off the cuff

New year, old friends and family

Despite the luxury of having the world at our fingertips, it is still difficult to forge genuine friendships

Fyna Ashwath,Special to Gulf News
16:42 December 30, 2017

Somewhere along the course of the year that went by, I discovered a treasure trove — of connections on social media with a group of girls from my middle school years that had been stacked away ever since. There was the thrill of reconnecting with them one by one and exchanging the intriguing details of the different paths that the journey of life had taken each one of us on.

We soon formed a great support group to encourage and tide over the challenges that life throws at us and also frequently go back to being the giggly, talkative group of girls we were during school days. It was exciting to learn that my tomboyish friend had found her niche in the teaching profession while another girl I remember as quiet and helpful, had metamorphosed into a highly successful author and lifestyle coach.

This was the peer group that had been the biggest influence over my years of growing up. Together we had shared great admiration for the subtle, satirical style of P. G. Wodehouse and pored over Enid Blytons, ardently memorised the popular songs of those days and even shared a common infatuation for the handsome Science teacher assigned to teach us for a few months.

With a couple of my classmates, I found an instant connection, unaffected by the time of over two decades that had elapsed since our last contact. We all come across some of these special relationships that are just meant to be. There are some bonds of friendship that survive against all odds.

During a reasonably long expatriate life in Dubai, we were able to carefully garner a handful of friendships that have stood the test of time and all the struggles and experiences in between. These are the friends who are willing to comply with our sudden impulse to go on a long drive and who know instantly, from the tone of our voice if something is wrong. They are the people who have celebrated with us during our times of joy and empathised when we touched the depths of despair.

We have exchanged notes on parenting, carefully planned and re-planned travel itineraries together and supported each other through challenges at work. Sometimes we have been out of touch for several months or even years with some of these friends and picked up exactly where we left off.

Speaking of family, however, we are also fortunate to have a coterie of cousins staying in the UAE and often get together to make all occasions festive and fun. Every once in a while, however, we fight like we used to as kids, over a game of cards or charades. We laugh over the silliest of things and repeatedly revisit cherished memories of childhood summers spent at the ancestral home that unite us like very few things can. Yes, family can be annoying sometimes especially when they insist on bringing up some embarrassing moments of your life that you had conveniently shoved away to the obscure recesses of your memory. And you also resent it when that old sibling rivalry occasionally rears its head. However, these are the people with whom one shares an unspoken promise of unconditional acceptance despite everything one goes through.

In today’s interconnected world, one can be catapulted into instant fame over the number of ‘likes’ on Instagram, receive friendship requests from people one barely knows or have our tweets interpreted or misinterpreted by total strangers. However, despite the luxury of having the world at our fingertips, it is still difficult to forge genuine friendships.

So, just as we are all wondering what the New Year has in store for us, I hope to continue being surrounded by the warmth of family and close friends since nothing really can take the place of sharing the gift of togetherness, laughter and fun with people who matter. So that, when another New Year comes around, we are ready to start afresh and build new friendships on the confidence and the strong backing of wonderful moments created with old friends and family.

Fyna Ashwath is a journalist based in Dubai.