Keeping up with friendsLike many others, I spent the major part of my working life saving and collecting for my old age. I saved money, first to get a roof over my head and then to generate enough income so that, in my post-retirement years I would be spared the indignity of having to ask others for financial help. I collected books that would help me fill the empty hours and saved the best linen and porcelain and crystal for those final years.
by Harish Dhillon
by Harish Dhillon
What I forgot to save and collect were my friends. They drifted away with the noiseless days one by one and I, busy in my honey-gathering did not see, did not feel their quiet going. But now and then, a name, a place, a familiar expression on an unknown face or the snatch of a once loved song would bring back a haunting memory. I would make a phone call, write a letter and re-assured, would turn again to my collecting and saving. They were such old friends that the bond could never be broken or wither away. After my retirement I would spend a great deal of time with them, we would catch up on each other and all would be well.
I finally retired. I set up home with all the beautiful things that I had collected and saved for this period of my life. I was content – but only for a while. My lost friends came to haunt me with great poignancy. I made every effort to revive my relationships. But it was no use. There was almost always, after the initial burst of excitement, wariness in the voice at the other end of the telephone line. The e-mails in reply to mine became shorter and shorter till they finally dried up all together. Personal visits, after some enthusiastic talk, ended in a surreptitious glance at a wrist watch. We were no longer a part of each other’s lives. We had moved on and evolved, independently of each other, into different human beings. There was pleasure, immense pleasure, in the odd phone call, the greeting card and in the brief meetings. But this pleasure came from happy memories of once glorious relationships. It had nothing to do with our present-day lives.
Friends are not porcelain or crystal that can be wrapped up in newspaper and put away to be pulled out as and when required. They have to be carefully nurtured with time spent together, with the constant sharing of joys and sorrows.
The panic and poignancy of loss has now passed. Life moves on and having learnt my lesson well, I will carefully nurture my present relationships; I will take them the tulips from my garden and the apricots from my trees. I will visit them on birthdays and anniversaries and in sickness. I will sit with them in silence and listen to the cuckoo and watch the fireflies wafting up from the valley. They will be a permanent part of my life.