Friends

The American television serial-Friends- is quite popular these days among young people in India. It depicts the escapades of a group of young friends. Though these American youngsters inhabit a different world from our own, the show is still a hit here. It may be because concerns of the youth the world over remain the same and they all value friendship highly.

True friendship is celebrated in folk lore and mythology of all cultures. The story about the friendship between Lord Krishna and Sudama is a legend in India. They became friends while studying in Guru Sandipana’s ashrama. After completing their studies they went their own ways. While Krishana became the king of Dwarika, Sudama remained a poor Brahmin. His wife knew of their friendship and often implored him to ask Krishna for help. The Brahmin was contented with his friendship and did not desire anything else from Krishna. But her repeated entreaties eventually moved him to go to Dwarika to meet him. While leaving he asked his wife for a gift for Krishna. There being nothing of value in their home, she collected a handful of chivada from her neighbours and tied it in his handkerchief as a present for Krishna.

When Sudama reached Dwarika, he was overwhelmed by its magnificence and the opulence of its people. He hesitated in meeting his friend due to the obvious difference in their stations.  But Krishna was overjoyed to find his old friend at his gate. Despite being the king, he embraced Sudama and welcomed him. He seated him on his own seat, washed his feet with his own hands and offered him fruits and drinks. Everyone in his palace was astonished at the reception that the poor priest was receiving at the hands of their king. Sudama tried to hide his handkerchief thinking that his gift was worthless but Krishana soon found it and ate the chivda with great relish.

Sudama stayed with his friend for sometime but could never bring himself to ask him for any material help. After sometime he bade his friend goodbye and started back home pondering what he would tell his wife about asking Krishna for help. When he reached his village, he was shocked to find a palace with all the riches in place of his humble hut. He understood that his friend was the cause of all this. Krishana had known, without Sudama ever telling him, that he required help. And help him he did, with an open heart and without expecting anything in return. Such is the essence of friendship.

This story is very old yet so popular that it is told and retold in all languages. It is also adapted to contemporary circumstances from time to time. Shades of the same were seen recently in a Hindi movie- Billu- in which the lead role was played by Shahrukh Khan. In this movie also, two childhood friends meet after a very long time during which their circumstances had changed. While one had become a famous movie star, the other had remained poor. The poor friend hesitated in meeting the rich person thinking that perhaps he might have forgotten their friendship. But the rich person still remembered his friend. In the end, they renewed their friendship with much tear shedding and melodrama as always happens in Hindi movies.

Kural, an ancient Tamil scripture, says that friendship is shared sensibilities and not constant companionship. How true!

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