Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Friendship lessons



I spent over two decades of my life in a North Indian town with barely any exposure to the outside world other than the books I read. None of them told me what to really expect out there. However, when I left for a job in Delhi I had firm views on just about everything, hanging on to prejudices and preconceived notions that come with lack of exposure. 

That’s how I would have gone through life had the powers above not been on my side. Fate has, since then, worked overtime to systematically rid me of all my said ideas.

I used to dismiss Punjabis as loud and crass. And God gave me a friend born and brought up in the gullies of old Delhi. Her FB status once read ‘Punjabiayn di battery charge rehndi hai’. She was loud as the loudest yet she was also generous and thoughtful and always available when I needed her. Before I knew it I was borrowing from her memories of her grandmom and quoting in Punjabi, pathetically stilted Punjabi I might add, not everyone can get that endearing accent quite right.

I thought South Indians were closed and conservative. And God gave me a roomie straight from Chennai. Together we traipsed around the streets of Mumbai walking at Marine Drive or shopping at Fashion Street. She taught me that South Indian food went beyond idlis and dosas. She could talk books till the sun went down and came up again. She has since then, set up her own library. We could laugh at our respective accents and would compare how ‘love’ was pronounced in each of them - her luvv to my lau.

I thought Maharashtrians were stuck up and spoke weird Hindi. Along came a friend who was completely unstuck herself. I discovered that there existed a tumhi along with the tu and got a glimpse of the proud Maratha history, way beyond Bajirao. We argued about everything from books to religion over hot cups of chai at a different roadside joint each time. I found my Hindi turning into a taporier version - no longer chaste yet nice and colourful and way more interesting.

I thought army wives came with a chip on their shoulders and I got a friend who taught me to appreciate their discipline and the way they stood up for their own. I grudged them their ‘benefits’ but stories of hazardous postings, sad accidents and lost lives made their tribulations only too real. Another one would laugh with me at the Army Wives’ ‘parties’ yet go hunting for the right sari because it was ‘flower theme’ at the meet. ‘It’s crazy but it’s so much fun. I love it,’ she’d say.

I thought SAHMs were all about shopping and kitty parties and God turned me into one making me want to kill anyone who asked ‘How do you kill time?’ Oh and along the way I also questioned where’s the crime in a ladies' day out or shopping (unless it’s excessive, and then the trouble is with the ‘excess’ not the shopping).

Finally there came the biggest, craziest most miraculous mind changer - I thought kids were a nuisance and God gave me twins. Nuisance they most certainly are, but they’re also the best thing that ever happened to me.

Dear people know that stereotypes may be true - after all they are stereotypes for a reason. However people are different in a million ways and are definitely more than just a bunch of generic qualities.

So make friends - all kinds - across ages, and sex, race and city and nationality if you can. Open up, meet, talk, debate, argue, empathise. That’s the very best way to remain non-judgemental and open minded.

God knows we could do with some tolerance.

52 comments:

  1. I am glad to be among the first ones to read this one, and if not read then of course comment :) I have always believed a person who has stayed tied to the same place, living around the similar people and practices, who has never wandered out is supposed to believe and live a life in stereotypes. But also when the roots run deeper in stereotypes, even the wanderings and living in different places doesn't help either. Having an open heart is the key. "Dear people know that stereotypes may be true - after all they are stereotypes for a reason." I get this line. There is a saying "Wo/Man proposes God disposes" and I have experienced that whatever God disposes, disposes off for good challenging our own beliefs and our limitations. As always, the post made a wonderful read.

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    1. I know what you mean. There are people who continue to live in tiny islands refusing to change their beliefs. I can only feel sad for them. What's the point of not opening your eyes to how wonderful different kinds of people can be? It's their loss.

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  2. This was the best thing I read today, Tulika! You are so right! There are stereotypes out there whom we 'judge', not realising that we, too, must be a stereotype for some others! And, yes, it is the law of nature, that you get a bountiful of the one thing you would like to stay away from! But, I so loved reading about your experiences with your friends, and also happy to know how they have touched your life and totally 'converted' you! <3

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    1. Thanks Shilpa. Friends are wonderful people provided of course you give them a chance. I am extremely fortunate there. Of course each one of us is a stereotype too. I remember when I first came to Bombay one of the girls had remarked casually, "Oh so you are bhaiyya", refereeing to UP. :-))

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  3. This is such a beautiful post - I really appreciate your perspective on preconceived notions and prejudices. I love how people and things find a way into our lives to challenge our thinking! Thank you for sharing these lovely thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by Laurel. Glad you liked the post. People do change us - often for the better.

