In India, the first Sunday of August has been designated as International Friendship Day to celebrate friendship across countries, cultures and communities. Some countries celebrate July 30, as Friendship Day.
While many days such like are being celebrated, what really comes to the fore is that we are being prodded to remind ourselves, about the value of people and things that matter in our lives.
If we look back 30-40 years, there was not much talk about celebrating Mother’s Day, Martyr’s Day, Earth Day etc. Perhaps the human race forgot the importance of relationships with fellow humans as well as with the environment in its various facets, so these days are being used to tickle our conscience.
Our scriptures document the importance of friendship. Lord Krishna, in return for a handful of puffed rice gifted his poor friend Sudama, a mansion full of comforts, wealth etc. Krishna acted as a guide and preceptor to his friend Arjun when he stood mentally shattered, looking at the humungous Kaurava army. This led to the enunciation of the Bhagwad Gita that has benefitted millions of people.
The friendship of Lord Rama with NishadRaj Guha and Sugreev are also examples set in stone. Lord Rama’s friendship with Sugreev led to the Vanara sena becoming Rama’s army while attacking Lanka and many got to serve in the mission of Lord Rama.
Modern day friendships are more often than not, based upon gaming, partying, clubbing, pranking, merry-making etc. Habits, whether good or bad, are usually developed in the company of friends. Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, “Tell me your company, I will tell you what you are. Never be in bad company.”
Some people wish to befriend only those who have position, power, wealth etc. These people are fair-weather friends or Barsaati- Daddu. (Frogs that come out during rain and disappear when it stops.) They boost our ego but when we need them, they disappear.
In the era of Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram etc. the number of friends runs into hundreds or thousands but are they for real? There are so many people who wish us ‘Happy Birthday’, on social media but they may not be our friends in the real sense. A friend is one who would stand up for you even behind your back.
A few years ago, I lost a dear friend to cancer. She was quite an achiever while she was alive and her husband would often share news clippings about her awards and recognition, with us on WhatsApp. He once shared that when she passed away, he had WhatsApped an obituary message for her prayer meet to many people. A few of them replied like this: “Wow! That’s amazing!” “She deserves it! So proud of her!” “You are a lucky man … she is quite a woman!” “Wonderful! Keep it up!” Can you imagine his pain while reading them? Obviously they had not even opened the message. A hazy shadow of her on the message, would have made them assume that this was about just another feather in her cap. Friends???
While social media is a necessary evil in present times, let us not forget that real friendships are outside of social media platforms. Friends build each other. They add bricks to your mansion. They don’t steal your bricks when you look the other way. If you have even one real friend, you are lucky.
Strangely the youngsters of today become cheer leaders for each other on social media but in real time they put each other down and leg-pulling sometimes stretches far beyond normal limits. This seems to be a part of pranking but it sometimes makes the other person lose self-esteem or become a nervous wreck.
We can’t choose our relatives but we can choose our friends. Friends add value to our lives, if well chosen! Choose well and cherish the bonds. Happy Friendship Day!
This piece has been published in HT on 06.08.2023.