Italy – You may have the universe if I can have Italy

I had heard of the quote “Italy is a dream, that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” Only after visiting the country did I actually realize the true meaning. I know I will dream about Italy for the rest of my life because it’s so hard not to fall in love with the lifestyle and the place that makes it who it is.  Italy is all about the Italians, food, wine and history. It is the one place that will make you feel very very young, because everything else is so old in comparison. We covered Rome, Vatican, The Amalfi coast (Capri, Ravello, Positano, Serrano), Florence (Pisa), Naples (Pompeii), Tuscany, Siena, Cesenatico and Venice. Every place was as different as the other in character and spirit. Rome and Vatican was all about history, Amalfi was about the coastline and blue waters, Florence was a world of museums and art, Tuscany was the lush green valleys, Cesenatico was the most happening place and Venice screamed romance!

I will talk about each of these places in detail in my subsequent blogs but here I am just giving readers a preview of Italy in general, a birds eye-view to call it so.

The people: Whatever you have heard about italians, is true! They are very good looking, fit, hot and happy people. I don’t think I saw many obese or bald people, and if I did see, they were probably tourists! The people were also extremely friendly and helpful. They seemed very relaxed and full of life. Most Italians are very well dressed and conscious of how they look. On the flip side, if you anger an Italian; just run for the covers!

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There was this one incident that happened during our trip that gave us a brief intro to that side of an Italian. It was late at night and we were in a taxi, driving back towards our hotel with a very friendly driver, who was giving us a verbal tour of Florence as we drove past the city. Suddenly, another car just cut him off and sped ahead. We were lucky that our driver acted quickly and averted scraping the other car. Nevertheless, our driver was no longer Mr. Congeniality! For the next 5-7 minutes we became part of a high speed car chase, which included an audio litany of the choicest Italian expletives and a visual of other screeching, honking cars as he tried to catch up with the driver who cut him off. Meanwhile, the kids were having a ball watching all this unfold in front of their eyes. Finally he was able to speed up in front of him, parks the car,  engages the brakes, and flies out of the car and walks up to the other drivers’  car. He asks him to roll his window down, gives him a good screaming and bangs on the hood and walks back to our car. He then profusely apologizes to us and asks us to give him less money for the inconvenience he caused us but that no one does that to him or his car! It was the most hilarious experience we had 🙂

Food & Drink: I understood food after going to Italy. I understood freshness. I understood the debate about small portions. I understood the importance of just enjoying what you work for; a good meal! In Italy they add work and life to food and wine, not the other way around. People seem to live to eat and they eat in a very relaxed manner. Drive thru eating must be an alien concept there. Every meal in Italy is a 2 to 3 hour affair. It’s slow and relaxing. It was very hard at first getting used to the slow pace of life in Italy. We would get very impatient when our food didn’t arrive in 15 minutes, but slowly we got the hang of it. We would just sit there sipping wine, eating bread and making conversations. The meals in Italy are recommended to be divided in 4 parts, the appetizers, first course, second course and desserts. The first course is some kind of pasta or pizza and the second part is some kind of meat or seafood.  The hot delicious, freshly made food would then arrive and you savor every bit of the mouth watering dish, as you wash it down with some delicious wine. The sauces they use are freshly made and cooked to perfection; just enough that you can taste every ingredient in it. Most importantly, we learned that an Italian kitchen carries very few spices and they rely mostly on fresh herbs and vegetables to get the flavor into the food. Finally the last part of the meal is the ‘dolci’; the desserts. We ate a lot of tiramisu and gelato, and we have to say that every one of them was delicious and different.

Coming to drinks, Italy is all about wine, wine and more wine. People drink from mid day to the end of the day. Food is paired with wine and wine is paired with food. Don’t be afraid to ask your waitress to suggest a good wine to go with your food. Do ask the price too before she uncorks because a good bottle of wine could cost anywhere from 40 dollars and up. The house wines are good and cheap, so take a chance and ask for a taste.

People don’t drink water in Italy. They just drink wine. So if you want water, you have to buy and you have to specify if you want still or sparkling. Asking for tap water at a restaurant will be frowned upon.

If you are outside, make sure you carry a bottle with you as there are drinking water fountains all over and the water is clean and tastes much better than the pricey bottled water.

Some tips:

  1. Once your food arrives and you try to enhance it with added salt, spice or cheese and it was not offered to you; just know that your chef will be offended.
  2. If it’s a restaurant that makes freshly made pasta, then know that your only options are spaghetti, ravioli, pappardelle, taglierini and rigatoni. If you ask for any other kind like penne, rotini, farfalle, etc then they will either say they don’t understand what you are saying or they will tell you they don’t serve packaged pasta.
  3. Scallops and scalops do not mean the same thing!
  4. Try the mussels in every restaurant. Each has a different flavor and they are all good.
  5. If you don’t understand a dish, google it before you order, so you atleast have an idea what you will be digging into.
  6. Try the Limoncello! It’s a must. Try to get your hands on some limoncello from Capri or Sorrento as they are considered to be the best. Better still, try to get some home-made limoncello for the true, crisp taste of Italy.
  7. If you want something spicy, ask for ‘Arrabiata sauce’. It’s the closest to spice that you will get in italy.