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  4. A very beautiful heartfelt post after my heart because right from line one to the last I could relate to every bit of this poignant post. You're right stereotypes exist for a reason but people part of it cannot be labeled blindly on their basis. The best bit about friendships are the subtle yet permanent ways they change and polish us to learn lessons that make our points of view refined like it has done for you & me.

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    1. Glad the post resonated with you. Friendships make us see the good in people.

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  5. Prejudices are there always. Then circumstance will play its role and prove that things were not exactly as we thought they were. This was a great read, Tulika. :)

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    1. Thanks Vinitha. Sometimes we need to step out of our fixed mindsets.

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  6. That's the beauty of moving out from one's comfort zone. When I was in Pune, my roomie was from Maharashtra, two of my flatmates were from South India, one was from Kolkata and one from Delhi.. So you see it was a mix of everything around us.. from food.. to conversations, to cultures and rituals and what not.

    It was truly a delightful post to read for sure :)

    Cheers

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    1. Exactly - which is why a few years in a hostel are also a wonderful way to broaden the way you think.

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  7. With all the happenings going in the world, this is a very relevant blog post.

    Amusingly I had a friend in Aussie who did not have a very good opinion of aboriginals, years later he found out his great-grandmother was aboriginal. His wife and I found it very funny, as we used to chide him over his some of his remarks. Oddly he has now fully embraced that part of his heritage and has even taken to learning native aboriginal arts.

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    1. That's just how it should be. I am glad your friend accepted his heritage. There is often some takeaway from most things.

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  8. Beautiful thoughts wonderfully presented!
    Living in Metros certainly has its benefits!

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    1. Thank you Deepak. A cosmopolitan setting is a great way to live.

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  9. Simply adored this post. A lot also has to do with our upbringing, I think, and the values our parents instil in us. Living in Kenya also brought us face to face with people from different races and the easy way we all got along is something I've never really thought about. It felt natural and normal. we have a lot to be thankful for.

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    1. Thank you Shailaja. When we are children we are often more accepting of others. It's only when we grow up that we begin to slot people.

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  10. Aww that's a lovely post. We have so many preconceived notions about people that they can only be tested by actually getting to know people. If only we were all forced to engage, truly connect with those that we have prejudices against, the world might be a much better place.

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    1. Absolutely. It's only when we engage with another person can we see his/her viewpoint and only then can we decide if we like him/her or not.

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  11. Don't you love life? :) I've lived across several cities in India and I loved everyone. My Mom always marveled at how I adjusted to every situation instantly and settled down fast, even if it meant moving soon after. Hugs. Love the post, Tulika. Somehow I remembered my first ever email to you, way back in 2010.Yep, still have it.

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    1. Heh heh.. I have it too Vidya. But then it was pretty special for me. You are one of the most non-judgmental happy people I've come across.

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  12. That is such a feel good post... It feels wonderful to read something filled with love for people, no matter their lineage. I am saying this because i just read q/n on quora about racism...
    I studied in army schools, my friends hailed from almost every state in the country... I feel so fortunate to have experienced this early on, before any of the stereotypes for into my head.

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    1. You were fortunate that you got to move around and interact with all kinds of people. That's just how it should be.

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  13. What a joyful post! Completely uplifting. You and I have so much in common, Tulika. The Lucknow connection. Mumbai. Our similar takes on parenting. Our honesty and humour when it comes to our kids. :D Amen to that thought. The more people you meet, the faster is the death your prejudices die!

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    1. Aw Rachna. That's sweet. Yes loads of similarities :-).

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  14. Absolutely spot on, Tulika. I grew up in a multicultural environment, and one of the first things that my parents (and subsequently the society that I grew up in) taught me was to ignore stereotypes. And always expect the unexpected. I think it has helped and of course, living in different cities and countries and interacting with more people has definitely destroyed whatever little prejudices that I may have had.

