I was five years old when Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) came out, so I can’t remember a world where Friendship Day wasn’t cool. In his attempt to teach us that “pyaar dosti hai”, the film’s director, Karan Johar, also glamorized one more festival for us, with his film ensuring that we celebrated it with as much aplomb as its characters would also continue to celebrate Karva Chauths and Sangeets.
And we celebrated. The first Sunday in August was all about spending time and money on your “friends” – you know, the group of people who seemingly judge you on your ability to spend money on wedding rings and gifts.
In 2011, the United Nations declared July 30 as the International Day of Friendship (to promote friendship between peoples and cultures). But the first Sunday in August was so ingrained in our heads that we continue to celebrate it as Friendship Day. In fact, it would be hard to find people who know the meaning of July 30, but everyone knows what the first Sunday in August means. Such has been the success of the Friendship Day campaign.
In my school, each girl competed not only on how many bracelets she was given to put on her wrists, but also on who could hand out the most stylish bracelet in the batch. People bought them at the nearby Hallmark store; it wasn’t cool enough if yours was handmade (mine always was). The bands were made of all kinds of materials; some even included the pop culture fandom of the time.
Of course, we celebrated Friendship Day a day late, because we didn’t have class on Sunday. Some girls who didn’t get enough friendship groups derisively said that the day after Friendship Day was “enemies’ day”, so there was nothing to be proud of. have many groups on Monday. (Anything that helped them sleep at night, I guess.)
At one point, it all got so intense that my school had to ban friendship groups.
As with most festivals, Friendship Day is synonymous with booming businesses. Previously it was with cards and strips. Now I get notifications from restaurants for their Friendship Brunch offers. It’s nearly impossible to open social media without people posting pictures with everyone they’ve met. It seems to remain a competition, as it was during my school days.
“I had 20 and you only have 12”, I remember hearing in the halls of school. “Everyone loves me more.”
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We don’t waste an opportunity to make others feel bad.
It bothered me; I can’t pretend otherwise. I’ve always had fewer groups than the other girls in my class, and I never seem to advertise what my friends mean to me, by posting pictures on social media. But I think the problem with the way we celebrate Friendship Day is that if you don’t join in the fanfare you end up being told and believed you have no friends rather than not not have photos (or groups).
I love all kinds of celebrations, and I’m usually the first to join a brunch plan. But I dislike and disagree with the assumption that if you haven’t publicly declared your affection for your friend by the first Sunday in August, you’re not a good friend. Instead, I’d say, just be a good friend all year round. If you really need another list on the internet telling you how to do this, here are some ideas.
Be there. I realized that most adult friendships die out because of distance, space, and the lack of a planned meeting structure, unlike it was in school and college. This year, be there for your friend. Plan to meet more frequently if you are in the same city. Stick to the plan.
Answer calls/texts: Following on from the first point, stay in touch. You don’t need to text every day and you don’t need all their life updates but reply when they text. Call back if you missed it. It shows a lot that you care, that you value the relationship, and that you will try to make it work. Take the initiative and call often. It shows that you are thinking of them, that you are there if they need to talk to you, and that you are by their side on their loneliest days.
Listen. You don’t need to have a solution to all their problems, and you don’t need to constantly give advice. Just listen when they want to vent on their parents, partners, and the horrible boss. We are in 2022; everyone goes through their own struggles. Let them share their thoughts without fear of judgment.
Let them make mistakes. Your friends will make mistakes, they’ll date horrible people, and they won’t break up even if you (and the whole world, really) tell them they have to. Its good. We are humans, and that is part of life. Please don’t make a big deal out of it. When they come to their senses, give them space to call out and cry. Or a sofa to come and languish.
Be honest. Have space in your relationship to be able to call each other. Disagreements should not break the friendship. They should only help you grow. For example, if they want to celebrate Friendship Day with a gift of wine and chocolates, let them. You can never have enough chocolates and wine.
Shreemayee Das writes about entertainment, education, and relationships. She is based in Mumbai and posts as @weepli on Instagram and Twitter