Shopping: Italy is fashion central and we all know that. It is known for its leather goods, glass factories and intricate lace work. Don’t be afraid to bargain, start from the half-way point and work your way up until you both agree on a price. If buying clothes, try them on before you buy them. Italian sizes are much smaller than regular USA sizes, so make sure they fit you right. I loved shopping in Rome. If you walk around the streets and get yourself into those little boutique shops, you might just get lucky and get some good deals. We bought some clothes (mostly good chiffon) in Rome and some leather goods in Florence. Most stores take credit cards and all street vendors take cash, so be prepared. I found some really good clothes at great prices at Balloon (Rome) and Zara (Florence).

The only things that could have made our trip better was the weather. Unfortunately, this was Europe’s worst summer and the heat during the day was unbearable. Some places were very crowded and there are long lines to visit the attractions, so book ahead of time as it will help you skip the lines and the crowd. There are many people trying to take advantage of your tourist status, so be careful and decide where you exactly want to go. Google maps is very helpful. Download the ‘Rick Stevens Europe’ app, his tours are very helpful and easy to listen to. Download it ahead of time and listen to them as you walk around the monuments or museums, it makes it all so much more interesting when you know the story behind what you are looking at.

Overall, it was a wonderful trip and I hope to revisit a few places leisurely and redo them at a slow pace. The quote below, sums it all up!

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STRANGER IN THE MIRROR

 

We passed each other at that twilight hour,

You seemed to know me and so did I,

But I walked away with lowered eyes,

Only to turn back and catch you looking at me,

Joy and beauty in my heart is all I see,

With you I reveal setting myself free,

 

You talk like me

You feel like me

You are my soul

You make me whole

You are that stranger in my mirror

 

Connecting over words and phrases

A fire deep inside that blazes

Separated by a world in between

Yet a love so obscene

Can I not love myself thus?

Cos I am the stranger and the stranger is me

 

Dear Zindagi: It’s not so complicated

This is not another movie review from me. Let’s just call it a review of my thoughts post watching a movie! The movie in focus here is the latest offering from Gowri Shinde; Dear Zindagi. I will not go into much details about the movie but I will sum it up by just saying that it forces you take some time and look at the youth today and somewhere you might end up connecting with your own youth. There are a few moments from the movie that sparked some discussion within me and my family. One of my kids loved the movie and the other didn’t. The spouse would have much preferred a song-dance-fight routine. Nevertheless, the ride back from the movie was not silent. There were questions flying around from everyone, spouse included and any movie that can spark an animated conversation, in my eyes is worth a thousand stars!

Some salient points from the movie that we were teased into discussing were as follows:

  1. Only 2% of the world is good looking and it’s important to have a good looking face to look at when you wake up. A friend and I were discussing the movie and we were arguing if that was a shallow thought. But the truth is that’s how the world functions. Looks are important. If you have the looks, the initial path is made easy, sustainability is completely a different ball game and that is where substance matters. But if you already have the looks, your first impression is a cake walk, the red carpet has already been rolled out. All you have to do is walk without tripping!
  2. If you do not hesitate to go to a doctor for a physical ailment, why hesitate when you have a mental ailment. This is something society has still not come to terms with. How easy it is to tell someone, I am going to see the doctor for a colonoscopy or a pap-smear but how often do we hear someone say, ‘I am going to see a doctor because I have anxiety and depression or anger management’. Nil. It is still considered a taboo topic. The truth is it’s a rough complicated world out there. People live in a nuclear world. We bond with ourselves. We keep others away. We carry many burdens and we have no time to share it with others. Result: Utter chaos in the mind! It needs help and it’s important to recognise that need and handle it accordingly.
  3. The inability to express our true feelings. The lack of expression. I am going cultural here. In the south asian culture, it is not considered prudent to express your feelings. Its an unsaid, untaught rule that you should keep your feelings in. Do not show your anger, even if you are burning inside. Do not laugh loud. It should be subtle and sweet. Do not hit anyone even if they deserved it. Do not…do not…do not lose control. End result: Botoxed faces! You learn not to share your true feelings. You fail to express your love, or anger or disgust in a timely manner until it’s too late and everything explodes!
  4. Why look to one person to fulfil all your needs. Really why? Let’s take our body for example, you eat carrots so you can see better, fibre to poop easy, okra to grow some brains, onions to keep the testosterone up (breath mints a must!), Spinach to keep the blood clean…so on and so forth. So when we use so many different foods to supplement our body needs, why do we look for all qualities in one person. Why burden him or her so much? They are not made to order, they are what they are even before you met them. Don’t try to change that. One person alone cannot be handsome (remember only 2%), be humorous, be sensitive, be courageous, be an intellectual, be polished, be rich and so on. Manage your expectations. The result will be a fairly simplified life.
  5. All tough paths are not always the right paths. Somehow we are trained to think that life is supposed to be difficult. The easy paths are wrong and the difficult ones are right. Not at all. Not everyone wants to swim across the dead sea with salt stinging their bodies to make a point. Some just sit behind their laptop, write a blog (like me!) and feel satisfied they did their piece for the world. I am totally using Dr. Khan’s words here because I can’t say it any better than him. Sometimes it’s not necessary to chose the difficult path, especially when you are not ready. Why set yourself up for failure. Take the easy path, grow, learn, toughen-up and then take the tough path. You will have a better chance at success.

