When life was full with friends

MUSIC HAS NO BARRIERS: These friends share a common passion -- music, and they take time off from their busy schedule to entertain people at hotels in the city. —

MUSIC HAS NO BARRIERS: These friends share a common passion -- music, and they take time off from their busy schedule to entertain people at hotels in the city. —   | Photo Credit: Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

K. P. M. Basheer

Old-timers still yearn for those days when they had time for friendships

KOCHI: “Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love

And reap with thanksgiving…

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter,

And sharing of pleasures.

For, in the dew of little things,

The heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

—Kahlil Gibran

Kochi was once home to a generation that loved deep friendships. Members of that generation valued their friends as much as their sweethearts, sometimes even more. Hand in hand, they walked along Shanmugham Road, M.G. Road and the myriad by-lanes of the city talking about poetry, freedom, revolution and the latest cowboy movies. There were bands of friends that met on Maharaja’s College grounds in the evenings, and under the star-lit sky, shared their dreams. Others, sitting on the lakefront at the would-be Marine Drive, opened their hearts as they watched the sun drown in the Arabian Sea.

The writer Vaikom Mohammed Basheer was member of such a band. He and his Circle Book House, like magnets, attracted young poets, artists, actors, painters and revolutionaries. They talked and talked, fought fiercely about ideas, drank, teased each other, joked and wept together. Sometimes, old-timers recall, they would fall asleep on old newspapers spread out on the floor and leave at dawn.

Back in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, there were several same-interest groups that thrived in the city. They loved good films, good poetry and good paintings and met at film clubs, painting exhibitions and poetry readings. ‘Kalapeedom’ was a favourite joint of such groups. Though their bonding was not very strong, still they reached out personally.

But, gone are those days. The city has changed, the townspeople have changed and their need for friendship has changed, too. Friends don’t matter much. Friendship is becoming increasingly formal as interpersonal ties have loosened. At Changampuzha Park, older people at their get-togethers grieve over the loss of the golden age of friendship.

But why is that the ‘sweetness of friendship’ is fading? “To nurture a good friendship you need a lot of time,” says the poet V.M. Girija. “People these days have no time to spare for friends,” she says.

The earlier generations had plenty of time on their hands and they had only limited options in terms of career and entertainment.

So, they could devote time and energy for their friends. Television, computers and job migration have dimmed the need for friendship, too.

A weak form of friendship survives among teenagers and early youths—through SMS, Orkut and occasional hanging-out sessions. But, among the new-generation adults, it is just ‘hi, bye.’ Among men, alcohol helps to keep a level of intimacy, though short-lived. (Those who meet over the weekend for drinks are called ‘Glassmates,’ a take-off on the Malayalam movie `Classmates.’)

Interestingly, the friendship among women is growing.

This is because of the loosening of the family grip on them and their increasing financial independence. Another type of friendship that is expanding in the city is that of spiritual groups.

Though such groups do foster bonding among their members, they are parochial, often bordering on communal.

The human need for bonding also finds expression in the mushrooming of residential associations, which organise get-togethers and holiday trips.

To promote a sense of belonging, residents of many apartment complexes now hold regular meetings and activities.

However, the spirit of true friendship Gibran mentioned is missing in the urban relationships.

Mukesh’s timeless melodious line ‘Dost dost naa raha, pyaar pyaar naa raha’ (the friend did not remain the same friend, love did not remain the same love) is perhaps an apt description of friendship in the city.

Recommended for you