Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

The Company of Friends

It is a great privilege to grow old in the company of friends –  like-minded individuals who have spent their childhood and youth in the same  environment as yourself and have shared similar life experiences.

Of course, they need not be friends who agree with you about everything. You should be able to discuss and even argue with them about  subjects ranging from what Donald Trump and Narendra Modi should do when they  finally retire from their current jobs – to why Mahinda Rajapakse’s hair is still jet black while Ranil Wickremesinghe and Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s are getting greyer and greyer. The subjects you discuss can vary from the sartorial elegance of Prince Charles and Kim Jong Un to the  clothes worn by Camilla Parker-Bowles and Melania Trump.

The most important criterion is that those with whom you share  the evening of your life should be friends with whom you can share a beer and a  chat – folk with whom you can enjoy the privilege of expressing contradictory  opinions in congenial company.

Now this is a privilege many of us currently living in Sri Lanka take for granted. Those of our childhood friends who are now domiciled in foreign climes tell me that they envy us for being able to do this. It is all well and good living in California or Perth or London in a six bed-roomed house with two swimming pools and three cars – but when you have to spend your evenings flicking between the twenty five channels available on your TV set because you have no old friends with whom you can put a chat, then you begin to wonder what really is important in the evening of your life.

And while the things we can do today (like emailing and Skyping and Zooming and having a conversation on your state of the art mobile phone when you are out in the open in one part of the world with someone who is walking on the street in some other far away corner of the world) are truly amazing, I somehow feel that looking at the picture of someone on a computer screen and talking to them using a microphone and a pair of earphones is just not the same as communing with them in real life.

Many years ago I was posted to Wellawaya, out in the boondocks of Sri Lanka. If I wanted to come home to Colombo on my off weekend I had to leave there in my car late on Friday afternoon to get home around mid-night. Later on I worked in Hong Kong – and when I wanted to come back home for a holiday, I worked out that if I got an AirLanka flight that left Kai Tak airport in the afternoon, I could be back in Colombo around mid-night Sri Lanka time.

Today, I can sit at my computer without doing any sort of travelling and carry on a three way video conversation with friends in Hong Kong, Wellawaya and New York.

But all this real time long distance communication, however efficiently it functions, cannot replace the pleasure of sitting in the front verandah of my house when evening falls, sharing a pot of tea (or even a bottle of something a little stronger) with a couple of old friends and just “putting a chat”.

Let us all hope that the isolation and lockdowns and curfews brought on by the Coronavirus will soon be a things of the past – and that we can get together once more with our old friends and kindred spirits – and share the pleasure of each others’ company face to face.

If you liked reading this story, more such stories can be found in my book Tales From my Island – available as an e-book from Amazon.com                                  

One comment on “The Company of Friends

  1. maxkamien
    June 15, 2020

    Brilliant & oh so true. As we grow older, long-rooted friendships are paramount in our lives. There is nothing better than just being able to share the commonality & camaraderie amongst a group of friends, being able to discuss anything & everything regardless of the subject matter with the utmost respect for one another.

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This entry was posted on June 15, 2020 by in Opinion and tagged , .
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