These are some of the churning thoughts that we were discussing. In talking with the kids, I told them an important takeaway for life. The importance of self-awareness and communication. You can easily tell when your head hurts but you need self-awareness to realize your heart hurts. The reasons can be many and not important right now but accepting and respecting those feelings is extremely important. Do not ignore it or push it away. Treat it as you would a physical pain. Once you recognize it, the most important final step is communication. Yes, talk about it! Choose your person but choose someone who will make you feel better not worse. Someone who can tell you there is an issue without judging you. And when you find that person amongst the other 98%, treasure them. They are hard to come by. In fact statistics says that, in a lifetime you will only meet one or two (if you are extremely lucky) such people. Just learn to communicate your thoughts and feelings, clearly and in a timely manner. Not just to that friend but also to the person who is the cause of those feelings. This will help mitigate any future arising issues and nip the molehill from becoming a mountain.

Yes, life is not easy. But there is no need to complicate it any more than it already is. I have a favorite quote, ‘You live life only once and if you live it right, once is more than enough’. So celebrate what you have, exhale, just smile and say hello to life itself.

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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: A tale of unrequited love

Love. It is the most written about topic. It is what most movies are made about, especially Indian movies. A love that wins and a love that fails. Stories depict characters falling in love, going through hurdles and either surviving to tell the story or not so someone else can tell the story. But that is not the reality that most people experience. Most people fall in love, feel that tug in their heart but don’t confess to it. They love silently, from a distance. Most people hold it in their heart forever and just move on. Then there are another set of people who manage to confess their love but turns out it’s one-sided. The latter two is what really happens in the world out there.

‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ celebrates this one-sided love. The theme of the story is unrequited love and its power. Millions of common people will identify with it because that’s what love is about; broken promises, broken hearts, weaknesses, anger, madness and a lot of solitude. If you ever fell in love, even if it was brief, you are bound to identify with atleast one of the characters in the movie. The nostalgia and melancholy will set in and tug at your own heart until all those memories come flooding back.

The movie shows you the power of loving alone. Shows you that you are not alone as long as you have your love with you and not really needing the person to be with you. If you are looking for a feel good movie, this is not for you. This is a movie that shows what mature love looks like. Karan Johar has come out of his comfort zone of candy floss pink romances and embraced a more realistic greyed aspect of love. He manages not to succumb to dictated plot lines of love that wins. Instead his movie celebrates love failing again and again.

The lead pair, Anushka and Ranbir have done a fabulous job. They have truly matured in their acting. Anushka looks beautiful and Ranbir has managed to give a subdued but powerful performance without the histrionics of Ved in ‘Tamasha’. Aishwarya as usual looks artificial and lacks the depth and passion the other actors are able to portray, especially relevant because her role is all about passion and she fails to scorch the screen. Fawad has a brief role but leaves an impact.

What kills the movie is the pace. Although important, Karan takes a long time to develop the characters and you are left waiting for the story to begin until you realize there is none. You have to view it just as pages from an incomplete diary. The last fifteen minutes of the movie is also a spoiler. Karan could have done without that bit. He stepped away from realism and ended it on a melodramatic twist that was just not needed.

The music and dialogues are definitely a plus. Channa mereya is a personal favorite, along with Bulleya and the Break-up song. Being a lyricist the title song is the best with lyrics so profound that every line speaks volumes. One such being ‘Mujhe aasmati hai teri kami’.

