(As told to Priya Chaphekar)
Our society has come a long way since the ‘90s – Hershey’s is available at Hypercity, H&M has spread its wings all over the country and we have the fastest 4G download speeds. Snapchat has made it easier to create and erase memories in a jiffy and Tinder helps you swipe and connect with people you find attractive.
Society thinks a man and woman cannot be simply friends
All said and done, one thing that hasn’t changed at all is how people perceive the relationship between a man and a woman. But just like a beautiful pink lotus stemming from gooey brown mud, my friendship with Vishal blossoms with the silken burst of purity.
“Can a man and a woman really be friends?” Now that’s a question so many friends ask us. And when we say yes, they think we’re either lying or pretending to be oh-so-naïve. I’ve been out with many men who wanted more than just a good conversation over coffee. But with Vishal it was different. No, he was never my secret backup or a closet crush. In fact, he played Cupid and introduced me to my now husband, who, by the way, is completely fine with us being so close. “This known devil I know is better,” he quips.
Related reading: We were best friends who fell in love with the same guy
We did everything together
Vishal and I grew up in a chawl. We played, studied, ate and spent countless holidays, Sundays and birthdays together. I can never forget our fights with pillows, monsoon evenings spent dancing in the rain, as well as the times when we got ourselves in and out of trouble. They’re etched in my memory as clearly as trees against a midsummer sky. He was my alibi for late nights and I was his confidante and intimate relationship adviser.
We talked about everything while chugging beer and gobbling wings at rooftop bars on a Wednesday evening, took long drives to downtown just to grab a cup of our favourite Irani chai, spent long afternoons in bed watching thrillers on Netflix or reading novels and did groceries together. We had an unsaid agreement – No matter who our partners are or what they say, we will always be there for each other.
“So why didn’t you two ever date?” Even my husband was so curious. “Because then we’d never have found each other,” I joked.
Related reading: Why every girl needs a guy best friend
Our friendship was always different
I’ve known friends who reap benefits even after being married to different people, I’ve known couples who only share an electrifying physical chemistry but struggle to hold an intellectual conversation even for five minutes and I’ve known good friends who don’t look at each other in the face after a short period of courtship. I didn’t want to be one of these guys; two, I was never attracted to Vishal in ‘that’ way, three, I didn’t want to lose whatever we shared for a relationship that would or wouldn’t have worked out and four, I think I grossed him out way too much with my toilet humour.
Maybe I did these things on purpose just to make sure he stayed friendzoned, I don’t know. But surprisingly enough, even he always maintained his distance; except for the occasional soft kiss that he planted on my forehead. Or how he dragged me home when I hung around for too long with the boys downstairs.
Did I ever have a moment of weakness? Of course I did. Once after going through a bad breakup in college, I kissed Vishal in the car after downing way too many flaming Sambuca shots. He could have kissed me back, but he didn’t. “I’m sorry, I guess I was too drunk,” I pinged him the next morning. “Happens,” he replied curtly, and we never brought up the incident again. Although he won’t accept it, Vishal too, freaked out before my marriage. My husband could have felt deeply jealous about this, but instead, he consoled Vishal and promised him that I’ll be the same Damini even after marriage. And Vishal, like a good man, always respected our privacy after the wedding.
Marriage did change things
It goes without saying that things have changed after marriage, but our friendship has become stronger over the years. Vishal often travels abroad for work, and keeps sending me pictures of the places he visits, the food he eats and the girls he meets. “She’s prettier than you, don’t you think?” he writes and I’m drowned by an unforeseen wave of jealousy. “One day he’ll be married and settled, too, and his wife might not be as cool as your husband. What then?” I often wonder. “Hey, don’t worry. I’ll choose a girl who adores you as much as I do,” he snaps his fingers, instantly reading my thoughts.
There have been times when I’ve had to answer my family. The time when Vishal stayed with me in Gurgaon when my husband was travelling to London. “Why bring unnecessary hiccups in a happily married life?” my mother questioned. “Doesn’t he have a hotel reservation?” my mother-in-law probed. “Vishal, we insist you stay with us. It’s been a long time since Damini and you have spent some good quality time, too,” my good husband urged.
My husband’s trust keeps my friendship strong
No one knows what the future holds, but the fact remains that my husband has complete faith in me. I’m blessed to not have to lie or give justifications for a friendship that is purer than fresh snow. Nonetheless, this faith is the fertile soil that makes the beautiful flower of our pristine friendship blossom and reach for the sky.