“I like You, & I don’t want anything from You.​”

The inevitable quest of encountering unknown faces today is effortless work. Running into new people is a throw of a die away. It is only a matter of time and choice before we walk into a meeting of a joint interest accessible to all. Like an open mic. A poetry slam. Alcoholics Anonymous. A recitation. Or a theatre fest. We are spoilt for options when it comes to meeting new people. Yet, more often than not, we chance upon their presence, and the story ends there. Not everyone whom we meet with today becomes our friend. B(/R)arely, there surfaces an instance that elevates this phase of acquainting with someone new to befriending them. Even if one does overcome this hurdle, a table materialises in the middle. It has to, by default. That counter-top bearing cups of coffee, beers, starter platters, lunch or dinner salvers is a mandatory qualification, for it signifies the level of friendship one has unlocked with the other.

I have to admit here I find the role of the table befuddling because I am unclear of the purpose it serves. Not superficially, or by means of testing individual testaments of hunger or cravings, but intellectually. From the standpoint of mind play. Every lock unbolted in friendship levels today either results in a limited-time-only tête-à-tête or an extended slice of it over a prime meal of the day. Like, a coffee signifies unfastening a person’s rock-bottom individuality. A meal identifies the privilege of upping the friendliness scale to the next step. Which leads me to assume and believe that dearness in close associations is signified by taking a trip together. May be, for a couple of nights. Friendship today is all about establishing a zone of comfort that correlates with one’s time and spaceA concept rather contradictory to the one we grew up with a couple of decades ago.

For one, everyone we played with at the playground was our friend then. For two, the notion of catching up had yet to witness the dawn of the day.

Friendships These Days
Source: Internet

As far as I understand the idea of friendship, the meeting place must be of no concern. Except, the spot must be mutually accessible. The agenda of needing a table to rest between people – if they are friends – is limboing. It is like sending out mixed signals on a first date. The wood base resembles that cosy corner earmarked in most homes, somehow resonating with the occupier’s cognitions of comfort, whenever they feel like leaning or resting their elbows upon it. Or, there are parts of you that you aren’t comfortable exposing to your opposite number yet, thus analogously resting your legs in a spot beyond your eyesight’s reach – underneath the table’s stands. After all, the shallow counter-top only lets your torso in the open, but not the set of limbs you stand on. Or, the furniture top helps you cake awkward moments, silences, or bouts of split-second thinking with a timely slurp of your drink or morsel you forked inside a second ago. Such self-conceived perceptions about the ‘table culture’ only drives me to wonder if the conversationalists separated by a table in their midst are (un)mindfully inspecting each other with politically correct interactions. After all, when one has little conversation to make or add to, it is instinctive to reach out for the cutlery or that caffeinated cup placed in front. Take a sip. Grab a bite. Cover it up. Quick-think it over.

The Right to Privacy set aside, friendship in today’s generation is about social engineering. Social climbs. It is the way we are wired. Because on second thoughts, it does sound fashionable when one utters they are headed for a catch-up with a friend over coffee. My question being, why not pitchers of caffeine at home if it is the catching-up that matters? If a home is a discomfiting zone to be invited into, how do you refer to that someone as a friend in the first instance?

Are you a Friend?
Source: Pixabay

To be fair to the other side of the coin, there are circumstances when one is heedful of having their coffee while it is warm, or devours mouthfuls because they are hungry. There are also instances when one finds themselves pressed for priorities. At such times, catching up over a meal or a drink en route is workable and reasonable. Ordering for food and beverage makes sense because the feed time clashes and one does need fodder for their bellies. However, the plates, cutlery and possibly even the table long fade away from the spotlight and sometimes dissolve. Aka abandoned midway. Because conversations between these friends go on without the threatening prospect of seeing sundown shortly. Until they are jolted out of their provisional reverie a couple of hours later, pinned for priories once more. Causing them to throw in their towel.

Throw in their Towel
Source: Pixabay

Figuratively.

I am uncomfortable calling most whom I meet today as my friends. Our equation may progress on to the point of recurrent catch-ups, and yet I will only accept that I know them. For as long time as it takes. You cannot land up in someone’s friends’ list like that. Unless it is your Facebook profile. And also, because friendship to me means to let go.

It means of times when we met a bunch of people in the playground or the society’s by lanes to romp for hours together. When we knocked on our friends’ doors to call them for a bout of play outside or sat for video games until the mothers threateningly beckoned every one of us home; summer vacation or not. Friendship means of times when we have moved away and lost touch, only to pick up conversation threads years later as if we had last spoken yesterday. When we have asked our roommate to make coffee well past sleeping time as an excuse to get drugged and indulge in mindless gossip. Only because we felt like it.

The idea of friendship works despite you calling only to whine about the cake you haven’t received from months ago and have quit the phone. It works when you make plans that have failed to see the daylight and have yet gone back to the drawing board to continue to make more of them. Even when you choose to be politically correct and polite, friendship survives the rounds of titbits that reaches the perpetrator by the backbiter, without any one getting hurt in the process. It even endures times when you call the other person stupid or ordain a pissed-off sentiment right at their face, and continue to talk as if nothing happened. Because the defeatist emotion in the other has passed the same hour, it affected them.

