Making friends is one of the best things mother Nature has enabled humans to do. While searching for the keyword “Friend”, the internet answers, “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.”
You have friends, and so do I.
But are they the ones with whom we find the bond of mutual affection? Are they reliable? Would they help at a time of your distress? These are the most significant questions that one must ask while maintaining a friendship with someone. But do you? At least, I don’t. And I have paid the price for it too several times.
I have met many people of my age group in my brief span of 21 years. But not everyone among them is my friend. I like to avoid charlatans. But yet again, how much can one avoid? So, let me tell you a story as to how I came to learn such personalities survive on this planet.
You know, humans learn from experiences. I also have one. I hope this does not happen to anyone reading this. But even if it does, it would make you learn something extraordinary about life and others, of course.
So, it was around the time when I was in the eighth standard. In India, that means you are about the age of 13 or 14, and so was I back then. I, along with some of my “friends”, would attend tuition, as it is normal here in India.
You go to tuition to acquire the so-called knowledge that a school fails to deliver. And I, being one victim of the stereotype, would go to tuition to acquire knowledge, which, to be honest, doesn’t help me pay my bills today.
On that note, I would just like to say to my younger generation that try to focus on learning something you can do better, not forcing yourself into doing something you don’t like at all. It will forge your career as it has done for me, for sure. Always prefer learning over studying!
So, We were four people in a group. I would not take their names, because I don’t want to make them feel that they are important (just kidding, each of you is important to me; without you guys, I would not have learnt this much). But just for reference, let us say they were Ram, Shyam, Jadu, and I. We would go to tuition together, as I said earlier.
Birthdays are considered one of the most significant occasions in a being’s life. I don’t care about my birthdays, to be honest. But, my mother does. So, I also somewhat follow the tradition, eating whatever she prepares for me on that very day. And that is it for me.
Yes, you might say that I am being too picky here, but truly, I am not. Yes, you were born on that day some decades ago, and so what? Is that enough to make that day special? I don’t understand the rationale behind birthdays. But to those who do celebrate their birthdays, don’t stop it at any cost if it gives you so much joy. We are here on this earth for just one purpose of spending a joyful life; let the keep going.
So, that month came Ram’s birthday. We were all invited to his house. We had a small party with his family members there, and It was a fun evening. As the tradition made us do, a huge gift was prepared for Ram. Having taken money from my parents, I contributed to the cause as well.
While coming back, Ram’s father, who was a History teacher in one of the most reputed academies in India, gave us a return gift. It was new to me, as I had not taken any return gift before. I don’t know whether they started the tradition of giving return gifts or it was a way of expressing gratitude in sophisticated families. I was completely clueless at that moment.
Anyway, I was delighted. Upon reaching home, the first thing I did was unwrap the package and find out that Ram’s father had gifted me a nice, bright pen in return. That seemed to be a nice gesture.
A few days passed. One day, Shyam came to me after the tuition and said, “Today is my birthday. I want to throw a party in a restaurant. You must come.”
First of all, I was unaware of the particular occasion. But having received such a lucrative proposal, I could not hold back myself, thus agreeing to come with him to his party.
I saw that Ram and Jadu were also invited. Shyam took us three to a restaurant near his house. Nevertheless, in the name of a party, just three of us plus the birthday boy were present at the restaurant. Shyam ordered the food, and then, we ate and left.
The next day, we bought a gift for Shyam as we were unable to give him a present the previous day due to not knowing the extent of the event. We ate the food; now, how could we ignore the gift? We had one for him. As we handed the package over, Shyam put the package inside the bag and brought three rectangle boxes out of his storage.
One could easily identify that those were the boxes of pens. “Here is your return gift,” I was astonished. He, like me, had not known the idea of the return gift before Ram’s father introduced it to us the other day. And he was now following the same path of sophistication. That was so unnecessary. For a moment, I thought that our friendship should not hinge on these silly gifts and return gifts.
With a smirk on my face, though, I took the box that Shyam had in store for me. It was an unwrapped, ordinary box consisting of a pen. However, the only thing that caught my notice was the boxes given to Ram and Jadu. Those two were different to mine.
Mine was blue-ish, while theirs were Black-ish. Their boxes were a lot shinner than mine. Initially, I guessed that it might have been normal. And that’s why I put that box inside my bag, without questioning Shyam’s decision to distribute two different kinds of pens among us. Getting gifts in itself is so much exciting; you don’t question the judgement of the giver; it doesn’t look good.
I returned home with a smile on my face. My maternal grandmother had come to visit us. My mother, alongside her, was sitting on our bed, I vividly remember.
I rushed to the room and said, “Mother, Shyam has also given us a return gift?”
My mother asked, “Did you get one?”
I replied, “Yes, everyone has got one!” While saying so, I brought the box out of my bag.
My Nani was also waiting to see what had been presented to her grandson. I brought out the pen from its packaging.
At the first sight of the pen, my mother made the first call, “It looks used.”
I also interpreted so, but to avoid any further complication, I refused to believe her.
“No, how could it be used? We have been given new gifts.”
“I am saying it is old and used, you open up the pen’s back and pull out the refill and check yourselves,” my mother insisted.
I did not want to do so, as I knew the consequences would be against my liking beforehand. Yet, gaining some faith in our friendship, I pulled out the pen refill.
“Look!” My mother showed persistence. It came out as the pen was indeed a used one, with the pen refill sowing the ink half-emptied by prior usages.
I broke into tears in front of my mother and my Nani. I was disappointed not because I had received a half-filled pen as a present but because I felt betrayed at that very moment. Friendship—it was all a scam from the start.
I later went on to learn that he had given much more expensive pens to my other companions. I don’t know why he did that, but I don’t blame him for doing so. I never tried to ask him. Maybe I would never ask him because he has thousand stupid explanations ready up his sleeves.
But I somehow feel that it was his way of designing discrimination.
Both Ram and Jadu belonged to a prestigious family, whereas I was just the son of the owner of a wooden furniture shop. I was not that much popular in my friend circle; I did not want to be, either.
I firmly believe that the discrimination was an aftermath of social validation. But that experience led me to understand that you cannot rely on a friendship to provide you with joy.
Today, I have many friends, both online and offline. I spend time with them and take part in healthy conversations but never wish to get something in return.
I care about them, but I don’t want them to care about me. I try to help anyone asking for help from me as far as I can but never seek help in return because someone said,
“Don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed!”
Double-faced personalities exist, and you must be aware of them.