OPINION

My Funny Valentine - Sweet Comic Valentine

February 14, 2009
Aditi Nadkarni

There is something to be said about friends. I mean, they give us their all without expectation. At least mine do. I have friends who will listen to me yap about everything from completely transitory issues such as missing periods or acne to permanent problems that I suddenly have become aware of such as world peace and intolerance. They will never tell me that I am boring them and will loyally stifle yawns. None of them expect rings or a gift, much less a flower bouquet.

They will be completely fine if I don't call them for Valentine's Day or might even be slightly embarrassed if I do. I can just imagine my friend whisper a quick "Hmm, wish you the same but are you trying to murder my love life?" when I scream "Happy Valentine's Day!" through telephone lines while he is trying to chat up a cute girl who having heard my loud Valentine's Day wishes walked away quickly excusing herself.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love them dearly but my family can drive me nuts because, lets face it, that is their job. A year before turning thirty, I have come to accept that as a woman I will forever disappoint my mother. That's it. I feel better just having made that admission. Let me elaborate. My dad once told me of a doctor in his locality who they later discovered was somewhat of a quack. No matter what ailment one brought to Dr.Kamat, he would immediately ask them to stop drinking tea.

"But doctor I don't drink tea" the patient would sometimes respond.

"Ok so don't drink coffee" Dr.Kamat would tell him distractedly, filling out a generic prescription that everybody received unless they were having a heart attack in which case, Dr.Kamat's drunk compounder quickly shoved them into a taxi and sent them to the nearest hospital.

"Umm I don't drink coffee either doctor" the patient would tell him, hoping this information would give Dr.Kamat some brilliant insight into what was causing his affliction.

"You must drink something no....juice, cola, something. Stop drinking that" Dr.Kamat would snap at the confused patient. The poor man would nod and walk away with his prescription wondering why drinking his wife's nimbu sharbat had resulted in such a terrible case of butt-acne.

My mother is like Dr. Kamat.

"Are you drinking enough water?" she will ask without occasion

"Yes mom, I am drinking water all the friggin time" I respond in my high-pitched whiny "talkin-to-mom" voice

"Maybe you shouldn't drink too much water. You should drink a bit less. Too much water is also probably not good" she'll say.

"What's with your skin? Are you going out too much in the sun?" she'll comment, putting on her glasses, her keen stare making me squirm

"I rarely go out. I am always in the office or in lab. What are you talking about?" I answer with a shrug, rubbing my cheeks and forehead as if hoping for the tan to come off.

"Maybe that's what it is. If you stay cooped up at home, you don't get enough sun. You need some sunlight." And so on.

So basically no matter what I say, I'm screwed.

My dad is mostly neutral. But sometimes his neutrality is like that of Aishwarya Rai's where you just want to scream "Dude, say something!"

He once read my short story and I sat waiting in front of him, with baited breath to hear some feedback. He finished reading, took his glasses off and got up. I thought maybe he would walk over to me and pat my back. No such thing happened. I followed him inside until he walked into the bathroom. I stood outside only to hear him fart. That was my feedback.

Lets not even talk about extended family. They care so much for you that they have decidedly compartmentalized your life and now have inquiry committees set up for each section. Reproductivity, weight and marital status make up the three big departments and by the end of this concerned scrutiny, you are half the person you once were.

So that leaves us with friends. And it leaves our friends with this beaten down version of us, to deal with our woes, to lift our trampled self-esteem, to assuage our tested patience and soothe our hurt feelings.

Last year, I had to have surgery and just before they wheeled me into the OR, my friend's face loomed over my bed. She held a cell phone in her hand and was taking a picture.

"OMG, what are you doing?" I asked her, nervous in the anticipation of my first surgery ever, my face pink in embarrassment.

"Smile" she said loudly, as doctors and nurses looked on wondering whether or not to tell her that this was not allowed.

"Come on...just one picture, you look hot in that surgery robe and the blue cap" she told me as I smiled into the cell phone feeling like a complete moron.

When I woke up several hours later and suddenly threw up she was already holding the vomit-pan as if waiting for the puke to fly.

"Oh yeah baby!" she said victoriously as if she had caught a frisbee in the pan, "the doctor said you'd be nauseous from the anesthesia" she told me when I looked up confused wondering how she had managed to just be ready for such an unwarranted bout.

Men make amazing friends. They believe that disagreements or fights end when the phone call comes to an end. Can you imagine? One day we have a heated argument and so during the next conversation I try acting all aloof hoping he'll get the hint and apologize. He just chuckles and chortles while telling me about this colleague who was caught looking at some weird porn at work. A few minutes later, I sheepishly realize that he has completely forgotten about any fight whatsoever and even wonder if I had imagined the whole heated argument we'd had two days ago. Now I am starting to get the hang of it. This attitude keeps the friendship child-like and therefore stress-free.

