While there may be many a skeptic who will pooh-pooh the idea of having a day dedicated to friendship (a month from today by the way), you have to admit that life is a bleak, dusty, desert if you have no friends. Friends are what turned Thursday nights into 'the most exciting day of the week' – otherwise they would just be a night for some extra hours of soap opera watching or doing undesirable chores like the laundry or cleaning out the greasy streaks from the overused microwave. Friendships are the informal learning centres through which humans gain all kinds of information and experience - acquiring wall climbing skills needed after stealing the neighbour's guavas, getting distorted ideas about sex (you can get pregnant from swimming in a pool),dissecting behavourial patterns of the opposite sex and speculating on what they really mean (when he says he liked me does he really mean he likes me?), sharing and reveling in bizarre similarities and engaging in hours of 'chilling' - chatting, crucifying real or perceived enemies and going into violent fits of hysterical laughter at jokes no one else get.
And that is just scratching the surface of how crucial a part friends play in one's life. Often, they are closer than family members. They are the shoulders you unashamedly cry on, the cushioning you need when the whole world is against you, the calming voice when you have fights with your significant other or your mom, the pool of optimism when your chips are down, the saviours in moments of complete despair. Sometimes they are the reason why you are alive.
The best part is that friends come in so many shapes and forms. They may come to you completely unexpectedly – they may be that shy little girl who took the Class III entrance exam with you, your kid's class teacher, the colleagues who turn into 'sisters/brothers from another mother', the precocious eight-year-old who claimed to have two boyfriends or someone you just met at the bus stop. While you may have a core group of very close buddies, there are other less intense friendships that serve the sole purpose of making parties or group trips more happening and fun. These guys are also the ones who encourage you to be adventurous, daring and slightly suicidal but manage to make you feel you are having the time of your life. Remember who dared you to repeatedly call up your girlfriend's dad and sound like an annoying marketing recorded message in a female voice? Or the ones who insisted that another half hour with them would not make the wife any madder than she already was?
But in a larger context, friendships actually allow societies to function and this includes countries that may turn them into formal unions or agreements. In other words friendship is the key ingredient that keeps the world going and prevents us humans from tearing each other apart. Hence the disastrous effects when friendships sour – you get Brexit, you get hostile neighbours, ruthless aggressors and worst of all, you get wars.
Thus having 'friendly relations' or 'diplomatic ties' are crucial for a nation and could make the difference in whether it will be bombed into smithereens with tacit approval of the international community or become the darling of the globalised world with golden opportunities of trade and business bestowed upon it.
On a personal level, the ability to make friends easily and keep them is possibly one of the most rewarding and important survival skills a human being can hope to have. Just look at Winnie the Pooh who was named world's Ambassador of Friendship at the United Nations in honour of Friendship Day in 1998 by Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Who better can represent the philosophy of friendship than that adorable, charming, potbellied, honey-eating bear, who has won the hearts of millions of children and grownups refusing to let go of their childhood, all over the world? With his incorrigible desire to see all that is good in everyone, his friends, who include a tiger, a pig, a donkey, an owl, a kangaroo, a rabbit and a human, are as diverse as any United Colors of Benetton ad. So whether we like to make formal declarations of our friendship or prefer to just honour it through acts of genorisity, there is no denying that friendships constitute the emotional safety net from which we draw strength, regain hope in life and derive hours of unadulterated happiness. Try pooh-poohing that.
The writer is Deputy Editor, Editorial and Opinion, The Daily Star.