Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Use, Abuse?

So a few years ago, somewhere in the post-advent-of-Internet-era but pre-social-media-explosion kind of age (web 1.5?) I reconnected with an erstwhile friend from my 11-12th grade spent in an all-girls (*shudders*) school. Let’s call this girl T.

Now T was one of the members of the ‘group’ I used to hang out with (read: the crowd that sat down to have lunch together) – she was okay enough (except for a marked predilection for Mills & Boons - girls school effect *shudders*) and since she lived fairly close to where I did, she used to often hitch a ride with us (viz. my friend P and I who had a car-pool thing to school, and Goonda who pretty much lived at my house for four years). So we used to hang out and do all those things that 15-17 year old girls do together viz. gawk at good looking guys from HPS (girl’s convent hangover *shudders*), giggle at geeks, link each other up with any random guy in the right age bracket, sing tonelessly and loudly, blare music on the streets and deafen the old driver and generally feel very brave and adventurous and pleased with ourselves.

School got over, P and Goonda went to Delhi (and soon P moved to London), I left for Bombay and T remained in Hyderabad. And eventually while I remained in touch with the other two heroines and still do so regularly (the fact that P is also the daughter of a family friend not to mention that she is quite utterly insane, helped. And Goonda and I were er..BFF (Ugh. Puke. Yuck.) and shared a relationship based on a rock-solid foundation of extravagant insults which continue till this day, which leave our respective spouses rather bemused). (Also I need to stop doing these sidebars in brackets-for-background-colour things – I have almost forgotten what the post I set out to write was about), I lost contact with T until we got each other’s email ids few years later.

So I was happy enough to find her and we exchanged 2-3 ‘what have u been doing in life in the last few years ‘mails. Then suddenly one day I get a mail from her informing me that she is coming to Bombay to meet a prospective lover (which her folks don’t know about and the official version is that she is coming to Bombay to meet me) and will be staying at my house for a few days. Which was a little bizarre but since I have had sundry friends come and stay with me for many days at a time, I shrugged off the rather high-handed tone and said ‘sure’.

A few weeks went with no correspondence whatsoever and then again an unexpected mail came informing me that she would be reaching Mumbai at 10.15 and I should be at the airport to pick her up. By this time, Goonda (who has much shorter fuse than I do) was fuming at the rather arbitrary tone of the mail. I happened to have some function which I needed to attend to, so I wrote to her telling her that I would be unable to pick her up since I had to go to this wedding, but would leave the keys with the neighbour. She wrote back saying that she cannot change her flight timings and I should cancel my plans to go to the wedding and be sure to pick her up. By this time, I was also in a rather WTF mode while Ma and Goonda had smoke coming out of their ears.I said no go.

Then finally in the manner of one doing a great favour, she rescheduled her flight plans to arrive the next day and I went to pick her up at the airport (yes, I was quite a doormat and hated to give offense and hurt other people’s sensibilities. At one point (okay last sidebar, I promise), when I was in eighth grade, I used to carry two water bottles because one of my classmates used to drink mine. Why didn’t she carry a water bottle as well? Because it was too much of a pain/inconvenience to lug a bottle around)

So anyway, she came to my house, quite unchanged – as giggly, as loud as ever – I in the meantime had lost my father, had taken on financial and emotional responsibility so was not the carefree person of yore.

Soon after she landed, she called up a people and made plans for the evening to go pubbing with some friends and informed me that I should not expect her for dinner and so on; she left and then disappeared for the next two days. We were of course , frantic, as to where the hell a single girl in a unknown city, supposedly under our chaperonage had disappeared to. Finally we managed to trace her, figured that she had shacked up somewhere with the lover-boy .

The day before she was to fly back she called again to inquire whether I could see her off at the airport so that I could 'spend some time' with her. I politely declined the pleasure (working, had reduced the doormat quotient. Besides, I had Goonda threatening hell and damnation if I so much as thought of going)

Anyways, what was the point of this post and why am I thinking of it now after such a long time? Because someone else is attempting the same thing again. A person who has had my email id but had fallen out of touch. I reconnected with this person on a social media site again, and after precisely 2 mails, this person wrote to ask whether I could travel especially to Mumbai at a certain date to do something specific and complicated. And I don’t want to take that effort and I don’t see any reason for me to do so at the cost of being churlish ( Is the doormat dead finally? Yippie!)

So there are a couple of issues here.

The first one is that: - Yes. In friendships and other relationships, one person often has to put in effort, be inconvinienced for the other. That is the part of the give and take and the cornerstone of any meaningful relationship. but it is easy to abuse that relationship and get into a territory which is "using" the person. And hell, Im pretty sure no one likes to be used. T, this current person, (both might be rather extreme examples I know)I certainly felt like I was being suckered.

The interesting conundrum is WHY! I know, that with a different person, and exactly the same set of circumstances, I might feel completely different about it and take the effort gladly and willingly and unhesitatingly.

It's not even the fact that there has been a time gap in the relationship. There are enough and more friends who I havent seen for years, who I don't foresee this issue coming up with.

Is it the tone I wonder?

So the question is that why is it that for some people, one can go to extraordinary lengths to help and for others, even a minor detour seems like an imposition.

Is it the give and take thing? But then isn’t friendship supposed to be relatively altruistic? So if I am willing to take effort only for those people who reciprocate that becomes a contractual and not emotional relationship doesn’t it?

The other, is after saying “No” to people who fall in the latter category, how is it that one ends up becoming the churlish, uncooperative, unhelpful person?

Relationships are weird.

Okay very long and very rambling post.

Seasons Greetings to all!


sra said...

