Friendship is one of the most precious gifts of life. It is a feeling that someone understands and appreciates you as you are. It makes you feel  ‘really wanted’ and that you are ‘someone’ and not a faceless person in the crowd. Friendship is a connection that lasts longer than any other because of one strong element in it, and that is, no-expectations. Indeed, friendship is the best relationship we make in this world.

Lasting friendship is a marvellous blessing. True friends are great pillars of life. They help us to stand tall and erect in life. It does not matter how often you meet your friends, but how much you care and feel for another in good times as well as in bad times, is what is important.

True friends stay forever…beyond words, beyond distance, beyond even time!

Looking back at my life’s journey, one thing that makes me feel special, proud and satisfied is the fact that I have many true friends. My friends have stayed with me in all stages of my life. Good luck and happiness has always paved my way in the form of new friends that have come along at various stages in my life.  

Rakesh Popli with his wife Anita on May 31, 2016, at his farewell function after he retired as branch manager of Syndicate Bank, Kharkhoda, Sonipat

My intimate friends list includes classmates with whom I studied with in school, friends from my college days, my daily co-travellers on suburban trains, friends from the places where I was posted during my long bank career, friends from my last bank branch where I worked before I retired ― and last but not the least important,  my virtual friends from the ‘Speaking Tree’ platform of The Times of India (TOI) group. They may be virtual, but the bonds that I have built with them are very real and larger than life. More about them later in this article.

So strong have been my friendships that their memories have remained etched in me, forever. You may not believe me, but I still remember the roll numbers of some of my childhood friends and the marks that they scored in the matriculation exams. By sheer stroke of luck, three of my classmates and I ― very good friends ― joined the same bank after completing our college studies. We worked together for some time in the same or nearby branches and have remained close for more than three decades of bank service.

And when we retired, it so happened that we all were posted in our native place in different branches of Syndicate Bank at Sonipat and thus attended retirement functions of each other. We became quite emotional while reliving our life experiences, being together from school days and working together in the same organisation. We shared our bits and pieces of life, of being together in happiness and sadness, in success and in failure. After retirement, three of us are staying in the same city, making this a true friendship of life.

I also succeeded in forging close friendships wherever l was posted during my long bank career. While posted at Hardwar in the early eighties, with one friend I went to some very remote places in the mountains in Kumaon and Almora region ― the adventure trip I can never forget.

Friends together can scale the highest mountain

In the year 2013, another beautiful phase of my life started when I joined the Speaking Tree platform, the spiritual networking site of TOI as a seeker. There I came into contact with some of the best minds and forged a virtual friendship with few of them. We together have formed a separate closed group on Facebook and named it ‘Speaking Tree Satsang’, where we share views and blogs on spirituality. With seven years of togetherness, we now have another family, the family of soul friends.

I am forever grateful for the true friends in my life. I thank them so much for being my true friends! Here, are the names (first names only) of some of my precious friends, who are part of my soul: Vijay, Gopal, Brij Mohan, Ashok, Dinesh, Lokesh, Pawan, Mahender, Arun, Gulshan, Ramesh, Satish, Pramanand, Ravinder, Ramkumar, Tilak, Surinder, Kulwant, SP Singh, Ananth, Hari, Vinod, Babulal, Rajinder, Rakesh, Shyamlal, KL sir…And all friends from ‘Speaking Tree Satsang’ group started by Alka (the list is long, more than 40 of them).

In conclusion, I would say, let your heart play a big role in your life with the mind playing a supporting role only; let the Self in you resonate with the Self in others; let your eyes see good and let your ears listen to more good. Then you will have plenty of friends. You would be encircled by good friends, close friends and true friends. When we have such friends, the support system is so strong that we can help each other in overcoming all obstacles, in scaling the highest of mountains.

It is said that marriages are made in heaven. But I would like to add that it is equally true that friends are also made in heaven.

Rakesh Popli, a retired banker and blogger, writes about his observations of life. He lives in Sonipat.