Few other dialogues from the movie worth thinking about are:

Boyfriends na filmon ki tarah hote hai … kuch time pass toh kuch blockbusters

Rishtey ke alava aur bhi rishtey hote hai

Love teda hai … lekin us tede love mein bhi sukoon paana sirf kuch logon ko aata hai

Pyar mein junoon hai par dosti mein sukoon hai

Kisi ne kabhi aapko suddenly chaata mara hai … phaat … us chaante ko ishq kehte hai … aur woh chaanta aur zor se padta hai jab koi teesra aa jaata hai

Main kisi ki zaroorat nahi … khwaish banna chahti hoon

Aasaan hai kya aisi mohabbat karna … jiske badle mohabbat na mile

Mohabbat karna hamare bas mein nahi hai … us mohabbat se door chale jaana … woh hamare bas mein hai

Ek tarfa pyar ki taqat hi kuch aur hoti hai … auron ke rishton ki tarah yeh do logon mein nahi bat’ti … sirf mera haq hai ispe

Finally, the movie leaves you with the question, would you sacrifice the peace of friendship for the madness of love? Love can be tough. Can you handle it?

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My Journey through Life —with love {Part-5: Falling in love}

Coming to the most complex of human relationships which no human has been able to figure out is the complex relationship between a male and a female; a state of being in love.

What makes this relationship complex? Why do people crave for it yet not know how to get it?  These are few questions that come to mind when talking about it. This is one relationship, which is very very malleable, brittle and volatile and has indefinite boundaries. Earlier in previous posts, I wrote about the definition of love and the many ways it could be described. Well, this is that relationship in which you would find all those flavors and that is what makes it so complex.  Every relationship is different and it is hard to put it all in one mould.

Even though this is known to be one of the most complex of relationships, it is also the most coveted. Everyone searches for it, wants to experience it and dreams of finding  love some day. There are many terms associated with this experience, such as true love, soulmates, unconditional love, passion, commitment, and so on.,  Considering it is so difficult to find, when found, it is lost pretty easily too. If just finding a person to love is not difficult enough, staying in love is an equally daunting task. It has been rightly said that, love is not for the faint hearted. Love needs courage.

Many ‘love stories’ end even before it begins because some people lack the courage to step up and tell the other that they love them. The fear of rejection is so much more stronger than the fact that they are in love. Is acceptance so important? What happens if that love is rejected? Do they just move on to another? or do they never love again? Let me share a story about two people.

The story began while they were studying in college. The boy fell in love with the girl the moment he saw her. He stayed far and watched her everyday, fiercely protecting her without her knowledge from any trouble. She was completely oblivious to his existence, let alone his feelings. A couple of years later, some friends hinted to her about his feelings which she immediately disregarded.  Towards the end of their college career, the boy approached the girl and earnestly told her about his feelings. He expressed his wishes to meet her parents and propose in the right manner. She said she was not interested as she did not know him. She politely declined and went away. After college they went their separate ways. Many many years later, she found out that after she rejected his proposal, he went to his parents and said he can never love another again so for their sake he will marry any girl they choose. And he did. When asked about it he apparently said, “Just because she said no, I can’t stop loving her. I loved her everyday for four years. My love was not conditional to her acceptance.”

Is this true love? Or is it love only when both are completely invested in it?

Lets move on to the scenario where the boy and girl are equally interested and find in each other what they had been looking for. Once the getting to know you phase is over, they start being themselves. This is the crucial phase because now they are revealing their true personalities. The lucky few seal their love in this stage because they realize that they are definitely meant for each other. For the rest, this is the beginning of a long agonizing period of arguments, distrust, setting rules and conditions, which ultimately destroys it completely. This tornado leaves behind broken hearts, wounded egos and unforgettable experiences. They try hard to mend it and the harder they try, the deeper the cracks run. Some do manage to survive, they pick up the pieces and set it straight again. For many its a fight within themselves to accept the failure.

How does it begin to go wrong?

As one gets closer in a relationship the demands increase, they want a lot of attention, they become very possessive and they try to control what the other person does, they even go as far as telling the other person what they should like or dislike, it other words some relationships turn slowly into a low level dictatorship. All this is suffocating and they start throwing temper tantrums. This is a person who had silently tried to fight being changed and then suddenly changes so much that he/she becomes unrecognizable to his or her own self.

They revolt. Then what?

The people who swear by the word freedom, and say that they would give their partners a lot of respect and freedom are the ones who curtail and suffocate the other. They become too demanding and somewhere here they have crossed the line and have moved over from love to devotion. They start demanding devotion. Many people start confusing extreme love to possessiveness. Possessiveness is love with lots of restrictions and demands. It is the need to know every minute what that person is up to. A need to be told everything that goes on in their life; it is insecurities at its worst. It is not giving the person their freedom or respect. It is expecting the person to be at their beck and call. Possessiveness is letting the other person think for you and take that as the guidelines for you to run your life by. Giving into possessiveness is killing ones self-respect and identity. These relationships can’t last long.

