The other day one chap I knew buzzed me on IM. We spoke for about five minutes and then I was desperately grasping at conversational straws punctuated with a whole lot of “What else is happening?” from his side. (WHY do people keep on prolonging conversations with ‘what else’s’ and ‘aur kyas’. There should be a statute on the number of “what else’s” that can be spoken in any one conversation).
And I realized with a slight shock, how little we really had to talk about anymore. Three lines, five minutes and that was pretty much the sum of it. Beyond that, it was agonizing, but there was this sense of obligation, almost like I owed it to him, or owed it to the memory of some good times we HAD shared, to have a chat which was more meaningful than just the perfunctory inanities we had swapped.
This was a person, a colleague; I was reasonably friendly with about six- seven years ago. We met at one of those office conferences (we were from different cities).He is a terribly (and I use the word terribly intentionally) nice guy who had lent many sympathetic ears when I was going through a particularly nasty patch (life, heart, and work – mostly work) in my life.
So we used to exchange mails, text messages and phone calls once in a while, where I would whine, crib and rant as I did with other friends. But the strangest thing happened, the minute I left that particular job (and life went somewhat back on track), I suddenly and quite completely ran out of things to say to him. And I am very ashamed to admit it, but I completely ran out of the desire to talk to him as well. (In my defence, the conversations tended to revolve only around the ex-job and how much fun we had at the conference. The former I didn’t want to speak about and the latter had pretty much outlived its shelf life.)
And now, six years down the line, he still talks about that job and that conference. And I have moved on, had many more ‘fun’ experiences, changed some, learnt some, forgotten some. I am sure he has changed too. But somehow, our conversations don’t seem to be able to take that leap and transition beyond those not-so-wonder-years as I have done with other friends or even acquaintances from that era and other eras.
The odd meetings which we have had have been excruciating – with these vast voids of silences which are awkward as hell.
So that brings me to the question of what to do with this, or should I do anything at all? A friendship based on the foundation of force majeure is hardly good news. But then I think that he DID listen to me rant ad nausea so I should have the decency to talk to him. And then I think again, that how long I will keep on paying the price for the support which he gave me and that I owe it to myself to stop prolonging something which I don’t enjoy anymore.
Whichever conclusion I land on, I end up not liking him too much, and myself, even less.
The truth is friendships like love, can grow yes, but it can also grow apart. Some stand the test of time – from the initial euphoria of getting to ‘fall in kinship’ with someone to a more mature, stable, relationship which has morphed, moved, grown and solidified as the two individuals have changed
Some unfortunately don’t survive this – falling out of friendship as it were. Usually when that happens, the two individuals will gradually and naturally fade out of each other’s life and meet after a period of time and wonder about how they were friends. A sense of wistfulness sometimes, but very little regret. Other times, there are circumstances which force two people apart (travel, marriage, vastly divergent monetary and intellectual attainments – where it becomes very difficult for one to catch up with the other). And some just sour – a fight, a misunderstanding and that irrevocably ends it for once and for all.
But its cases like this. When there is very little left in common, but there are some memories of a relationship that was. Where one person has fallen out of kinship and the other has not, this strange state of 'unrequited friendship'. How long can one flog the memories and when should honesty come in?