A few years ago I received a V's Day card from a friend. I was surprised. He hated mushy V's day crap and had told me so, many times. I opened the e-card at work and a big blue cloud turned into a pink heart and floated around. And just as I wondered what the hell had happened to my perfectly wry friend, the large pink-heart balloon turned into a humongous, burly, pink, dimpled ass and whats more, it loudly farted. This time I turned pink and wanted to float away as colleagues looked on when the audible offensive rip came from the general direction of my desk area.

In his personalized note he wrote: "Had to show you this hilarious card. I knew you'd laugh". I did.

My roommate and I are the best of friends. I am a Harry Potter fan. She is not. One night, I read late into the night and wept when at roughly 3 am, I found out that Professor Dumbledore had died. That poor, poor, dear old man with his soft beard, I thought, crying into my pillow. I can get weird like that. I will have pent up sorrow that will suddenly be unleashed by stray occurrences, ranging from watching tragic films to hearing Talat Mehmood's ghazals. Anyways, so my roommate heard me weep and came over worried, her sleepy eyes trying to focus on my face in the dark.

"Whats the matter, why are you crying?" she asked me, blinking rapidly, her voice hoarse and heavy with sleep.

"Professor Dumbledore died" I told her mumbling. I don't know what she heard but she immediately put her arms around me

"Aww, how did he die....I'm so sorry to hear that" she cooed

"I don't know" I wept. I probably had been repressing some weird grief that Dumbledore's death had now released.

"Was it an accident? How did the professor die?" she asked her face a picture of concern

"No, that asshole murdered him" I told her as she brought me tissues and wiped my face.

"with his wand" I added, my lip still quivering and she frowned.

"Murder! With his wand? Wait, did you say wand? Wand?!" she stammered, her eyebrows knitted in confusion

"Yeah you know he used this curse and..."

"Which professor is this again? This isn't the professor who taught you Maths who you adored?" she asked, rubbing her eyes, her lips pursed, now fully awake and suddenly having spotted the Harry Potter book on my bed.

When she found out that she had been helping me mourn the death of a character, from a Harry Potter book, she could have fumed, rolled her eyes and walked away, back to bed.

"You are such a drama queen!" she could have told me and dismissed me. I expected her to do that.

Instead she sighed and sat down beside me.

"Don't worry. It's not the last book. He'll come back in the next one...just watch" she told me, with a grave philosophical expression, tucking me in and giving me hope. Professor Dumbledore's death had most likely just been a trigger for some other anguish I had suppressed and even though it found vent in the most odd fashion, she was still there for me.

Two of my very best friends are guys. I have known them since I was a tomboyish teenager. They are quintessential men who love sports, cars and beer. But for my sake, they spent a whole day at Butterfly World in Florida just because it made me happy and I had been feeling low. They had probably wanted to go the beach and watch beautiful, tanned bikini-clad beauties. Instead, they stood patiently in Butterfly World, their hands in their pockets, with tight, uncomfortable smiles, while I clicked pictures and annoying little kids ran around everywhere screaming. They tried very hard to not swat the pretty butterflies that settled down sometimes on their shoulders and hair and even gave me enthusiastic nods and a thumbs-up when I fed two parakeets on my palm.

"Please do not show these pictures to other people" they told me quietly, as we left Butterfly World and headed straight to a sports bar where macho-ism can be painlessly revived.

When I finish a good book, I call them. When I am depressed, I call them and I later find out that they had walked out of a movie theater to talk me out of my blues. When I see a great movie, I talk them into watching it and argue with them when they tell me they hated it. St.Valentine has blessed the celebration of love with his name. Similarly, Plato has blessed friendships between the genders with his name but nobody seems too keen on celebrating Plato's Day. Maybe my post will start a new wave for Plato's Day and annoy those angry Senas even more.

Sadly, in case of Platonic friendships, sometimes I feel like I am on this long wait until the guy's wife comes into his life one day and refuses to see how this friendship of his could be "proper". I spend my days fearing that one day, my best friend will turn into somebody's husband, that one day his wife will claim that him and I are just too close for her comfort. It scares me that this one whim might decide the future of a friendship that I have cherished since I was a teenager. These people are the only witnesses who knew the original me. They knew the person before the cynicism of age and experience set in and they heard the laughter that grew inhibited with every passing year. I once told one of them about this recurring nightmare where he and his wife meet me at the mall years later and he refuses to acknowledge me because she might get offended. At the end of my narration, I waited for his reaction. I waited for him to tell me that I was panicking for no reason and this it was a thoroughly stupid paranoia. And instead he giggled.

