After a long, long time I really enjoyed Holi. Because it was in the company of old and dear friends.
At 18, you take the presence of friends in your life as granted. By 25, you no longer have that luxury. Because, you can no longer make new ones.
I think friendship is based on two vital parameters: history and chemistry.
History is essentially shared memories and experiences. History is born out of people hanging out together - without any particular goal or purpose.
This happens most easily at school and college, an important and impressionable portion of our lives when we share a common journey. A journey which necessarily involves spending a great deal of time together.
Attending classes, studying together for exams, sharing lunch dabbas. Even the very simple routine of taking the same bus everyday.
And though one individual may be the class topper and the other only interested in sports, these kind of differences don't really matter. X and Y can still be on the same wavelength, as the closest of friends.
This is what's called 'chemistry' and undoubtedly it's something we instinctively know from an early age.
My 5 year old daughter has a 'best friend' in her kindergarten class. Many are the days when she calls me at work to bawl about how Krittika Warrier has pulled her hair today. The next day it's completely forgotten - the two are inseparable.
Many minds, many kinds
Ideally, a friendship has both history and chemistry. These are your closest, dearest friends.
In my case they are 'colony friends' - the girls I grew up with. We spent two decades together on the same campus where our dads worked. And although we are far apart now (me in India, most of them in the US) we can still pick up from where we left off. Anytime.
But even history alone can make for a good friendship. People you didn't really get to know that well can re enter your life on the basis of a shared experience.
This is most true if you've attended a residential college or lived in a hostel of some sort. While on campus you generally make a few close friends - and tons of acquaintances. With the passage of time, a few of those acquaintances too are transformed into enduring friendships.
This happens because at some point later in life your paths collide - and you find there is some chemistry after all. Or a shared need. The shared experience acts as a comfort zone, which is the one element of friendship that's very hard to build as you grow older.
Comfort zones take time to evolve and time is the one single most scarce commodity in the modern yuppie's lifestyle.
Time kahaan hai?
So even though you may find you have a chemistry with someone you meet at a party, or in the course of work, the chances of you being able to keep in touch with that person are rather low. It can happen - if both sides make the effort - but that's often the crux of the problem.
Isn't friendship supposed to be effortless, natural? If you have to work at it - just like every other goddamn thing - is there any point?
Besides, the idea of spending time aimlessly with another human being appears to be a waste.
So you tend to make 'buddies' with whom you can share a specific activity - say tennis or golf, or hitting bars.
Or, you make new professional contacts. People you've worked with in the past usually fall in this category. Some people actively 'network' - at industry seminars, at alumni reunions and even websites like ryze.com.
The Techno Touch
Earlier, maintaining a professional contact involved the effort of sending out New Year and Diwali cards. Now, modern technology - email, sms and most of all yahoogroups make the job much simpler.
In fact technology has created a tangible difference - with respect to friendship in general - between those under 25 and those over it.
The 'history + chemistry' or extremely close friendships are necessarily limited - and that will remain true of both groups.
But young people today are going to have - throughout their lives - a larger base of historical friends ie school, college, first job chums. That's because they never 'lose touch'. One hotmail or yahoo id is all it takes to keep track of a person throughout his many changes of job/ spouse/ continents.
Secondly, the 'always-on' generation can and will find 'chemistry' online. Not sexual chemistry, just the general 'we-vibe-together' feeling that's so crucial to any friendship.
While you may not 'spend time' together in the physical world, chatting every night on msn is a good substitute. As is being able to peek into someone's head via their blog :)
Bottomline: You continue meeting lots of interesting and not-so-interesting people as you journey through life. But 'true friends' are a rare and precious commodity. Hang on to those you have!
And if you've been neglecting your friendships do call up to say "I've been thinking about you". Today!