What is friendship?

Amal Chatterjee
8 min readApr 9, 2018

Synopsis : We all want to know what is friendship and how to get friends and keep them. I share in this blog what you need to do to get friends and keep them. It is not a secret.We can all try and become friend to someone only if we know how.

What is friendship?

Source : Google photo

One day I ventured out to see the huts of farmers who lived behind our school. It was a Sunday so the school was eerily empty and quiet so being curious about who lived behind our school, I came upon a few children of my age who played near their farm house and were happily surprised to see me. So I joined them and played with them, learned their names and told them mine and had a pretty good time while their parents smiled and looked on. I think I was about seven years old. These children and I never felt a class distinction for a moment and formed a bond.

When the time came for me to go home, all the kids some boys and some girls came with me to the road to say goodbye to me and looked on with hope and love in their eyes and urged me to return soon to play with them again. I too must have felt a pang in leaving them but soon I was back to my world of middle class and alas, I never went back there for one reason or other but after all these years I still remember their tearful but loving and hopeful eyes although I have forgotten their names.

Children playing together form a bond and out of this bond can come a lifelong friendship. At that age we did not worry about our skin color, our middle class or poor parents, our clothes and our material possessions that separated us later because the basis of friendship at that age was our complete innocence.

There was a sheesham tree near our house where as kids we played and used to swing that was an attraction to other kids as well. One of them was a girl of about 9 or 10 who was my neighbor. I will call her Munni. There was another whom I will call Priya. We pushed the swing for each other and had a good time but this too did not last as we were all growing up and into separate ways of life. Munni and Priya would later get married and move to other parts of the country while I left the country for good and settled somewhere else in the world. But the memory of those playful days remain vivid and fresh.

During one of my visits to India, I was surprised to see Munni again who came to see me .We both happened to be visiting our homes so it was a chance meeting. Her eyes still sparkled reminiscing about the days when we were children and played on the swing. That beautiful tree has been cut down but I can still imagine it being there and we swinging and clapping our hands.

The years had taken their toll on us. I was in my sixties just like Munni but the memory of our younger days made the years vanish. She had trouble hearing because she was deaf in one ear and had a hearing aid but she came to see me because she felt that we had formed a bond during our precious childhood.

Priya too was gone and I never saw her again although once I was able to call her on the phone and wished her health and happiness but she replied that her life was miserable and my good wishes sounded like a curse to her. I was shocked. It is still a mystery to me how life treats each of us in its own way.

But spending time together as children alone does not create the bond so there must be something else. I had a classmate from the 3rd grade to the 10th who was also my playmate for many years but we never became friends. I met him one day some 50 years later totally by chance and eagerly asked him how has he been ,what has he been doing all these years to which he replied perfunctorily, looked at his watch and said he had another appointment to go to . Never did he ask about what I was doing and where in the world I lived.

We all go through life and have similar experiences. We get to know many people during our school and college days but rarely do they become friends. If friendship is gained due to shared experiences then we all would have many friends but that is not the case so what creates the bond in the first place and some become lifelong friends and others remain aloof?

It is usually found outside the family. None of my siblings were my friends because they all gave more importance to their own interests first .The age difference did not help either so I remained the errand boy for them and nothing else. For the friendship to develop, one has to be generous in sharing everything he or she has with someone be it toys, time or stories. A friend is supposed to be totally unselfish and forgiving but this is not necessarily so between siblings.

Nantu was another childhood friend who one day showed up at our house when I was getting ready to leave India. I had no idea what had happened to him all these years because he had simply vanished but he showed up the day my passport arrived. He was surprised to know that I was going to Vietnam but was also very happy. Nantu had become an officer in the army so I too felt happy and reminisced about our days as children playing in the park but he left never to be seen again. Later I heard that he took his life for some reason.

So people like Nantu, Munni or Priya come and go in our lives some leaving a nostalgic void while others leave no impression.

I think the basis of lasting friendship is found in our childhood for some but for others it may be much later in life. It all depends on what we share with whom and when and under what circumstances. In some countries there is a tradition of class reunion after many years when some join, take photos and exchange gossip. Within such group one can see smaller groups forming who feel no affinity for others outside their group and remain apart because they belonged to different sections of their class. So again the sharing and doing things together creates the bond but never true friendship.

In our system we do not have such class reunions so it is quite rare to run into someone many years later because people disperse all over the country.

Now a days one finds the concept of nuclear homes and communities more prevalent where people live in a community yet do not know their neighbors. It is each to himself where the focus of attention is on the nuclear family, their plans and their activities so the so called friends take a backseat in their scheme of things to do. People live in isolation and a lonely life which become acute when the kids grow up and leave home.

In vast suburbs where the middle class people live in many countries, one sees this phenomenon of isolation and self imposed aloofness because the layout of individual homes is not conducive to meeting others by chance so people tend to stay inside and watch TV. The smaller families mean lesser number of children who do not play with other children in the neighborhood like we used to. Our parents also knew each other and often came to visit over a cup of tea. This pattern of interactive community has vanished to most extent and has made people more aloof.

This has severe social consequences so I will mention a case here to show how important it is for us humans to remain socially active.

There is a case where a Korean American kid brought a gun to his college and abruptly opened fire on students and teachers killing scores of people .He wrote in his facebook that people ignored him just because of his ethnicity or looks and he felt isolated so took revenge. Perhaps if he was treated as a normal kid and invited to be a part of the teen society doing what the teens do, he would have felt less isolated and more useful. So social isolation brings in the worst feelings in people who then go on a shooting rampage and get killed in the process as the Korean kid did.

I have noticed this isolation here in the Philippines due to a totally different reason. Here they will ignore you if you are a foreigner but will stop and chat with your wife who is a native of the country because they feel a barrier due to the language problem. We have neighbors whom we have never seen in twenty years or so because of this self imposed isolation although some send their maids with a small gift during the Christmas so we also do the same.

This isolation does not promote friendship so no one misses them when they die or sell their house to move somewhere else because there never is a start of a friendship. It is like a seed that one must plant and nurture to let it grow into a beautiful tree one day. If the seed is never planted, there is no tree later on. The TV and soap opera does not fill the void most people feel so some join various religious groups just to feel that they belong somewhere.

So the fundamental reason why some friendships endure and others don’t is the idea of sharing and coming to the aid of someone in need. Someone has an accident and is wheel chair bound for the rest of his life. He needs a friend who visits him, talks to him and reads a book to him or does grocery for him. Often it is not money that matters but just the presence of someone who cares and calls and stops by to ask how are you doing.

This comes from empathy for others that is the start of friendship. If you don’t feel any empathy for others, there will never be any friendship. A true friendship means you never have to make an appointment to visit your friend. It means that you are always ready to come and help if it is needed without asking questions. It means never expecting any return because altruism has its own reward in terms of rich shared experience.

Note : My blogs and biography are also published at the links given below.


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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.