by Dr. Madhav Prabhu
Friendship Day is something that reminds us of the most beautiful relationships we ever had. When amongst friends you can be yourself, you don’t need to fake, you don’t need to act, and you don’t need to be embarrassed for what you are or shy to express your stupidest ideas. But there are times when friends do put us in a tight spot.
Have you ever been in a situation where you could be the odd man out? The feeling of being alone in the crowd of friends yet being the subject of the crowd, or feeling as if you were in an alien world, someplace you would never want to be.
Every person has moments to remember where his friends have put him in a tight spot and the experiences are ones we remember all our lives.
Some of the worst outcasts in a group of friends are people who don’t drink fermented grain and fruit juice something we loosely call alcohol, usually, these individuals rely on Coke or Thumbs Up for giving them entry into the elite company of those who can consume liquor. The reason for the choice of cola-colored drinks is because, when you have a glass in your hand it feels as if you may have developed a taste for the harder ones or sometimes even get away with saying that you have mixed it up.
Saying you don’t drink is embarrassing. Holding a fruit punch is even more embarrassing. There is always a friend who wants to offer you a drink, but that’s only if you are a virgin with alcohol because he wants to apparently baptize you to the religion of alcoholics. I can assure you that the love for you is over once you have converted and then you need to buy your own drink every single time.
There are also sermons on how to drink, which drink is good, how to savor the drink on your tongue before you gulp it, how to dilute it, and what diluents can be used. Then there is another friend out there ready to convince you that the drink is good for the heart to the point that you would think you will have a heart attack if you do not drink. Then again if you do attempt to try it out and be a little soft you are told you are with a lady’s drink and that men have separate drinks which they have to choose. Somehow I don’t understand what’s a gent’s drink and a lady’s drink, both give you a kick right, and once drunk where is the difference between a gentleman and a sweet lady? Somehow nobody trusts you if you don’t drink, the person who is drunk will always drive, he will never trust a person with normal sensorium to take him home, you have to sit and watch him ferry you to the edge of the two worlds with your heart in your mouth and sometimes wonder if it was better being drunk.
As if the drink is not enough a simpleton has to put up with food too, and if the poor guy is a vegetarian then all hell breaks loose. It starts from the discussion of where to go Ratnasheela or Vinayak savji, Ambica, Maratha or Bajirao, Barbeque Nation, Niyaz and all that, somewhere the vegetarian voice is lost like Manmohan Singh in Congress party, imagine if you say let’s go to Suruchi and have a gujju thali how many would still come around for the party.
We then have categories of friends, some hardcore who will eat anything but restrict their palates only for social sanctions, some only chicken, some only mutton, some eat only rice from biryani and gravy from curry but not the meat, some who don’t eat in a nonveg restaurant and some who need separate utensils for veg food. You enter the place you have smoke, flavor, and curry all over, all of it makes you feel so alien, why did I come here?
The only saving grace is the egg curry, this dish is one of the most controversial ever. Some believe it’s non-veg others say that since the eggs are not fertilized, they are nothing but vegetable proteins. It’s actually convenient, it’s a vegetable for the vegetarians and nonveg for the other group.
But here in our situation, it’s more of a compromise, first, it is your friends saying if not mutton at least eat egg, as if it’s out of sympathy for a malnourished pauper, and many times you do indulge in a way to say that I am also eating non-veg and I am fit for your company. There are requests here too like at least take some gravy, try one piece, and so on. You also get sermons on how animal proteins are important for the body and how meat had all the iron and vitamins in the world. Sometimes though you get lucky and your friends give you lots of sympathies, ayyo you are eating veg, order something more or perhaps paap you are eating veg please don’t contribute to the bill the rest of us will go Dutch, as if veg food is not food at all, as if there is no substance to it to deserve a bill.
There are picnics like Tillari, Jamboti, Pargad, Amboli etc etc where you have to carry your dal rice because your friends are going to cook chuli warcha mutton. But still, it’s worth going with your friends because their company makes every morsel that much tastier.
The perils of gentlemen don’t end here, we are scared even more when we are to perform the most ancient art form, the dance. Most of us have two left feet as they say and shaking the body is quite some effort, but friends being friends need to take you along. They expect you to be there on the dance floor and you feel like you are a log of wood, just when you are about to go away someone will pull you back exposing your stiffness more and more. Some can perform excellently but for us, we have to find other forms like snake dance, jump dance and parade dance, actually, all these are not dances but weird voluntary motor activities which at the peak of music cover up for your lack of agility.
Then there are few friends who will teach you to dance or rather attempt to do that, by the time you are completely convinced you cannot dance there is a beautiful girl on the floor and you can’t afford to leave, well what happens after that is what certifies we have evolved from monkeys because the dance forms soon start mimicking our ancestors. Not going on the floor is a spoilsport and you don’t dare do that. But on the dance floor, it’s almost an alien planet on which you do a moonwalk. Then there are dress codes too, you don’t do walts in jeans and disco in formals but somehow you are stuck with the opposite dress every time your friends decide to take you for a dance. But however alien you feel in such dances they are the only ones you remember in your life as memories of days with your friends
Recently I witnessed a fancy dress competition and the theme was freedom fighters, there were lines of Jhashi ki Rani’s, Kittur Chennama’s, Tilak’s, Gandhi’s and Nehru’s but one student and his parents read it wrong, and dressed their child as a British army officer, imagine what the child went through standing amongst hordes of freedom fighters, I can imagine why the British left India. I actually felt sorry for the guy he was quite well dressed though and I remembered one such instance when I faced a similar situation, I went to the beach in formal wear and leather shoes, and it was not only me the entire group of decent gentlemen friends, we had to quit the beach looking at the expressions of the semi-nude foreigners who had made it their home, the beach is not a place for well-dressed gentlemen it seems.
There must have been many such things you remember having done with your friends, memories which you can never forget, at that moment they would embarrass you just like your mother does when she thinks she is too cool to stay out of your friend’s group, but it’s all worth doing for the company of friends.