Love whose foundation is based on pity, sacrifice, materialistic matters and possessiveness will crumble. At some point it breaks free from all the restraints.

Then what is love?

So long we just spoke about the darker side of love but there is the rosy side too. Love that has been made immortal in countless movies, ballads or a dashing couple from Mills & Boon. It can be rewarding and fulfilling. It can be best described as the next stage of a very good friendship. When people take a step further from being very good friends it turns into love. When there is a physical aspect involved in friendship it becomes love. When you feel happiness is in just being with the person, its love. When you feel happy just because the other is happy then that’s love. When you can feel what the other person is feeling and you can understand them completely then that is love. When in love you are able to look beyond their mistakes and give them a second chance. You are able to live in today, for today and not think of tomorrow.  Everything around you looks beautiful, and you feel an inner peace inside you that leaves you smiling even when you are alone, when you feel very confident about yourself, when that special someone adds to your aura, when that person makes you a better person and becomes an important part of your life, when you want to share every joy every sorrow, every success every failure with that person, when you want to involve that person in your future, when you feel that this is the person you want to grow old with then that is LOVE. Love is being secure in your surroundings. Love is being sure of what you are and about your partner. Love just brings out the best in you and makes you a better person.

In my first post, I shared the definition of love which said that love is ‘something that is described as a liking for pleasure without compensation, gratuitously’ which means that you just give in love  and do not expect anything in return.  Yet we say that love satisfies some need in the other person. Two conflicting statements, but what it really means is that the need that is being satisfied is a subconscious need. You don’t go around looking for someone to satisfy you, be it, intellectually, physically, mentally, emotionally, artistically…. But when that happens then you do start liking that person because that person is making you happy and when you ask yourself why that person is making you happy the answer usually lies within you. There is something that you lacked, was a priority and defines who you are. That need is being fulfilled by this love.  That is your identity. That should give you an insight as to what you are by just looking at what is important to you.

One of my first experiences I remember about the male-female relationship was when I was still in my high school. I had this neighbor who apparently liked me very much and so to prove his point he just went ahead and put down his feelings for me in blood on paper and sent it to me! I was aghast that someone would hurt themselves just to make a point. I didn’t like him because my only thinking was that how can a person be capable of respecting somebody when you can’t respect yourself. That was my first realization about how people go out of their way to make a point and what infatuation is all about.

Unfortunately incidents like these became the main reason that I was misled on the meaning of love and a good relationship with anyone. I never believed in love and didn’t trust anyone too. I figured there is nothing like love and what the other person felt was plain attraction and infatuation. Most of the cases that was true too but even if there was a chance of one developing into a true love, I never gave it a chance and never let myself be drawn into it.

I realized that for some people devotion is an extension of love and for some love is an extension of friendship. Those people who experienced love and devotion had a much more romantic and a more theatrical relationship with lots of highs and lows, thrills and extreme feelings, but for those who found love as an extension to their long friendship, it was very quiet, romantic, calm, peaceful, something which was very much present but not something you spoke about everyday but knowing that it was there and just feeling it.

If I had loved what would I look for?

If I were honest with myself, I would say that I would want someone to love me with the same intensity that I would love him. I don’t believe in the single track-martyr kind of love. I need to be repaid for giving out my love. I need to know that my love is being acknowledged and is being reciprocated. Without that I am sure I wouldn’t last long. I feel like I have so much love, which is so intense that, I worry that I could suffocate someone with my love if I let go completely. I would definitely require security, affection, friendship and some amount of devotion too from him. I wouldn’t require him to be perfect in everyway but I would respect him for knowing his shortcomings. Also, somebody who can be a constructive critic and make me a better person. He would have to be someone I could respect for the person he is. Likewise, I would want him to respect me and also the people around him. Someone who can keep me safe and someone who can bring out the best in me.

So I had to get my experiences about love from various books and the people around me who fell in love. Some succeeded, many failed. Each one though had a unique story of its own. I look back at those years when I had a chance at love and where I stand today in my present and realize I did good. I feel complete, I feel loved and I have people around me to share my completeness with.

More about it in my next post!

To sum it all up:

  1. “What’s the difference?” I asked him. “Between the love of your life, and your soulmate?” “One is a choice, and one is not.” ― Tarryn Fisher, Mud Vein
  2. “There is no such thing as a soulmate…and who would want there to be? I don’t want half of a shared soul. I want my own damn soul.” Ely in Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List
  3. “Maybe our girlfriends are our soulmates and guys are just people to have fun with.” ― Candace Bushnell, Sex and the City
  4. “When someone loves you, the way they talk about you is different. You feel safe and comfortable.” ― Jess C. Scott, The Intern
  5. “I heard what you said. I’m not the silly romantic you think. I don’t want the heavens or the shooting stars. I don’t want gemstones or gold. I have those things already. I want…a steady hand. A kind soul. I want to fall asleep, and wake, knowing my heart is safe. I want to love, and be loved.” ― Shana Abe

 

My Journey through Life —with love {Part-4: Befriending love}

Befriending love

Next, we come to a complicated relationship. That’s the relationship between friends. Actually it’s a very simple relationship but tends to get complicated over time and people make it more complicated. It is also one of the most important relationships everyone goes through in their lifetime.