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    1. It's great to be brought up without prejudices. Most of us pick them up as we grow. Stray comments, a few odd incidents and we make up or mind forever.

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  15. I would say you've been lucky to have met all those friends. I too carried some biases (still do)...hopefully I will get rid of them some day!

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    1. I am lucky, I always maintain that :-). It would be brilliant if we could rid ourselves of all our biases.

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  16. such a pleasure to read your posts as always !!!! The resemblance of Punjabi friend is uncanny !!!!! love you loads n miss our times together.

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    1. Ha ha... I don't know anyone else who quoted their grandmother. Sending warm thank you hugs your way.

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  17. Wow such a nice post tulika....I had similar experiences when I went to stay in the hostel...I am so glad that many stereotypes have been broken for me since then....this post is a lovely reminder to keep our minds and hearts open always...

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    1. Good to see you here Gowri. Glad you liked the post. Hostels are great places to shed prejudices and open your hearts. I think each child should have a stint at least once in his/her life.

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  18. Unless we directly experience something we can't really be sure of what we know or don't know about that thing :) That's the lesson I take from your lovely post, Tulika. It is our ignorant human nature to buy into stereotypes and generalisations of all sorts, but then Life has its own way to bring us out of that ignorance, little by little. As an ex-Delhite living now in rural South India, fully by choice and not because of any professional reason or anything, I am so grateful that I can see what binds us as Indians across the great 'mythical' divide of North and South.

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    1. I think it's just lazy and easy to go with stereotypes without bothering to find out what people are really like. You've mixed it up nicely :-).

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  19. Trust life to teach us lessons in the most unexpected ways. Our experiences shape us up and teach us to treat every person or situation we meet/encounter on a case-to-case basis rather than generalizing an entire clan so to say. Beautifully put together post, Tulika!

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    1. Thank you Uma. You're right - that's exactly it.

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  20. I guess life just puts us in the right places at all times. The lessons we need to learn and the people we need to meet. I am glad our paths crossed and I could learn so much from you. A very well written blog...

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    1. Thank you Aditi. It's a two way process - learning and teaching :-).

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  21. Absolutely loved your post and I can go on and on to site my examples. But I would not do that for the sake of writing a post on your comment box :)
    I totally agree that people are way beyond the stereotypes we know them. There is so much out there that the more we learn, the lesser it seems. What a fabulous memoir and message out there for your readers.

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    1. Thank you Parul. People teach us a lot of things and friends are just great for breaking preconceived notions. Isn't it?

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  22. They say we make generalizations about people so that we know how to interact with them. But each person is unique and does not necessarily fit into our assumptions and generalizations. So, yes, we must be open and non-judgmental. It is fantastic that you have such lovey friendships.

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    1. That's exactly the point Shilpa. And yes, I am fortunate.

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  23. I couldn't have put it any better. Love the way you expressed it. <3

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  24. Very well said Tulika! I always feel, things happens in one's life for a reason, there is no 'just by chance'. Every experience in life, however small, is a learning one, breaking stereotypes, biases and beliefs. The more we interact the broader the perspective and wider the view. I could so relate to all you said here, about the little regional biases we were born with, how they crumble before our very eyes, in real life. Letting go of these shackles also liberates your mind. Great post!

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    1. Right Kala. We all have some kind of biases. It's involuntary of course. But the more people we meet the more biases we can get rid of.

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  25. Wow Tulika. this post is so fabulous. Some were stereotypes I believe in too. For instance Lucknowis speak chaste Hindi and look down their noses.. Ha.ha.. thankfully, this too has been trashed long back. I must be the last one to read this but been working a lot lately.

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    1. Thank you LS. That's a stereotype I faced along with some worse ones. But then it's a pleasure proving prejudices wrong.

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  26. OH YESsssssssssss and I am sure you know my take on friendship , god has been so very kind to me I have such lovely friends all over the places.. Friendship is a Bliss
    and OH yes PUNJABIYAAN DI BATTERY CHARGE REHENDI HAI... :) always


    yes make friends more of them ...

    Bikram's

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    1. Lol.. Bikram there you go.. as wonderfully Punjabi as possible. Yes I do know how you cherish your friendships. Cheers to that.

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