Monday, August 2, 2021


Relationships! Hmmm! Come to think of it, that word takes in a lot of territory. Including trolling, hating etc. What's that catch-phrase? Ah, yes, Toxic Relationships. Those are not the sort of things that I wish to dignify with the word 'relationship', so I shall only speak of those inter-personal interactions which have a modicum of positivism associated with them.

You know, when things are going well with people, when it is all fun and games, everyone seems to be a great friend or well-wisher. Your birthday pops up, bang come the good wishes; you put up a 'Hey! I got my idli perfect today' and people chime in with congratulatory messages worthy of your winning a gold medal in the Olympics; and so on. It's tough to differentiate between relationships when things go well.

But, comes the time when, say, you have been busy or stressed and unable to respond to their posts...THEN you will find a lot of them have suddenly found the need to cull their friends list on Social media and you are among the culled...unfriended, is the appropriate term, I believe.  A lot of the people you know are the 'What have you done for me lately' type of friends for whom memory of past deeds last only as long as it takes for their twitter feed to refresh.

Such relationships happen in real life as well. At any point in time, you have a group of people around you in the circumstances that you are in. At school, college, in your current job location, whatever. Most of those remain friends only as long as you are there. Once you split, the relationship totally dies with the extent that they will fail to acknowledge you if you bump noses with them later in life. Except, of course, if you have become the next Zuckerberg or Prime Minister of India or whatever, in which case 'What have you done for me lately' gets substituted by 'What can he do for me now'; and their memory makes a miraculous recovery.

With some others, you can meet up again with goodwill and a 'Hail fellow, well met' sort of relationship, where you enjoy spending a few moments, down a couple of drinks, and part happily. What we guys used to call 'Time Pass' friendship. Good for a few laughs but a relationship that is strictly to be undemanding. If, perchance, you are sick in their city, say, and need them to care for you...Ahem!!!

Then there are the others who you can meet after ages and get along like a house on fire as though the intervening years never happened. These are the people with whom you have a bond that transcends having common interests (like trashing the same boss, say) and frequency of interactions. If you are lucky, you may have a handful of such people in your life (never mind the thousands of Facebook followers who Like your every pic).

Be it family, or be it friends, there are those relationships which are almost self-effacing, but are worked into the very essence of your being. Like the tanpura or harmonium in a classical concert, they are the very back-bone of the music of your life but, like the backbone, they are generally invisible. And, yet, without them, you would not be you. If one were to ask people if they had someone who was like that to them, the most common answer is likely to be parents and, perhaps, siblings. You take them almost for granted but whenever you do spare a thought for them, it is with gratitude that they are there in your life. (Yes, there are a few who may be unfortunate enough to have bad parents. AND a lot more who realize what their parents meant to them only when they are no longer around.)

I have been lucky that, in addition to parents, there have been others who have woven themselves into the warp and weft of my being. People who I, almost unconsciously, always assumed would be there for me through all the travails of life and regardless of my own position and achievements or lack thereof. (Yeah, yeah, lack thereof IS the thing. Who realizes the selflessness of someone's affection when he is hugely successful? It IS failure that brings you face to face with true affection or...err...lack thereof!)

This year, though, has been depriving me of some of those who have been the mainstay of my being. First a cousin. The man who, when I told him that I had been a sick for a couple of days, was enraged that I did not call on him for help; who had hosted my family for months on end when my mother was being treated at Adyar Cancer Institute and I was working in Delhi; who practically commanded me to come over and stay with him when I fractured my hand. He went to sleep one night and did not wake up.

Now my aunt. She had always been a mother figure, most especially since my own mother passed away. The sort of person who, while recovering from surgery, can worry about my straining myself in coming to the hospital because I had twisted my ankle a couple of weeks back; who would, regardless of the pain of arthritic knees, would insist on cooking my favorite dishes turning a deaf ear to my pleas to not stress herself; remember my birthday, my star birthday and be the first in the morning to call me to wish me (Large families and she would call up everyone, so we are really talking about a mind-boggling database of information); small and big things which demonstrated how much she cared. It probably was a totally different model of human, those days, those few who had such large hearts that they could care for so many people with such selflessness that they took little heed of their own needs. Gone, now.

And, yet, I cannot bring myself to grieve. For, to grieve would be to admit that they are no more there for me. And I...I would prefer to hug to my heart, like the warmth of a hearth, the thought that they are still there for me...somewhere!


  1. This year has had too many losses, some so dear to us. So true what you have written. She had been a pillar of strength during all our needs and still feel like she will just call me and say "Sollu Sudha".

  2. I feel like "where is the time to hate, when there is so little time to love". Small deeds of kindness really help. A delightful read as always.

  3. The concluding paragraph is really beautiful.

    And, yet, I cannot bring myself to grieve. For, to grieve would be to admit that they are no more there for me. And I...I would prefer to hug to my heart, like the warmth of a hearth, the thought that they are still there for me...somewhere!

    Please accept my prayers and heartfelt condolences Suresh sir. As more and more people whom we know leave us it feels really scary. The WhatsApp notification with the dreaded message that "He/She is no more." - leads to a lot of anxiety nowadays. Sometimes, I sit and wonder, if I were not to wake up the next morning, how long would the neighbours wait to break down the door? If the milk packets and newspapers stay uncollected for perhaps two or three days with no lock outside, maybe they would worry and break open the door. I really don't know if life will ever again return to normalcy and if we would be able to travel without fear. Or at least sneeze or cough without fear or stigma. Regards - Mahesh.

    1. Live by the day, Mahesh. Too often we ignore the present, dwell on the regrets if the past or the fear of the future

  4. A delightful and completely relatable read. Suresh is great at what he does and can express freely as a writer!

    On the post above, People are very lucky, who even have / had one friend like the one with whom the house is on fire �� even despite meeting after say a decade.....
    Mostly, in today’s world, people look at materialistic gains from every other person ....if you find someone, who is not like this, grab him / her, by the hand and seek friendship :)

  5. A touching tribute to a cousin and an aunt .. but in these times, many can relate with their own personal losses.

  6. Only ypu can coat such emotional truths with humour. Well written, well said and thanks for reminding us of the people who were our real well-wishers.

  7. I started reading this post thinking it was just about the strangers turned acquaintances turned friends turned acquaintances turned strangers type of social media relationships, but then it turned into a touching ode to two of the closest folks you lost recently and that took me by surprise. So sorry for your loss. I can only imagine how deeply this must have affected you during these already strange COVID times.