What I attempt here is a reflection on my relationship with a friend, tracing the trajectory it took over time. It is something I have produced after lengthy consultation with the individual concerned. I could not have possibly reflected on my relationship with her without hearing her side of the story. The last couple of days I have given only to this. Why do I choose to write on my relationship with her? I don’t know. I think we connect intellectually, if not exactly emotionally.
As she rightfully states, to walk down the memory lane with a certain someone is complex because it does not ignite one single thought or emotion but many. For starters, there is still that desire in her of staying in touch and being friends with me and I must confess that I feel the same way. She says that there is no hurdle as such but probably a sense of awkwardness after the change of events or rather hearts. This change of events to which she refers was not always of our making. Hence, I sometimes feel she should see our relationship in isolation from those instances which seem to stem from sources external to our minds and hearts.
I usually come across as a shy and reserved person to many and she was not an exception in this regard. However, she made explicit to me her fascination with my introversion. She had heard praise of my so called knowledge and critical thinking from sources that were clearly way too generous; and states that I actually lived up to that during our conversations. It’s always difficult for me to react when I hear something like this. I have never been good at gracefully accepting praise. It somewhat embarrasses me. For one I have always felt I am seriously under-read. On this account she scores more than me. One reason for my affinity towards her was perhaps her romance with books.
While she is generous in praise, I must confess I have been a miser on that count. A real miser. She has explicitly stated the impact of this trait of mine on her life. And it isn’t all positive. In the days I started to know her, she used to breathe feminism in the routinely aggressive manner typical of contemporary times. In the world I inhabit, it is way too easy and often even convenient for a woman, of her class status, to get swayed by feminism, at least in talk if not actual practice. I have had innumerable discussions on feminism with her which she says made her uncomfortable. What she doesn’t realise is that in the process I too was changing and learning, although I am a bit arrogant to accept it. I was saved from the task of going through books with titles like ‘thinking/ seeing like a feminist’ due to my discussions with passionate feminists like her. However, what differentiated her from other feminists with whom I locked horns, was that she was open enough to accept when occasionally I was right and never tried to use my gender against me which made it a joyride. She never saw my critique of feminism as a defence of patriarchy. At the same time she was strong enough to hold her grounds which I liked even more.
These debates provided the base for our relationship. She has stated that what brought her closer to me was my ability to challenge her perspective and provide her with another. However, that clearly wasn’t all. We were a source of emotional support for each other. When her parents got divorced she shared her mind with me. I tried to reach her as much as I could, although on this count I can say she fared better than I did. However, we never saw anything between us as exhibiting the characteristics of what is referred to as affective labour. It was not a thing that we felt we ‘did’. It was more a thing that happened. The connections were not drawn but were rather made unconsciously. What was un-doubtful between us was however the element of trust. But with a mind like mine in play, the relationship couldn’t be all rosy.
I was often too rigid to accept her view points. I challenged her regularly and somehow forgot that as a friend I was sometimes supposed to comfort her. She has told me that with me around, a person will never know his/her worth, or at least she never knew hers. From being someone who had a confident personality, I made her question even the good things she possessed. Why did I do that? I don’t know. Did I have her best interests in mind? Yes I did. The fall in confidence was a latent function.
Over time, I started really liking her which one day I made explicit. This revelation of me having a crush on her somewhat shocked her. She perhaps saw my constant critical attitude as exhibiting a lack of interest in her. But for me, critique has always been a way of love. It was our daily debates during a rough phase in her life that she says made her realize what kind of a person she wanted to be with. Incidentally that person wasn’t me. I wish it was otherwise. She wanted to be challenged but not at the cost of comfort. She did not want to be criticized on a day she was already feeling low. I never considered that there are things that are sometimes supposed to be ‘felt’ and not just thought. My inclination towards logic side-lined the emotional quotient.
On her part, she saw me and my ex-girlfriend to be a mismatch. Today I agree. Impulse never understands the boundary of logic. Probably, she and I failed to draw a line or were too naive, but it was difficult for someone like her who functioned in accordance with her principles to bear the thought of being the third wheel in my relationship with my ex. I think we handled at least our friendship well but my logic failed to get through to my ex. When the unfortunate time came to pick sides, she ignored the norms of friendship and sided with me. Her closest friend (my ex) blamed her for getting too ‘involved’ with me, something that pulled them away from each other.
She said to me that she was so blinded by my ‘maturity’ and ‘seriousness’ that, at a time, she thought I couldn’t be wrong at all. Until of course she faced those daily debates and criticism. I had almost assumed the role of an elderly figure to her who would always try to guide her towards the right direction and who would hopefully never go wrong himself. As unrealistic and naive as it sounds, she says that it was true; until once again, I forced her to look beyond my positives by constantly (as she saw it) demeaning her.
One day she was sitting at the Sahitya Kala Academy, reading a play and texting me. It was that day when I frankly told her that I liked her. She denied any kind of feelings towards me. And I don’t know why, to my regret, I ended up asking if she was into girls. The fact that such a question came from me made her feel disgusted, and rightfully so. She thought too highly of me to expect such a question and in her head she even refused to give me the benefit of doubt. Why did I ask that question? A possible answer can be male ego. It can be logically inferred that I thought too much of myself. And yet, all I can do is genuinely deny that. She would be the last person with whom I would let my ego get the better of me. A discussion on sexuality had been on the cards since some time, but at that emotionally charged moment, I let the question slip, at the wrong time. It remains a scar in our relationship although today, perhaps, she understands better.
What is my relationship with her today? She says she sees me in her past and not her present. I like the fact that she does not try to make me believe otherwise. We still have discussions. The last one we had was a few months ago, when she was in Andhra Pradesh writing a story on some villages there. Incidentally during that discussion she expressed surprise when I had a few good things to say about what she was doing. She was clearly expecting brutal critique. I have changed over time; but she has not mapped it fully. Distance has played a part in it. But it’s not a bitter distance. It is forever there to be bridged in times of need. Like she agreed to help me write this essay at such short notice and openly reflected back on our relationship frankly. This relationship may never go beyond this but will remain extremely worthwhile nevertheless. I hope she decides to love someone soon. Meanwhile, I have found love in someone else and I am loving it. A love that may have been hers but couldn’t be. Neither do I regret it, nor surely does she.
- Abir Misra
Abir is studying at the Delhi School of Economics where he pursues a career in academics and the sophrosyne state. A mad cinephile and a moody writer, he keenly observes politics and occasionally pens down naïve poetry on his blog. Follow him on Facebook, here.
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