There are three kinds of friendships. One group is your history. These are people you grew up with; people who are family friends and people who you kinda take for granted. I have a bunch of friends like this– mostly in Chennai. My neighbors, school and college friends. My neighbor, Sumathi-akka for instance, is a very important person in my history. She taught me how to debate and won me my first prize from the CP Ramaswamy Iyer Foundation. It was an airline ticket and for someone who had never flown before, it was a huge deal. I rarely talk to Sumathi-akka these days but I sort of know where she is at. I ran into her at Manipal Hospital (of all places) last month and we caught up. She is part of my history. We all have such friends.
The second kind are friends by geography and convenience. These are people in my building (or neighborhood) for instance. I know a lot about them, about their routines, about when they take their morning walks, and about whether I can borrow sugar, yogurt, garlic from their homes. I see these people every day. But I know very little about them as people. These are friendships based on geography. The last group are the friends you cultivate. These are people whose values you admire, whose values you respect, and who have interests that you can learn from. One of the benefits of being an immigrant is that it teaches you how to make friends. When you are by yourself in a land that isn’t your home, you learn to rely on people who aren’t family. You realize that you need friends and you become very good at making friends. These are the friendships that you cherish, that are worth cultivating. Shailaja is one such friend. I got to know her in Bangalore and sadly, she moved last year to Bombay. She is visiting Bangalore now and over the last couple of hours we have caught up. She’s one of the brightest people I know. I will tell her things and she will pick out flaws in my argument. She will call my bluff and goad me into doing things that I don’t like to do. I asked her if I could put up her photograph on my blog and she agreed and sent me this one. Just taken this morning when we had breakfast together



  1. Interesting article, though I’m not sure the convenience folks are ‘friends’; the very fact one knows little about them as people indicates they are ‘acquaintances’ at best. India defines ‘friends’ somewhat loosely, e.g. ‘meet my friend X who I just met on the local train’.

    One of my friends provides a ‘causal’ explanation as follows. Friendships are born on a cause (e.g. debate or sport or school or whatever) but the ‘relationship’ (the real friendship if you like) exists and evolves as you discover there are many more things in common. If after all that there is a ‘commitment’ (something to the effect of always being there through all ups and downs) then you have a friendship.

    Analogy: Several people enter your life on a “visa”. Some decide to stay permanently and you issue them “green cards”. One of the “green cards” becomes naturalized as a “citizen”. This is the spouse – the best friend for life.


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