Friendship is important because by the time you realize about this relationship a person is grown up enough that the people around him or her can make an effect on their personality. The people that surround you are the people that will most likely define what you become. These are people who give their love, respect, friendship and trust to believe in you in every step and help you make the right decisions. It’s very true when people say show me your friends and I will tell you who you are. That is how important friends become in defining a person.

A person just chooses a person as a friend for what they are, something they like about the person and they tend to grow together and help each other in evolving as a better person. They are happy to just be together and are able to share everything about themselves with ease. These are friends who always look out for the well-being of the other and want the other to succeed always in life and share every milestone crossed with happiness.

Though it starts out in a very simple manner, very easy, no pressure, no rules it very soon becomes difficult sometimes. The one problem many face is the boundaries of this relationship, how far can it go, how many liberties you can take with your friend, what are the expectations etc etc., and these things tend to weigh the relationship down. More often than not other feelings creep in, jealousy, protectiveness, possessiveness etc., This is one emotion creating lots of problems in this relationship and also puts the relationship thru lots of stress and tests. Unlike other relationships so far discussed, one has to know the other person completely and trust is the most expensive gift one can receive or give to the other person. The foundation of the whole relationship stands on trust. Its very hard to get it back once you lose it in a person.

It is said love is like a violin, the music may stop now and then, but the strings remain forever. Similarly for friendship it is said that, friendship is like a china dish, once broken can be mended but the crack always remains. What it means is that love can be rekindled but the trust in a friendship is hard to find once you lose it. Feelings in a friendship are very deep rooted and every emotion here has taken its own time to develop.

As kids we really don’t know the intensity and gravity of feelings that goes into a friendship. Therefore the person, the kid hangs around with a lot becomes the ‘best friend’ but as adults we delve more into the persons likes and dislikes and we pick and choose our friends. Then you start sharing everything with the friend, every success, every disappointment, every idea, every little thing you do, in happiness and in sorrow friends are always together.

Every person who has a true friend knows how lucky they are to have the good fortune of having a good friend. These are the people who stick with us thru thick or thin, these are the people who do not judge us by what we have and what we do not have, these are the people who like us for what we are and have accepted us with all our shortcomings. These people do not try to change us but do look out for our benefit and good always. Now with so many good things going for this relationship, what goes wrong?

Its usually jealousy with a dash of possessiveness!

The relationship between friends is like a close knit family. People can’t get in very easily and once you get in you are not allowed to go out easily too. When a new person enters in then usually that person ends up putting a spoke in the wheel of a smooth running friendship.  For example: Say one of the friends is entering a new business and the other thinks it’s not a good idea and tries to talk him out of it. Sometimes a person might misunderstand it for standing in the way of the other person’s success. Another example is when one of the friends gets a new love interest then the protective instincts of the friend kicks in and when one tries to tell the other what’s right or wrong it’s not acceptable.

Usually when the friend has been protective in other circumstances their judgment is not questioned and is accepted but when the similar judgment is passed under the ‘love’ circumstances or about choosing your partner, its not accepted. The person being judged might be wrong sometimes too because they might be rushing to choose their partner and the ever loving, ever protective friend does not want their friend to get hurt. The person who is passing a judgment might sometimes be wrong because sometimes the friend feels threatened by the entry of a new person into their friend’s life. They are not sure if they can accept the time sharing between friends. The friendship feels threatened. This sometimes causes problems between friends.

But then again we come across those friendships that are so strong they withstand all tests and come out winners. These people might even say that if a friendship can get threatened simply by the entry of another person into their lives then that is not a true friendship at all.

Correct? Wrong.

A friendship is formed between humans and each human is as different as chalk and cheese from the other. And humans err. They have likes and dislikes. They are selfish. They are protective-possessive. And these things define the friendship so some may have gone through all these emotions to come out stronger. Whereas some may not have gone through all these emotions but just remained strong and untested.  This by no means can be called a battle lost and these people cannot be termed as weaklings. These people just did not have patience to explore all avenues, these people were just not confident enough to talk to the other friend about the problems or issues they have. They were just a bunch of unlucky people.

