February is the month of love, isn’t it?
That Hallmark-magnetized celebration on February 14th?
It’s only fitting that I tell you I celebrate this month with not one Valentine but five.
I am not polyamorous, but these Valentines are my forever corners – I go to bed knowing they have my back.
Meet my Valentines: Voozy | Birdy | Poodle | Shebs | D&K (Dave and Karen)
If you know me at all, you know that I don’t categorize relationships into romantic or platonic. To me, all relationships are beautiful – it’s beautiful to go on a lovely date, beautiful to fall into the warm hug of your mother, and beautiful to laugh with your friend.
I have always been lucky to have many friends. Some stay on the outside, peeking in now and then. Some are great just to travel with. Some others to go to a play or shopping. And then there are my Valentines. I have been lifted by their friendships – supported and inspired by their patience.
Let me tell you how in just one way.
I remember how, in 2021, my family came down with Covid, including me.
I have always been fiscally prudent. I thought I had done enough: Easy cash of Rs 2 lakhs that is always the base level in my savings account. Combined credit cards of Rs 5 lakhs. Insurance for everyone. I am covered for any emergency, I thought. Wrong. Covid threw those plans asunder. I wasn’t prepared for hospitals refusing cashless insurance. I wasn’t prepared to swipe Rs 6 lakhs in 3 days, with more to come. My credit cards were maxed out. I was looking to break my mutual funds and stocks. That’s when my friends stepped in. In 3 days, they raised almost Rs 2 lakhs together through crowdfunding.
I was able to survive – because of their largesse and generosity.
I am here because of my Valentines.
There’s Voozy. Last month, my mom fell ill and had to be hospitalized. I was away on holiday in Udupi and decided to drive back immediately. Voozy had come with me for the weekend, preparing to visit her grandmother. She threw her plans aside and returned with me. I protested. “No. I wouldn’t have allowed you to drive back alone for 8 hours in that frame of mind,” she said. “Too risky.”
How do you tell a friend like that she was placing her own life at risk by trusting me to drive safely? How do you have a friend like that who always gets you something from wherever she travels? A friend who stepped in to help me with Trippin Traveller, and who is the source of the greatest laughter in my life?
And then, there’s Shebs. A friendship of almost 20 years now. We have been to Sikkim, Bylakuppe, and many haunts in Chennai together.
If I need help, I turn to her. If I need a break, I turn to her. If I need to travel, we cook up plans. She’s the most giving of my friends and someone I admire, inspired by her work ethic, dedication, and resilience.
There’s Poodle: the oldest friendship in this mix, dating back to our college days. Isn’t it strange that all my Valentines share friendships reaching two decades?
We share a love for food. Spice. And all things nice. And she teaches me to forgive. To hold close the God she adores in my atheist heart. The one who tears up anytime she hears of someone in pain, and she has been there for all my pain over these recent years – always with the same message of compassion, forgiveness, and care.
There’s Dave and Karen: We last met in 2017. We have had our scraps over these years. But I know I can rest my aching shoulder on Karen any day and joust with Dave.
Our friendship knows no age; it knows no distance – I know they are here, a Skype call away. That reassurance gives me faith. It makes me believe in love.
There’s Birdy – a friendship miraculously resurrected in 2016, and although I sometimes struggle to understand her, no one really has me on their mind as much as her.
If I need money, care, a shoulder to cry on (virtually), and a gift, ice cream, a book or two, she’s here. My life would seem empty and hollow without her – where I would exist in a space lost without my shadow.
How can I complain about Life’s difficulties when I think of these gifts?
There are more friends – those I haven’t named here – who I know will rally around me in an instant.
This is the poetry of living, the joy of making connections, of sustaining love in all its forms. I am incredibly lucky to have these amazing people, their light guiding me all through life. I am so confident of their continued presence in my life – that I know only Death will do us apart.
Morbidity aside, this is my tribute to my Valentines. As Feb draws to an end, and we look toward new leaves of summer and spring in March, time stays still for me in this circle of friendship.
May you find people like this in your life.