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!