Your friends’ attitudes are what you need to review when associating with them, not their economic backgrounds or their religious affiliations.
A former colleague, who is also connected with me on Facebook, posted on his wall that he was deleting a bunch of his Muslim friends. Reason: he felt they were anti-Hindutva. Facebook seems to have promptly deactivated his account. And I don’t blame Facebook. I think it is high time we dumped parochial perspectives and embraced a purely human outlook to people and Life.
First, let us understand who we can call a friend. Just because you grew up knowing somebody, it is not necessary that they must share your opinions or outlook. It does not also mean that they don’t have a right to change over time. What is important is to know that just as you are entitled to your opinion, others are too. And just as you have changed, others have changed, and will change, too.
I learnt this lesson the hard way. A school buddy and I went drinking three years ago. When, after the drinking bout, which involved downing several pegs of whiskey and vodka between us, he insisted on riding his motorbike to go back home, I stopped him. He got angry with me, asked me to mind my own business and slapped me. I still stood my ground and, much to his chagrin, asked a cop – who had joined us by then – to seize my friend’s vehicle. The cop seized the motorbike, issued a charge to my friend, asked him to pay a fine and collect the vehicle the next day. Although I did not have money with me, I still arranged for the fine amount to be reached to my classmate the next day. He had his vehicle released, using the money I sent him, of course, but he launched a tirade against me in the online school group we were both part of; he unfriended me on Facebook and sent me a mail saying that I must, in future, mind my own business. I was distraught. I acted to save a friend from committing hara-kiri and in the process I seem to have lost his friendship. That’s when another classmate from school, who knew both of us, called up and told me this: “Don’t worry about losing his friendship. You must know that some people are probably not worth being friends with, because they are no longer the same people we once knew.”
Over time, I came to understand and value this perspective immensely – people will change and your friends will change too. If their attitude to Life – which is, their value systems, social outlook, personal integrity – is not in sync with yours anymore, you need to learn to quietly move on.
So, in such contexts, where – and why – does religion come in? Just because one Muslim friend, or a few, have a non-secular outlook, it doesn’t mean all Muslims are that way. Or for that matter how can we ever say that all Hindus are secular either? I believe any argument that bases itself on religion must be expunged. We already have geographies and nationalities dividing us. We also have racism to deal with. So, why do we need religion in the way now?
Let’s not color our personal relationship choices basis divisive factors and forces. Friendship is where there is dignity and space provided to each other. Friendship is when you can speak your mind and not be judged. It is when you can agree to disagree. Friendship is when empathy thrives. And true friendship does not get colored by race, economic background or religious affiliations. If these do get in the way, evaluate the so-called friendship. Review if the person you are connected with is truly a friend. Please don’t blame any religion or community for the way your one ‘friend’ is behaving. That’s one fresh, divisive issue our world can do without!