Watching small children greet their friends is a joy. When my younger daughter and her very dear playmate spot each other in the park they rush to each other, delight writ large on their faces. Heartfelt compliments are exchanged spontaneously( Teri skirt toh badi achhi hai! Arre wah, new hair-band!) before they get down to business–playing imaginative games that involve a lot of jumping, running and hopping, at times taking a break to observe a butterfly or a dog. Occasionally the games culminate in a tearful fight, with both bawling parties hurling accusations at each other before going back home in a huff. All is forgotten the next day, though. If you cannot resist the sly temptation of reminding them of their altercation yesterday, they just smile sheepishly–and then get lost in their own special world of curious make-believe.
My older daughter, on the other hand, is at the stage when friendship begins to acquire a new form and meaning. There are nascent ego-clashes and an inclination to give any offending friend ‘silent treatment’ for a while. Forgiveness is no longer so easy to seek or grant. Peer-pressure is formidable. But children her age are also a lot more attached emotionally than before and express their affection through a wider array of thoughtful gestures. It is the beginning of the phase when friends begin to mean the world–the age of ‘golden friendships’, if you will! It is also the age when you learn to be more discerning in your choice of friends–to make a conscious effort to look out for your ‘type’.
Some of these pre-teens/early teens friendships will endure well into adulthood if given half a chance–well, almost. I am still very much in touch with two such friends despite not having met them in person for over a decade–though I suppose we are not quite as close as we once were. Physical distance has a way of dampening the fervour of most relationships–friendship is no exception. There is only so much you can communicate over the phone or through chatting over the internet.
By the time we’re adults, we have a fair understanding of just what we seek in a friendship and a more developed intuitive sense which tells you where you could get it. I find it fascinating how in any social set-up, we seem to gravitate instinctively towards ‘our’ type of people!! Some level of intellectual equality becomes more important than it was before. Most people also learn to be cautious and invest selectively in friendships.
Adult friendships are, of course, different. To begin with, there are time-constraints. There are a thousand things demanding your attention at any given time and naturally one is unable to really take the time to nurture a friendship the way one did/ could earlier. Also, moving on is a lot easier in case of a falling out or a drifting apart. Be that as it might, the essence of friendship remains the same–someone who you can really talk to, someone who is able to listen without judging, someone who shares at least a few of your interests, someone you enjoy being with just shooting the breeze– is a friend, no matter what your age.