Whatever the merits/demerits of `The Social Network’, no matter how astronomical the net worth of Mark Zuckerberg, the one albatross that will always hang around his neck is that he forever devalued the concept of a`friend’.
Friends start early in life, and if you’re lucky enough to still have friendships that date back to your school days, you’ll know how cherished these are. Sowmya has her `Gang of St Joseph’s’ and how heartwarming that is!
Sid’s first `best friend’ in kindergarten was a guy called Gagan Porwal. He called him `G-A-G-A-N Gagan’, spelling out the name every time he spoke of him. This was way back in 1985 at Rani Laxmibai Public School at Jhansi, where I was then posted. In those early years, `G-A-G-A-N Gagan’ was the most important person in Sid’s life!
So when Sid got married in 2012, I was very keen that we track down `G-A-G-A-N Gagan’ and invite him. So I messaged the three Gagan Porwals I located on Facebook, asking them if they had attended Rani Laxmibai Public School at Jhansi in 1985. The first politely declined, the second said he hadn’t even been born in 1985, but I managed to hit bull’s eye with the third – he indeed turned out to be the one and only `G-A-G-A-N Gagan’!!
I wish I had met with similar success in tracking down my old flames from Fergusson College, sigh..
Friends in those days were people you shared your lunch money with, people you bonded with over masala dosa and coffee at `Vaishali’ or girls whose hand you furtively held in the darkness of Alaka theatre.
To make a friend, one had to really work at it. To keep him for life was a mountain to climb! Today, you just send a friend request, which he accepts in a jiffy, and there, you have it!
In those days, if you had a tiff, you broke off the friendship by wagging a crooked finger at the `offender’ and saying `katti’. Today you just unfriend him if he has been nasty, block him if he has been really nasty, or merely block his posts if you find them mildly irritating!
You had friends you could count on your fingers – one hand if you were the reserved type, both hands if you were a bit more gregarious. Rarely did you have to remove your shoes to use your toes to count on. Today if you have less than 100 friends on your list, you’re considered gauche. People these days easily have five to six hundred friends, and a Pakistani journo who is on my list has, I kid you not, a whooping 1127! Hell, I don’t even know that many people!
So is this a good thing?
If you track down your Gagan Porwals and re-establish contact, it can be really exhilarating. It’s also terrific to keep track of how beautifully (and how fast) your grand nephews and nieces are growing.
But of course there’s a flip side. People post pics, get likes and comments, that’s how it works. If you take offence at harmless remarks or perceived slights, or if you get into heated political or cultural arguments, you probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.
My take, at my age, and with all the wisdom that nature and the years have endowed me with (seriously?), I’m happy with the plusses. Of course I’ll take a warm evening over a single malt any day, but in the absence of such real bonhomie, facebook friendships, I guess, will have to do.
And of course, the day I manage to reconnect with those old flames of Fergusson College, that’s the day I’ll actually send Mr Zuckerberg a thank you note!