A friend recently drew my attention to an excellent book – “Travels with Epicurus” by Daniel Klein and quoted from it, that “Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.” We may take possession of friendship but never friends for, as the author states, “A good portion of the pleasure” that the protagonist of the book derives “is because he enjoys his companions without wanting anything from them”.
Reflecting on this, I consider my closest friend is my wife, who has been by my side through life’s ups and downs for almost four decades. The bond is such that I sometimes feel she can read my thoughts, even before they have started to form in my head; a most worrying thought, that. She puts into the relationship far more than what she expects to get in return, but neither takes the other for granted. I am convinced that our close friends invite us over and tolerate my pontificating through the evening because they feel sorry that she has to spend all her time with me and wish to provide her a few hours’ break from me! That is what good friends are – caring, considerate and supportive when needed, without us expecting anything from them.
We truly consider ourselves blessed that there are people in our life who consider us their friends. Several memories stand out. I recall the impromptu drive on a whim, to Jaipur just because a friend had acquired a new car, back in the 1970s. Sitting in the garden on cold evenings in Bahrain, warmed by the dying embers of the charcoal barbecue, sipping scotch with my Pakistani neighbor explaining the intricacies of Ghalib and Mir’s poetry. Getting introduced to a couple who trusted us enough to stand guarantee for our Sears purchases as we furnished our first home in Canada. They, together with their closest friends are now members of our extended family. I recall how a colleague invited us home for our very first barbecue in Canada, inquiring if we knew what it meant; that bond has grown beyond friendship to being welcomed into each others’ family. A Canadian couple that befriended us and helped find and settle us into the home we continue to reside in. Friends who come each summer to Canada and the evenings together in the kitchen where the husband cooks the special fish dish, while listening to the only Mehdi Hassan ghazal he professes to understand. The gap in time or physical distances do not matter when we reconnect with friends residing in the Middle East, London, Pakistan, India, Dublin and even Canada. They share their home, hearth, love for poetry, books and music and now experiences with growing grandchildren, as our lives get more intertwined and enriched. It is truly a blessing to be able to share a meal, a few laughs or shed some tears together, solve all the political and religious problems of the world over a few stiff drinks, or just enjoy the contemplative silence, comforted by the presence of people who care.
Another quote from this book and life’s lesson also points out that, “Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance”.
“Aa ke tujh bin is tarah ai dost ghabraataa hun main
Jaise har shai men kisi shai ki kami paataa hun main”
[Come my friend, for without you I have such uneasiness
As if I detect something absent in everything] – Jigar Moradabadi