Who is a bondhu? I ran into a bondhu today and the person expressed some confusion about the word. And that got me thinking. Indeed, I use the word frequently in my writing, and way back I had tried to clarify what it means.
But perhaps it is time to revisit the unique relationship that the term implies. The unfortunate crude translation to English is “friend,” but it is closer to the Italian word “Paisan” the rustic, the peasant, although the Italians would focus on nationality, the word “bondhu” represents not a person but an emotion.
A bondhu once reminded me that even things have emotion and that is true of a bondhu. A bondhu is a person with whom you can sit over a solitary cup of coffee and spend hours that seem like a blink of an eye. Time goes by with a bondhu, because you can look each other in the eye and see congruence. With a bondhu, a debate, even argument, eventually leads to a happy place.
A bondhu makes you happy. There are no pretensions, no attenuation of behavior, no judgment, and no doubts. There is no vanity with a bondhu, you do not have to look good, you can be down with COVID and look like you are going to die in the next fifteen minutes, but it doesn’t matter. As a bondhu once taught me, the real test of a relationship is not how you look when you are decked up, but how you look when you roll out of bed, early in the morning, and the bondhu sees who you are, even then.
It is the person who will wait, it is the person who will be patient, it is the person who will smile at you and say, “sit, why are you so restless?” when the worries of the World seem to come down and trample you. It is the person who will look at your achievements and not feel a hint of jealousy, it is the person who will sing a song for you (if the bondhu can sing!) just because you say — “sing a song.” It is the person who will tell you, “stop doing what you are doing” and the person who will say, “go for it,” even when the person and you know that what you are going for is dangerous. Because the bondhu trusts you.
It is the person who will surprise you. At a lunch the person will say, “this is my treat,” when you were least expecting it. It is the person who will not mind the blemishes in the coffee when you make a mess of it. This is the person whose mischief makes you mad and then you realize that it the real person. It is the person who makes every moment a “home” wherever be it. Where you can move the furniture and stretch out or go into the kitchen and start rummaging around or don’t have to clean the car for.
It is in such relationships you discover your potential, as one bondhu says, “bring out the best in me.” This is our role as a friend, to bring out the best in the other — where what you do and say makes your bondhu happy. It is not about what you give them, but what the things you give them mean. It is the person who holds out a hand, even a financial hand, and offers the support when ends do not meet and who offers the solace of knowing that you would not be judged. Not judged. Taken for who you are.
For me, the semi-blind bungling self who falls without warning, but the bondhu says, “sit for a while, I will get some water,” but does not fault you for falling. It is such persons that I am fortunate to have, not a mere friend but bondhus for whom we would wait a lifetime. And when such persons are found you say what Diane Warwick said in “That’s what friend are for,” where you see the expansiveness of the term of bondhu and how it expands beyond friend.