're constantly multitasking - on the phone while watching television, texting while reading, listening to music while walking. Our attention is never focussed; we are always fragmented, distracted and removed from the moment. We fear very little and the word 'duty' makes no sense to us. We are free - yet we are bound by our families with their expectations from a time we haven't known and a world that makes constant demands on our time. We want to be moral; yet our rationality permits us to understand immorality. We want to be good; yet material pursuits make monsters out of us. We have resources but we are clueless about how to use them best. We have ideas but we often lack the passion to follow them through. We have to struggle for nothing - and so, nothing means much to us. We live in a world where anything is possible if you have enough money for it. We live in a world where addictions court us every step of our lives. We live in a world where, as a Facebook meme said, free wifi is easier to get than water. We do not have the crutches of religion, marital compulsion, duty or pursuits of honour. The onus of lending meaning and purpose to our lives - it's entirely on us. And the path we choose to achieve that - the sky is the limit, there too. It's exhilarating and frightening at the same time. Because with so much at stake and so much in our hands, the responsibility for both success and failure lies entirely with us. We are a generation who cannot admire a beautiful sight without wanting to capture it for posterity and then sharing it with the world - all within seconds. We are a generation who cannot feel relevant without a virtual alter ego. We are a generation who can go days without speaking to our immediate families but cannot spend more than a few moments without Internet connectivity. We are a generation of contradictions and I have no idea how we are going to extricate ourselves out of this mess.