The depth of a friendship cannot be measured with the amount of time/years spent with the friend. People usually get confused and think that the more time they spend with a person the closer they are and they tend to get drawn into revealing themselves emotionally. They feel like since they have spent so much time with each other they have to reveal all their inner feelings. Another assumption people make is that they start thinking that the more they are together the more they have to reveal themselves to make it last, that’s not true; you don’t have to have a ‘tell all’ friend. It’s not a rule or necessary to tell them everything that happens to you. Also the notion that people believe in that there should be no secrets between friends is also wrong. Everybody has a right to live their lives, keep their secrets and if they say that you are not a true friend for hiding your feelings, then they are just trying to emotionally blackmail you to satisfy their curiosity.

The main reason for a friendship to last is RESPECT.

Everybody has to give the other person their due respect. One has to respect the other person’s wishes, privacy and individuality. That is what friendship is all about. And when this is achieved then that friendship is a bond that lasts forever.

I am not saying friends should always co-exist peacefully and should not have fights or arguments. Friendship is not always a walk through the park. There are lots of hurdles to be overcome, there will be lots of fights, debates and arguments but as long as each one respects the other person’s views and lets go of it when they have to then it doesn’t matter. If one can’t point out the mistakes in the friend and if one can’t respect the other person’s views then something is wrong in that relationship.

So we can say a friend is a person who makes you feel better, makes you a better person and puts in so much of his own goodness that together both become the best. If a person can get the best out of the other, if that person can make you laugh or cry, if that person can lead you from darkness unto light, if that person can satisfy some inner need in you however small or big then that person is a friend.

How happy am I with the kind of friends I have? I am very fortunate to have some very good friends but they are very few and I feel sad that I don’t have many more. I have often wondered why I didn’t have many friends.

One reason I don’t have many friends is that I never had a stand still life in a single place during my growing up years to form a close bond with anyone. My dad was in the kind of job that required him to move around from one place to another so we were constantly being uprooted from our bases and put into entirely new cultures and among new people. But even in this short period of time I was able to find some good friends. Some are friends I am not in touch with very frequently but they are my friends. I know that when I meet them I can connect with them and pick up the relationship from where I left it of. These are people I trust and respect and who in return trust and respect me.

Another pattern I have noticed in life is that in general men seem to have more friends than women. Why? Being a woman I questioned myself too as to why we women can’t have lot of friends. Speaking for myself I would like to say that maybe it’s because of the easy going nature of men and the insecure nature of a woman. Women by birth are very insecure and they constantly have a need to seek attention, security, respect etc from time to time. They tend not to seal a relationship by thinking that he or she is my friend so let me leave it at that, they try to keep it open by constantly having the need to be told that they are important to the other. This is a major drawback because a relationship needs to grow with time and if a person is still stuck at the basics of sealing or defining a relationship then it will never grow. It is bound to fall apart. It would require great patience and understanding from the other to convince them otherwise and who on earth has the patience to do it for a long time? Not many.

I have personally learnt a lot from my friends; each friend has only enriched me more and made me better than what I am. Each person has given me a lot to improve myself. I have always tried to take the good from them but sometimes I did take some things from some friends that would make me more rebellious or more defiant in my behavior. This mostly happened during my adolescent age wherein one gets so carried away with the possibilities around them and the freedom in their hands that one would end up doing things that they normally would not do but would get encouraged to do it in the company of their friends. But then like everything else you outgrow these too and they become just memories for you and your friends to talk about later on in life.

Do I feel I would have been a different person if not for the friends in my life? I would say, Yes. My friends have had a good influence over me. Over the years I have learnt from them and changed myself too. If one friend has taught me to be confident about myself, one has shown me how to voice out my feelings and to be stronger in what I believe in. One has made me realize that its ok to make mistakes as long as we do it only once and not repeat it again. Then there was the one who gave me lessons in human reproduction, telling me things you don’t learn in books. I also remember the friend who taught me how to dress properly and carry myself in public.  I got lessons in social etiquettes, and the importance of a good smile. So definitely everyone in my life has left their mark on me and they are reflected in everything I do and everything I am made out to be. Parents educate us only up to a certain point in our life, they lay our basic foundation but I feel friends take over later on when you are out on your own in the wide world. I have had ups and downs with my friends but I know who I can count on when the need comes. I also know there are some who will count on me to be with them, in their time of need. And you bet I will!

Today, in the age of media that travels at the speed of light, the world has become very small. Social networking sites like, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and instant messaging systems like Whatsapp, hangouts and so on have assisted in breeding and breaking friends. We now have long lost friends discovering each other and connecting with each other. People live across continents but are in touch with each other everyday. But then there is a saying, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’! So the over familiarity has also managed to destroy few relationships. Its wrong to blame anyone or anything for it. A relationship can only be as strong as the people in it are. Over the years, I have lost few, found few and grew apart from a few. One thing I can say honestly is that each one of them have made a positive impact on my life. I can easily think of every friend I had or have and list out the ways in which they have shaped me. They may be out of sight today but they are definitely not out of mind. I salute them for all the good times we had!