"Was she hot...my wife in your nightmare?" he asked me cackling at his own joke as I groaned and protested his ill-timed humor. I was secretly glad that he had made light of the situation; how else could I have ever laughed in the face of such credible fear.

Come to think of it, it is even harder for two girls to stay friends through all the numerous life changes. Two women who are such good friends that they are more than sisters, in the United States, are either pronounced gay or are Gayle...and Oprah.

Marriages, romance, children, jobs, geography and in the face of all the chaos, change and exhaustion is the steady, scaffold, the pillar of a good strong friendship that keeps us all going. So I have decided that I won't wait for Friendship Day to come along and pass by unnoticed. This Valentine's Day, I raise a toast and a cupcake with pink frosting to the ones that keep me sane through all the insanity and yet manage to bring in ample craziness when things get more serious than they should. This Valentine's Day I celebrate this one love that hardly ever gets celebrated and the deep affection we have for the unsung heroes of our busy lives.

Here's to you, my friend, my funny, crazy Valentine.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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#1
Deepti Lamba
February 14, 2009
06:12 AM

"Professor Dumbledore died"

Adi, If I was there you would have kicked my butt. My reaction was- Finally!;)

Loved the article:)

#2
Hardik
February 14, 2009
09:59 AM

What a priceless article.. It really touched me, your style of writing, so casual yet so intense.. Was great re.. Keep it up..

#3
kerty
February 14, 2009
12:51 PM

Great tribute to your friends and family - who are the real 'loved' ones.

#4
smallsquirrel
February 14, 2009
01:14 PM

this piece made me fondly remember my single days and how much my friends meant and still do mean to me.

the friend who caught your puke post-OR deserves special kudos. we all need friends like that. it is a testament to your value to others that you have them.

valentine's day is about valuing those around us, be that friends or lovers, and I think you've captured that feeling... even if you are fairly loathe to admit it. LOL.

#5
kaffir
February 14, 2009
01:45 PM

Nice one Aditi.
--
"My dad is mostly neutral. But sometimes his neutrality is like that of Aishwarya Rai's where you just want to scream "Dude, say something!""
--
Your dad is wise beyond his years. ;)

#6
temporal
URL
February 14, 2009
02:11 PM

ole!

what a tour de force adi:)

plato instead of undies?...good one;)

They believe that disagreements or fights end when the phone call comes to an end....this is mostly so very true...and the opposite of this can be unnerving...many (if not most) women carry real or imagined slights for a long time...here is a digression...sensing turbulence in the air...i simply say 'sorry'...but wait!...that is not the end of it...it is as if they want money's worth of fight over whatever the original incident or slight or disagreement was...and consider sorry a cop out....while the truth, if it be told, is i had forgotten the entire episode... and worse could not recall it either...mars and venus, i guess

#7
Aditi N
February 14, 2009
03:12 PM

Dee: Glad you liked the article. I loved dear old Dumbledore...he reminded me of all the rare good teachers I've had.
Hardik: Thank you! You made my day. Glad you found it touching. When writing it I found myself going in and out of memory lane and had a smile on my face throughout reminiscing about all the fun crazy stuff my friends and I have done.
Thanks kerty. Glad you liked it.
SS: I'm truly blessed with fantastic friends. Can't even begin to tell you how lucky I am in that area of my life. It makes up for every stress and every problem I've ever had to face.Glad you enjoyed the piece.
kaffir: Thanks, glad you enjoyed the article. I agree, my dad is wise beyond his years :)
T: Thanks. As I get older, I feel like letting go of old grudges. I find it exhausting to hang on to stale bitterness and so I'm starting to think if in addition to be a gender-thing it is also one of maturity. Personally I was never the one to go bed mad. I just have to make-up before bedtime or I toss and turn all night. My guy friends have taught me a lot about letting go and enjoying life. But to tell you the truth I have also been extremely fortunate in finding female friends who are just as big-hearted, forgiving and sweet.

Thanks you guys for all your comments. Happy V's Day to those of who take this opportunity to celebrate some sort of love.

#8
Seema
February 14, 2009
07:12 PM

So sweet Aditu! Truly the best valentine anyone could have ever received! Cheers to friendship.

#9
Aaman
URL
February 14, 2009
10:55 PM

Happy Valentine's, guys. That was a great perspective.

FWIW, I think Dumbledore's big secret was tacked on in the last book and not part of the character when JKR conceived of him.

