Why it is so difficult to retain the charm of an old friendship?

Overhearing a conversation is perceived to be not so classy. However, it’s not that bad either, when you just “happen” to listen to it, despite not having any intent of doing so. If it is incidental, then it is harmless. So did I think, as I sat on the promenade of marine drive, nearly 150 days after corona virus maniac hit us figuratively. Blame it on the scanty and disciplined crowd, which allowed waves of gossip to present itself unbidden, despite the heap of the 6 ft distance. I sat there for 4 straight hours with my light blue plain masks, gazing straight at the vastness of the sea. And there were roughly 4 to 5 different groups who sat roughly for an hour and discussed “life mantra’s discovered by them in this phase”. And all discussions revolved around one common theme- “CONVERSATIONS”. I felt that there was definitely a visceral connection that it harbored around the very particular theme with enough intensity and audibility to attract the attention of the only introvert sitting there close enough.

And those conversations about conversations were special. Hence, I decided to share some themes from those overhearing in my next few write ups. So here’s the first one.

It takes immense amount of effort to retain the charm of conversations between 2 friends as time pass by. So the first group probably had 2 very close friends who had met after a long time. One of them a guy, with dark blue spectacles and a deep red mask, began “WhatsApp is the trickiest of all. You remember how our friendship had started. We met in a common gathering and then the series of whatsapp chat began. Then there were those meetings and again whatsapp chat. Whatsapp was a key communication mode for our friendship to flourish and for obvious reasons. It provided ‘convenience’ of time, place and expressions. And I clearly remember, that we craved for each other’s messages. At least I did”.

The woman, with tied hair and a striped maroon mask, probably smiled. More than her masks, the shake of her head revealed her emotions. He continued, “But as I got promoted, I obviously got busier. Did you notice the ease with which I used the word ‘obviously’? However, that’s when the curve of our friendship plummeted. I met new people and new themes emerged. Nothing wrong. In-fact, we should always expand our network to provoke new thoughts. But slowly I got trapped into the concept of “newness”. New people, new friendship and new relationships took a fair share of my mind”.

She instantly responded: “Ya your small mind often got claustrophobic”

He laughed aloud with his red mask making a dent centrally and continued: “Yes, it did. The newness and the people allured me. The intrigue of their beliefs, desires and everything else superseded the normalcy in our routine discussion themes. And slowly I started to make you wait, keep you on side of the whatsapp chat window and your conversation starters were left unread for days and sometimes weeks. I lost touch. The newness, sometime dominated by the elation of having successful people on my chat windows and sometimes by pure fascination of knowing someone so different, erased the authenticity that our friendship stood for. All valid, maybe! But I lost the ‘urge’ to keep conversing with an old friend. To sum it up, at that moment “it didn’t feel like important to keep it going”.

By that time, cloud had gathered above the promenade and few drops of rain had descended down. Hearing the guy, made me remember the line “There is never a lack of time, it’s simply not being in the priority list”. I so wished that the rains stayed away because I was glued onto the conversation. I

The guy continued, unaffected by the slight drizzle, “But when I settled in the new role and the new life, one day I realized that my neglect was opportunist”. She instantly responded- “Are you once again being opportunist in claiming the self-realization?’ He laughed, and accepted, “This, the fact that we understood each other so clearly, made our friendship so special. Yes, you are right. Little did I self-realize! It was this pandemic, which made me reflect and honestly the ‘Google Photos’ which sprung up our 2017 picture and made me call you. And here we are.”.

There was silence for some time. The waves had cut open a bottle of ink on the shore and emerald blue currents stippled the water. She broke the silence, “Ego, my ego, prevented me from just picking up the phone and calling you. It’s so complex to be a human. Desires, Ambitions, expectations- it’s the game of perceptions. And I too, like all of us, fell into that trap. I could have easily called you- once, twice, thrice, maybe till the time your choice would have become evident. It was not like you never responded to my whatsapp messages. You did, but of course at a much reduced frequency. And those responses were answers. Not conversations. But neither did I attempt to keep it going. I forged a story for my mind to believe and ego to soothe- that you must have got busy and found new friends and new reasons not to stay in touch. It subconsciously cajoled my ego. The thing that I missed, was making an attempt to keep our friendship going. And it was never supposed to be measured by ‘the number of calls made or the number of messages sent’. It never had to be or should be measured through a metric. Never! But my ego made it measure that way. And I assumed it to be going down. But again perceptions often drive reality and in our case, unfortunately, it did. Both of us got swayed and consumed by our own reasons. Maybe our friendship never actually got weakened. Yes, it is difficult to retain the charm of conversations in a friendship as time passes, and we often find excuses of ‘new-ness’, ‘busy-ness’, ‘distract-ness’ and many other ‘ness to justify the “loss of perceived charm’. But we forget that at the end of the day, it is just ‘one conversation’ away. Yes, just ‘one’. After all, there was a reason that our friendship was and is so special. It never needed a humongous effort but just an honest conversation, devoid of any perceptions and egos.”

She smiled, and instinctively looked around and said, “There is no-one serving ‘tea’ here today. It seems so vacant”. He responded back, “Yes they are crippled by the egoistic virus of 2020”.

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Adrit Mishra

When statistics & management insights transcends into philosophical, introspective & poetic ones