Friends are the building blocks of our lives. If these building blocks are good and strong then that decides your future. They can make us or break us and in my case I can definitely say they have made me better and they are my friends for life. Let me end with a few meaningful quotes.

Here is what some famous people had to say about friendship:

  1. Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. – Helen Keller
  2. Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything. – Muhammad Ali
  3. Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over. – Octavia Butler
  4. When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. – Henri Nouwen
  5. A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself. – Jim Morrison
  6. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. – C. S. Lewis

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My Journey through Life —with love {Part-3: Bonding with love}

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Another relationship where love happens automatically and without any complications is the one between siblings. Most siblings are known to fight in the early stages of their childhood and almost 90% of the sibling’s rivalries ends in the tightest bonds of friendship as they move into adulthood. In the early childhood days the relationship is more competitive depending on the age difference between the siblings but in almost all these relationships there is an underlying feeling of protectiveness. When an outsider threatens the relationship, the underlying love for each other shows up and they put on a united front to show their protectiveness towards each other. As they grow into adulthood they outgrow their petty fights almost always and they end up being life long friends. What is notable in this relationship is that here again is a relationship based on trust. Once again its blind trust and is unquestionable. Whenever a person needs comfort and there arises a  need to be loved or needed they more often than not turn to their siblings. Here they are sure that they will be trusted, well received, listened too and be loved even if they don’t deserve it.

We all know that people need loving the most when they deserve it the least. It is during those low moments that one needs someone who cares. One is sure in the fact that even if the world shuts them out and even if they don’t deserve it, their siblings are always there for them, that is the basis of this relationship.

I too have a brother and like most other kids fought like the proverbial cats and dogs. I remember beating him and getting beaten up royally by him. Ofcourse I would scream murder after that and get him into royal trouble with my parents. Regardless all thru my childhood I always believed and took it for granted that my brother would always be there for me. Well he was. Being the younger one I would always run to him when I had a problem and he was always there for me, though it was hard to admit I needed his help. Now as adults it comes very naturally to ask for his help, talk to him and pour my heart out. I am also very certain of his unquestionable love and trust, as I am, of my own pledge of love and trust for him. He is one person I can count on always and I know that he will be there for me, as I will for him, no questions asked. That’s the bond we share, that’s the miracle of this relationship. These are relationships which are pre-defined and exist within those parameters and under normal circumstances they function very close together, warmly and affectionately, co-existing but never demanding and always there when you need it.

In my relationship with my brother I realized that it never really mattered that there was a lot of age difference between us. What mattered was that we could connect and it wasn’t always that I needed help. Even though I was younger it never stopped him from sharing his troubles with me. Even if neither of us could do anything about the problem we still found solace in just talking to each other about it. What we both needed and got from each other was the knowledge that there is one person who loved the other a lot no matter what and that gives the strength to move on.


And then  you flip the coin and look at the other side! Sibling rivalry is as real as sibling love, be it Cain & Abel, Thor & Loki or the desi Ambani brothers, we have read all about them. The rivalry arising from a struggle for power and money. They say money can destroy anything and anyone. In the case of these power hungry people, it does stand true. In my journeys, I have come across some siblings who are constantly trying to do better than the other. They expend so much of energy just trying to think up of ways to beat the other. The negativity that starts when they were young stays with them even in their adult life. When talking to one such sibling pair, I was told that the main reason this competition actually started was because of favoritism shown by the parents. So one sibling invariably felt slighted and needed to constantly fight for attention. Yet, they say they don’t feel particularly happy at the other siblings misery but definitely feel miserable at the others’ success. It a competitive rivalry.

There is also the place value of the sibling that matters. Depending on what number you are at in your sibling line, the treatment you get also varies. If you are first in line, you have too much responsibilities, the middle ones are forgotten and the youngest get blamed for everything that happens. When there are many siblings, the oldest takes on the role of protector and cares for the younger ones, especially when there is a big age difference but in families where there are just two, the fight continues until they grow out of it.

To conclude, the typical sibling relationships are very simple. Everyone is sure of what they have and what they give. The boundaries are clear. Ultimately everyone is happy.

Here are some quotes, that sums it all up very beautifully:

  1. “To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.”
  2. “Our siblings push buttons that cast us in roles we felt sure we had let go of long ago – the baby, the peacekeeper, the caretaker, the avoider…. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time has elapsed or how far we’ve traveled.”
  3. “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.”
  4. “Having lots of siblings is like having built-in best friends.”
  5. “Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring–quite often the hard way.”

 

….coming up next is friendship! Stay tuned.