A definition in progress

Dubby Bhagat


The great late ‘60’s saying was, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Before that was another cliché I’m working on, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” which, I’m changing to “A friend NOT in need is a friend indeed.” Of course, people are going to rally around you when you’re down. Temporarily. And then because these are busy times, they go about doing what they must. But everyone has a few (very, very few) relationships that are always there, because there’s chemistry involved and effort involved and there aren’t enough hours in a day to keep up with everybody you know. So as Darwin almost said, the fittest friendships survive.

Just before he married Lady Diane, Prince Charles visited Kathmandu. I was introduced to him on the lawns of the British Ambassadors Residence. His Highness told me about Trumpers. Geo F Trumpers who, “prepares” at “his celebrated establishment at Curzon Street in Mayfair, London,” shaving creams, aftershaves and a number of items no gentleman can be caught dead without.

After that “royal” introduction I was in England and a very wealthy sheikh I knew, who wanted to marry a French lady of my acquaintance, bought me some delectable smelling velvet coloured and rose coloured shaving creams from Trumpers which were so decadent, effete and unnecessary I had to have it. I was in those days part of a two-man writers’ workshop where a friend and I shared articles and exchanged full stops and commas. He and I worked together at lunch every week and we both believed that the other was a better writer. Sometimes an offending sentence would get changed over the phone at night or an article was worked on while a car waited to whisk it away to a fax machine. We exchanged beliefs, ideals and thoughts and we connected. He was busy, was my friend Rakesh Wadhwa. He was writing columns, being shortlisted for international writing awards, running casinos and becoming famous.

I’d ring him up when he wrote particularly brilliantly and I was with him in spirit in New York travelling astrally, when he gave a speech accepting an award. I don’t know who was prouder. Probably me. Rakesh Wadhwa is self effacing. Then one night I received a telephone call. From Rakesh Wadhwa. “I’m in Trumpers in London, I’ve lost the people I’ve come with. Here’s the shop assistant. Order what you want.” Between a swing of emotions, which went from sentimentality to laughter I told the Trumpers chap, what I wanted.

… and they all arrived. The point is while dashing around London with no parking and losing and inconveniencing family and friends, Rakesh Wadhwa ratified a relationship begun years ago. He didn’t need to: we’re, after all, friends. But then, as I said at the beginning of this article friends think of each other for no reason other than friendship, even when they don’t have to. I know Rakesh knows how grateful I am, I told another friend, Shalini, his wife. But this is about thank you for thinking of me when we didn’t have anything to prove. Which is the best time to think of friends, like I said when they’re not needed. There’s a rather awful, schmaltzy, Hallmark autograph book kind of poem that’s stuck with me since I was a kid,

“Friendship’s like a noble river/ Growing deeper as it flows/ gathering strength and riches ever/ Deepest when it nears the close.”