Friendship means when succouring is only a call away. And so is a pat on the back while shifting from one stage of life to another.

One does not bother measuring their words. They need not choose between silence or political correctness. Friendship does not demand to incorporate a filter on one’s state of being. More specifically, their tongue.

Friendship to me means people with whom I can just be.

(Un)fortunately, they make them seldom these days. Or, may be I am holding onto an expression conjured from an undiscerning La La Land.

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It’s about Choices: Like, a ‘No’ could be a Complete Sentence

I come from a society where we need no reasons to revere our lifestyles against the cushion of culture. It’s how this side of the world has always panned; at least since I became self-aware. Moral fibres are ordained as a part of our nurturing in such a way that we find our minds and bodies ingrained in them. As we grow up, we discern that in a span of a skip generation, the scientific backing is subtracted from most of such fibres. And often, omitted. There exists no logical interpretation from our elders for why certain things are the way they are. We see them suiting up into a defence mechanism of being all elderly with a feeble this-is-how-it-is-so-do-not-argue-with-me.

Are we meant to buy our way into this?

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Courtesy: Students’ Biennale, Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016

Hypocrisy seeps its way into our systems – living or structural – through loops and holes that we as a race, have left gaping. While we grow up, along with the absence of rational reasoning, we also discover the power of questioning and use it despite being given sketchy responses in return. As a consequence, boundaries are getting erased to the point that any Tom, Dick and Harry is privy to hold an individualistic thought-process. A question is countered with another. To which there is no one solution. There is an indefinite foundation to differentiate the rights from the wrongs. It’s all relative. Like, a sexual tension brewing between two friends, being friends with benefits, and aesthetic attractions despite being legally committed for life are permissible under-the-counter.

Are they, though?

So much for our cushioning cultures, kerchiefed values and the ingrained pit of moral fibre.

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Artist: Praneet Soi

Friendship comes in limitless packages. It’s all right if one is living with a friend in an elsewhere city for studies. It’s okay if one is hanging out with a friend at midnight for an ice-cream. It’s okay if two friends are talking into the wee hours of the morning about savoury somethings and sweet nothings. It’s all right if live-in friends from the opposite sex sleep on the same bed. It’s okay if a friend develops a physical attraction towards the other, and gets asked for a sexual favour in return. The lust is after all, mutual.

Albeit, what coerces someone to ask for a sexual favour in a friendship? I want to believe it is the comfort zone that gets established between the two. I want to believe it is human, and therefore a natural inclination. I want to believe that sex is an essential need like air, food and shelter. And because it is an ask, I want to believe that it is okay if the response to it is positive or otherwise.

However, what coaxes someone to ask for a sexualised favour with a single-faced probability of not turning it down? Why must it be an invite in the first instance when there must be no scope to leave anything to chance? Of turning it down?

It will be five years this October since I am married to Pachai. Apart from a shared social circle, we see friends outside. Setting aside the legal quotient of our enduring partnership and the societal belief of a marriage’s sanctity, I am sometimes apprehensive of the air I leave on my friends. As an individual. Especially on those with whom I get newly acquainted. For sooner than later, there gets introduced a tension in the air that paves the way to leaving sedimented footprints in the trail of our murky sentience.

How do I deal with such instances? By siding with a culture that’s imbibed into me by default at birth, when I could have been born anywhere in any family? Or by internalising a moral belief that ideally could no longer be held good in the light of our practically altered lifestyles?

The exhaust fan whirs unnoticed, in a world of its own
Courtesy: Students’ Biennale, Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016

Within these four-odd years with Pachai, I have been asked for sexual favours. Twice. The first time it was from a friend whom I got along with for our crazy vibes. The second time it came from a friend with whom I had a shared interest in fine arts. Their liberal approach, however different and despite them knowing I have a partner, induces me to retrospect about the kind of person I am. Of the impression that I leave behind. For it spurs self-doubts about my character and behaviour. Is it a mistake that I do not propagate about Pachai? Am I creating a general confusion by not publicising our tidbits on social media? Am I leaving a sign for trespassing by not reinforcing his significance?

They say marriage is a holy communion of two individuals. Ironically, it is challenging to come across an epic or a commandment that explains why is it essential to be unfaithful once married. There are bare resources that tell you why choosing another sexual partner when you’re legally bonded is deceitful. Maybe, it has a grounded reasoning to it. Choices. Of the ones that we make and take as an individual. Of a choice to stick with someone irrespective of the circumstances. To walk by their side regardless of the falls, the downs, the lows, the thins and thicks. Of the one to grow old together and stay that way until time permits.

Source: The Internet

I do not know what it is like to continue a friendship after being asked for intimacy. I would not have an answer if someone were to ask me why did I not take the incident as one in passing and continue with my friendships. Because I am not in touch with either of the two after I turned down their asks.

What gives people the idea to ask for sexual favours in a friendship that must end in a defaulting ‘yes’? Why does a ‘no’ injure their ego?