Considering that the human spirit is adventurous and inquisitive, imagine its plight when it is caught in recurring cycles of eat-sleep-work. Moreover, the mind cannot fathom being alone. Man craves security, happiness, belongingness, companionship and most of all–love. These needs are fulfilled by our families and friends. They form the support system we lean on when we want to share our troubles, joys and secrets.
For most of us, our families are our go-to people. Especially, in traditional Indian families where even three generations can be found living under the same roof. There are uncles, aunts, grandparents, and if that isn’t enough, there are cousins, nephews, and even a wise-cracking bachelor granduncle to give sage advice, when you are in a trough. Children in such large families are fortunate to have themselves surrounded by these advisors and confidantes. But what about those who don’t have an entire football team for a family? Whom do they go to in times of need? Who gives them counsel?
My parents separated from our similarly large joint family much before I came to be. So I wouldn’t be able to say I relate to large communes. My parents settled in Bangalore, about 600 kilometres away from the kinship. While growing up, we spent every holiday with the family playing hide-n-seek in the big old house, got our education on music and movies from our uncles and were spoilt rotten by our grandparents. Yet, today, if I had to make an SOS call it would be to one of my best friends. Over the years, my friends have come to be my support system. I often wonder whether I am the only one who depends on friends instead of family?
Out of curiosity, I asked around. Almost everyone said things like, ‘my friend is like the sister I never had’, ‘we’re so close, he’s like a brother’, ‘she is family to me’. I even checked the hashtag #FriendsLikeFamily and voila! There were close to two hundred thousand posts on the search.
I researched further. I read up on the origins and evolution of families. When you google ‘family’, the most common definition that pops up doesn’t do justice to the warmth that the word ‘family’ makes you feel. It goes–a family includes all the descendants of a common ancestor. Over time, the concept of families has evolved. The joint families of the yore have broken down to nuclear families. Both parents work and the children are alone or with caretakers. While they miss getting pampered by grandparents, they manage to find comfort in the company of friends from school and the neighbourhood.
What I have realised is that we who are brought up in small families often tend to be close to people we get along with. And these people are invariably our friends. Today, we spend more time at work than at home, interacting more with our colleagues than with anyone else. As working adults, while our careers take up most of our time, we choose this handful of people to share our daily experiences, our deepest, darkest secrets, our hopes and fears. Often, we end up making these people our family.
After all, we might not be able to choose the family we are born into, but we can definitely choose our friends.