Friends don’t lead, or follow, but walk beside. Friendship is not a responsibility, nor an opportunity. The experience of friendship alters with age. Often, we go out of bounds with friends. Often, we are not afraid to take friends for granted. Often, we don't mind hurting their feelings. It requires an enormous amount of energy. Often the pain caused by a friend is beyond repair. Friend selection is driven by proximity, familiarity, and similarity. Self-disclosure, emotion matching, and empathy are important drives to maintain the ethos of friendship. We find it quite gratifying when we find that someone also thinks the way we think. It is not necessary to agree with a friend on every issue. Preferences and prejudices of the friend are part of the relationship. Differences among friends often lead to stronger bonds of friendship. Greater the fundamental difference between two persons is, the more difficult it is to establish a fully personal relationship between them, but also more worthwhile the relation will be if it can be established and maintained. Contradictions exist among friends. When a contradiction is forcibly dissolved, friendship becomes unreal. Rainer Maria Rilke believed, “Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow.” Friendship has an in-built paradox; one expects nothing out of it and also everything out of it. Perhaps friendship arose out of the concept of imaginary friends.

All major relationships are based on friendship. Friends challenge us, confuse us, and sometimes bother us. Friends are our mentors. Friends are our biggest support system. Friends keep our brains alive. Friends are our best bets at the time of crisis. Friends help us finding a purpose in life. The more we become ‘independent’, the more we need friends. A state of vulnerability brings one closer to friends. Friendship is our sense of belonging to something bigger than just ourselves.

Friendship is generally voluntary and lacks formal structure. Maintaining a long-distance friendship is possible. As we age, expectations among true friends don’t change much. Over time, circumstances change. You are no longer a student. You are now working, and you are now married. Your priorities have changed. You may not be in touch with your friend for a long time, but when you run over him/her after a long gap, enthusiasm returns, expectations return. You want to play with him/her, watch a film, and sing a song. The past becomes alive in the presence of a friend.

I am not sure what phase of life is best for forming the bonds of friendship. Perhaps any time is the right time. Perhaps at a young age, self-disclosures are easier. Perhaps self-discovery is easier when one is among friends. It is easier to be intimate with a friend. Security of friendship makes life easier to lead. Often, time devoted to friends decides the bonds of friendship. Among friends, we are freer. The continuation of friendship demands a will to maintain it. ‘Being there for you’ is a big solace. Some have many acquaintances but only a few friends. Deep friendship is a kind of deep investment. It is an asset. When they turn into liabilities they leave devastatingly deep scars.

Unlike deep friendships, virtual friendships are easier to make and break. ‘Shallow friendship’, of course, are made through the digital world, and are possible without knowing the other. One can be in touch without ‘touching’ the other. Adult friendship, some say, is a ‘polite’ friendship. Because of the weak bonds, one doesn’t like to be harsh with the other. You can maintain a long-distance friendship with your friends but not with your family. You have to be on the radar of the family to maintain a cordial relationship. Friendship requires different kinds of investments. The inputs are different, the outputs are different, the losses are different. It is not necessary to understand everything in a friendship. It is a relationship that is not chance. It is knowledge and effort. It is not a hobby. It is discipline and patience.

Happy friendship day!