Since last night I have been trying to remember names of films or books where a girl and a boy are childhood besties. Films like Parinda, Parineeta, Slumdog Millionaire came to my mind along with Chetan Bhagat’s book Revolution 2020. Then I thought of the same direction all the stories take – best friends fall in love as adults.
But is this the direction every close man-woman friendship takes? Not at all! And I am sure all my friends from South Point School would vehemently agree with me on this.
You might wonder what makes me or my school mates so easily answer this question that has been a point of debate for centuries. As students of Kolkata’s first co-educational school established in 1954, which went on to become the world’s largest school in 1984 (and stayed so till 1992) in the Guinness Book of World Records, we can talk about this with conviction because we have all experienced this.
I will start with an example. A few years back I had gone to Pizza Hut on Camac Street, after work with one of my best pals from school. One of his neighbours told his mother that he was spotted with a girl at Pizza Hut. Aunty became quite excited hoping he had found a new girl friend. She asked her neighbour to describe the girl. When she did aunty was disappointed. “Oh that’s Amrita. They are best friends and can’t ever be anything else,” she had said matter-of-factly. We still laugh about this incident but on a more serious note this shows that it was not only us who believed in our friendship, our parents also did.
Growing up together, sitting next to each other in class, sharing tiffin, playtime and non-stop chatter, there were times we never realized that we were of the opposite sex. As teenagers when we became more aware of our bodies and our differences most often that did not make a difference in the friendship. I have had at least a dozen close friends, who are boys and who never fell for me or me for them. We have moved on from school, to college to careers to marriage, but even today we continue to be great friends.
Only last October we reconnected on Facebook and decided to meet during Durga Puja in front of an electronics showroom called Anandamela on Gariahat, a place where we used to meet during Puja while in Class IX and X, way back in 1989-90. When I reached Anandamela I realized I was the only girl and there were 9 boys, more precisely men. But I did not feel uncomfortable for a moment. And as the day unfolded and we picked up the threads of our past, weaving it onto the tapestry of our present life, over endless adda (chat), it felt like the years had not gone by. We were the same Class IX kids, not spouses, parents or career people, we were just great friends. We didn’t talk about who’s achieved what, who’s got which car or a new posh address or a recent holiday abroad – we just talked of school.
I guess this is what makes our friendship so unique – the comfort level we felt with the boys. This is not to say love did not happen. It was not uncommon to see a small note tucked in your notebook, a card with a heart sign on your birthday or someone loitering a bit too often in front of your class. But there was something cute about these advances too. One didn’t feel harassed or stalked. If a girl said no boys accepted with dignity or vice versa.
When love blossomed what was amazing was the seriousness with which some of them pursued that love. Most had the earnestness to carry forward a school romance to marriage (some romances, of course, petered out in school itself). Sometimes when I see the photographs of a few of my classmates, who have married, on Facebook, it brings a smile to my face thinking of their accomplishment. As a friend of mine, who has married a classmate, told me recently, “We are still great friends. We are equals in the relationship sharing household chores and parenting duties.”
I guess this explains the crux of friendship in South Point School. We were always equals in every way. Our school was also a great leveler in the sense we had friends belonging to every kind of financial background. We learned to love people for who they are, not for what they have.
Today South Pointers are spread all over the world but I am sure there is one thing they all believe in, a man and a woman can be great friends – all their life, no matter what Parinda and Parineeta say.
That’s a relationship we all cherish.
Happy Friendship Day !