Hmm ... I think it's the tone. Even the we're-friends-so-I-can- take-you-for-granted thing needs to be done nicely. I paid a pre-wedding visit to a friend (in another city) and all she could do was go on talking to her fiance over the phone - I got bored and a little disappointed but I laughed it off - it didn't affect our friendship or my opinion of her.
Then there was another good friend who came for some(body else's) function, landed up at home three hours later than scheduled, spoiling all my plans, went on to bathe and then let on that he was staying the night - it irked me no end. I felt ashamed too because that's not how I want my friends to behave with me, but I still felt indignant. When I told The Spouse how I felt, he said I'd been very patient! I still am not comfortable with my behaviour but (shrug).
I used to have a "best friend" in college who routinely used my name as an excuse for her nefarious activities, and I was always quaking because I was in a very strict hostel. She tried to suck me into her devious stuff but I managed to stay away, mostly. One day her dad caught me out and that did it - I told her never to use my name without my permission and that was the beginning of the end of our relationship.
I know this is a long comment but it really tripped some wires ...

Nandini Vishwanath said...

1. I totally understand the side-bars. I do them and want to, all the time

2. The tone!

3. I am a doormat too. I do things coz I feel I cannot sleep in the night if I say no. I used to go to office at 7 in the morning paying my own auto fare simply because everyone asked me questions about stuff during work hours. So, I ended up helping them during and after work hours. I went in early, never took breaks coz I never got work done otherwise. And ya, this is for some close friends who laughed at the way I came in at 7. Sigh.

thunderskies said...

I used to carry two water bottles because one of my classmates used to drink mine. Why didn’t she carry a water bottle as well? Because it was too much of a pain/inconvenient to lug a bottle around...
i can so relate to this... n to think of it, i still do it !! shame on me !

nice post. kinda tumbled here from shenoy saar's blog.
merry christmas !

Vaudevillian said...

fascinating read. have come across many myself. often wonder whether it's this that scientists mean when they talk about parallel universes. honestly, you have to be in one to not notice your own shitty attitude. just how hard could it be? the mind boggles. seasons greetings.

a million different people said...

Haha, I had a friend who used to tell me that her mother used to let her out of the house only if it was to meet me. Her mother thought I was "decent". Well, I am "decent", but yeah, we've had those moments.

And then I've had friends who'll just drop by before/after they meet their respective boyfriends and wait for someone from home to pick them up from my house like they'd been there all along.

I'd never do something like that, but, meh.

I think the tone is secondary, I think we judge everyone, and we know who is worth the help.

I don't know how, whether I'm doing the right things for the wrong reasons or the wrong things for the right reasons or the right things for the right reasons, I always end up being the asshole. :(

Rada said...

But then, not all friends are equal, cyn? Some are, paraphrasing George Orwell, more equal than others?

We tend to go the extra mile for our close friends - those friendships which have a "rock-solid" foundation. It is the "fair weather friends" that get our goat!

Ayushi said...

Friendship is a give and take relationship, mutual faith and inspiration and very much conditional.
You cannot call it friendship when any of them are missing. According to me, none of them were there at all b/w T and you. So naturally,you did not feel like taking pains for this lady(could have thrown false light upon you infront of others,which she most probably did).

There is an interest of self in pretty much everything that we do, and there is always tit for tat in the system(meaning when you act in a particular way, you add to one more person being that way and therefore, what you give will most probably be returned), but mutual faith(as in friendship) reassures this give and take. But I still feel there was no friendly faith at all.
However, I think you should have refused to help that 'friend'.
You can help others, but not at the cost of either your safety or your present interests.

Its not selfishness that we must fear, but must always guard our own interests clearly.

lol just some free ki advice thi :P
Came in through Vaudevillian's blog :P

manuscrypts said...

we all have our selfish reasons for making and continuing relationships... some emotional, some materialistic, but a selfish purpose nevertheless, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.... ( http://www.manuscrypts.com/?p=401 )

Arunima said...

you've been asking a lot of questions in your posts lately.

Thanatos said...

Hmm, such friends would anger me. A lot. To the point of them not being my friends anymore.

sra said...

Happy New Year, Cynic!

Cynic in Wonderland said...

sra - yes its that taking for granted which grates i suppose. i dont mind beingtaken for granted- but you need to have built up that equity with me first. Long comments are always fantastic btw.

nandini - professionally i started out by being a doormat but somewhere i improved a bit. now I have stopped doing other peoples work ( tho i still havent stopped agonizing over it). seven in the morning sucks. did they deserve it at least?

thunderskies - pls to come more often!

vaudeville: yup its a self obsessed universe or myopia - or something!

million different people - yes, you are probabaly right - one senses these fair weather types. and the point is, one is always left feeling as if one is in the wrong. that part sucks.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

rada - its when the fair weather friends starting acting as if they are the rock solid one and demanding stuff in that manner - thats when things get annoying.

ayushi - so much for the altruistic nature of friendship eh?

manu - hmm. thats probabaly the reason one has those 'tests' which one does to vet relationships.those mental exams which people need to pass before being allowed into the inner circle as it were.

arunima - mrs. doubtfire. thats me.

Thanatos: well progress has happened. told the new feller to take it up and shove it where it hurts in not so many words. i think i might be one friend less in the universal scheme of things. ah well.

Pinku said...


first of all, glad you are not a doormat anymore....

secondly there are people like that everywhere, shrug them off, they are not worth the effort or evn the slight guilt you feel in saying 'no' to someone.

thirdly...dont even think that i will not ask you to find time to meet me if I ever visit ur city or expect you too drop into my home/office if you visit mine.


Trauma Queen said...

yes u do rant a lot

but ur sidebars r MOST fun :)

i know someone else who experienced sumthing like this - i sppose if u were doormat in school they continue to take you for granted

if i were you i would have not replied to airport the mails - just ignored it.....