#10
Deepa Krishnan
URL
February 14, 2009
11:09 PM

Aditi a thoroughly satisfying read, although I thought it could have been somewhat shorter. Still, I enjoyed it enormously.

#11
Aditi N
February 15, 2009
03:13 AM

Thanks Aaman. I too think Dumbledore's secret seemed tacked on and wasn't part of the initial storyline. I hated having to find out that he died...my fav. character in that book. Him and Hermione :) I love them.

Deepa: Glad you enjoyed the article. I have 4 best friends and there had to be one anecdote per friend in this V'day tribute to keep it fair. Last year I wrapped up my PhD and had a lot of changes, troubles and excitement come all at once. I could not have possibly done all of it without them. Unfortunately I did not manage to sum it up in the short acknowledgment section of my thesis. So had to make sure I got it all in there this time even if it meant having a slightly lengthier version. :)

#12
Ravi Kulkarni
February 15, 2009
05:51 AM

Dear Aditi,

Wonderful article. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

"They believe that disagreements or fights end when the phone call comes to an end. Can you imagine?"

What a great insight! I will definitely ask my wife to read it ;)

Regards,

Ravi

#13
Aditi N
February 15, 2009
12:04 PM

Thank you Ravi! Glad you enjoyed the article. You are welcome to share it with your wife but I must tell you before she does that I am not sure if the same rules apply to a marriage :) In friendship there are no expectations. In my opinion in a marriage the dynamic is likely different. I am pretty sure that if you hurt your wife or have an argument, someone will have to talk about it and clear the air before you can just move on.

BTW, one of my friends brought something interesting to my attention some days ago: guys sneak in sentences that are as apologetic as guys can get like "I hate it when we fight" or "So are we good?" towards the end of the conversation. Having had my best friends be guys for over a decade now, I know how to spot these disguised apologies and so wives probably know their hubby's way of saying "Sorry" too (but boy, is that word hard to get out of a man!)

:)

#14
Ravi Kulkarni
February 16, 2009
10:19 AM

Dear Aditi,

"In my opinion in a marriage the dynamic is likely different."

Darn it! I thought you had given me a sureshot formula for all the arguments. Sigh, I have think of something else now. :) :)

Ravi

#15
PH
URL
February 16, 2009
11:25 AM

Wonderful read!

#16
Aditi N
February 16, 2009
05:20 PM

sorry ravi, I'[m sure you'll come up with an alternate strategy :)
thank you PH, glad you enjoyed it!

#17
Genesis
February 16, 2009
11:59 PM

Nadkarni, Seriously gal ! Can you write a single article without mentioning "Aishwarya Rai" ?? Huh !!!

#18
Aditi N
February 17, 2009
09:36 AM

Genesis: Nope can't do it. Tried it but just can't do it. Pop-psych suggests that I must secretly admire her or something...or like some people have suggested in the past be totally envious of her. thanks for reading through the post long enough to spot that one. I almost forgot about it! I should set-up a "spot the Aish Rai-mention" contest for my posts. :)

And feel free to call me Aditi or better yet Dr.Nadkarni (which I absolutely love). Why invoke the whole Nadkarni clan!

#19
Genesis
February 17, 2009
02:01 PM

Nadkarni, you know what? It won't be a difficult task to spot "Ash Rai" in your articles at all. As such it's almost sure that there must be a mention - somewhere, some line, you just need to do Ctrl + F and look for the word in question ! Don't even need to take the pain to read through the whole post. It's amazing though how you manage to connect your dear "Ash Rai" to whatever post you write on whatever topic.

And nope, just like you can't stop yourself from mentioning Ash Rai, me too tried hard but it's such a fun calling you Nadkarni !

#20
Aditi N
February 17, 2009
02:14 PM

"you just need to do Ctrl + F and look for the word in question!"

Ahh. Got it!

"me too tried hard but it's such a fun calling you Nadkarni!"

No worries then...wouldn't wanna steal your fun. Nadkarni it is!

#21
annamma
February 20, 2009
07:34 AM

Read this only after the prizes were announced, and realise now that I'd passed over a gem! Really a nice article, Aditi.

#22
Aditi N
February 20, 2009
11:45 AM

Thanks annamma. So glad you enjoyed it!

#23
sanjeevani
March 1, 2009
02:48 PM

"I followed him inside until he walked into the bathroom. I stood outside only to hear him fart. That was my feedback. " - hahaha Aditi , this had me going in fits...!!! Forgot to write in before , but I truly loved your article , it makes me thank God again for giving me such good friends ..:) take care

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