About Me

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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Cover story

What lies beneath the mask? It’s often impossible to tell

The eyes – or so the saying goes – are a window into the soul. Well, perhaps they are. But it clearly takes a better woman (or man) than me to look into someone’s eyes and gaze right into their soul. As far as I am concerned, I can barely even discern anyone’s expression or mood by merely looking at their eyes.

And these days, with mask-wearing having become compulsory, that is all that you can see of anyone: their eyes. I have to confess that I find this rather disconcerting. Without being able to see someone’s mouth – whether it is turned up cheerily or downcast glumly – it is hard to tell whether someone is happy or not. Never has the expression ‘smiling eyes’ seemed more inappropriate when the truth is that you really can’t tell by someone’s eyes alone if they are smiling or not.

It turns out that all the visual clues that we rely upon during our social interactions depend less on the eyes, and more on the rest of the face. Is your nose crinkling up in disgust? Are your lips tightening with exasperation? Or have they risen ever so slightly in a sneer? Is your jaw relaxed or clenched with anger? It is all these non-verbal clues that we pick up on as we negotiate our way through the world.

But now that everyone we meet – except for the people in our own household – is masked, how on earth can we tell what they are feeling? And, equally importantly, how can they tell whether we are smiling or scowling underneath our masks?

Short answer to both questions is: no, we can’t. And that makes every social interaction that much trickier.

But the adaptable beings that we are, we have learnt our lessons from months of mask wearing and are now cued up with non-facial clues as we make our way through the world. I noticed this first when I went grocery shopping in my neighbourhood market. As I stopped and stepped aside on the pavement when I saw a man approaching from the opposite direction, he came to a halt and indicated with a sweeping gesture that I should pass first. I smiled my thanks before I realized that he couldn’t see that. So, as I passed him, I said ‘Thanks’ with a small bow that would have done a Japanese person proud.

For me, though, masks present another problem. I am ever so slightly deaf and over the years have developed the ability to lip read, which fills in the gaps that my hearing leaves. But now, with everyone’s lips masked, there is no way to glean that additional information. And it doesn’t help that masks end up muffling people’s voices even more. So, conversations have become more difficult to conduct, especially with people who are soft-spoken to begin with. Imagine my relief, then, when on my visit to my doctor, I saw him wearing a transparent face shield rather than a mask. Suddenly, I could understand every word he was saying. And, for a few minutes, I could feel like my old self.

It was on that hospital visit, though, that I realized that there are three kinds of mask wearers. The first group, in which I include myself, are those that put on their masks and leave them in place for the entire duration of the time they are outside. Then, there are those who seem to think that it’s fine to pull them down ever so often, sometimes to talk to their companion, at other times to have a sip of water, and so on. And then, there are those who seem to think that infections only enter through the mouth, so they can leave their noses bare, no problem at all. I find myself sorely tempted to tell them off, but then I think I am probably better off maintaining social distancing from morons like these.

Maybe as mask-wearing becomes a part of our lives – until they find a vaccine that all of us can take – people will become a little more aware of how best to use masks. And at the very least, they will stop touching the outside of their masks every few minutes to adjust it. I get particularly concerned when I see TV reporters doing this, because they are in a situation where there is a clear and present danger of contracting Covid 19. “Stop doing that!” I find myself yelling at the TV, like a batty old lady who can’t tell that the people on the other side of the screen can’t hear her.

It’s not all bad news, though. Wearing a mask means that I no longer need to bother with lipstick – which is a relief because I don’t know when I can next replenish my stock. On the flip side, my use of eyeliner and mascara – which I hardly ever used – has gone up exponentially!

So, while the eyes may not be a window to the soul, they are certainly proving to be key to my appearance. And even if you can’t tell, I am smiling with them as well.

Lockdown lessons

Being cooped up at home leaves you plenty of time for self-reflection

I think we are all agreed that this lockdown has been the most challenging time of our lives – no matter what our circumstances. Of course, it is much worse for those who don’t have a home they can isolate in; those who don’t have the luxury of space to socially distance; those who have lost their sources of income and don’t know where their next meal is coming from; and most tragically, those who are walking thousands of kilometers to make their way back to their villages, with all their possessions on their backs.

But even though it is imperative that we check our privilege when we start whining about how bored and irritated we are being stuck at home, there is no denying that after more than six weeks of the lockdown, everyone is going a bit stir crazy.

I must confess that when it all began, I was sure I would be okay with being confined to my house for weeks on end. How hard could it be to stay at home for a few weeks, I asked myself. After all, I have been working out of home for years now, and I am quite used to the being stuck indoors, with just my immediate household to provide me company. So, with a well-stocked kitchen, shelves full of books that I had been meaning to read, and stretches of quiet time in which I could finish the novel I was writing (the sequel to Race Course Road), the lockdown should present no great challenge for me.

Well, six weeks into the lockdown, I have to admit that this enforced isolation is finally getting to me. I do my best to stay in touch with family and friends. In fact, I have never made as many video calls as I do now. I am more active on my Whatsapp groups than ever before. I’ve even done Insta lives to try and stay connected with the outside world. And I am engaging much more on Twitter than I would normally do.

Yet, somehow, that’s not enough. And that has come as a revelation to me.

I have never considered myself to be a particularly social person. Given a choice between going out to a party and sitting at home and reading a good book, I will always choose the latter. My idea of hell is having to make small talk with strangers at formal dinner parties. And I find it hard to make new friends, being quite content with the small, tight group of old pals who have sustained me through the years.

But even for someone who self-identifies as a loner, the lack of human contact at this time has had a peculiarly dispiriting effect. I have found myself dreaming of having a restaurant meal with my girlfriends (no, getting on Zoom while eating our solitary meals at home does not even come close). I make elaborate plans of getting all my family together once the restrictions are lifted. In fact, I am even looking forward to negotiating crowded airports – which I have always loathed – when we are finally allowed to travel.

So, I guess it turns out that I am a social being after all!

But that’s not the only thing I have learnt about myself in this period. I have also realized that I need to better appreciate the people who make up my world. And by that I don’t just mean my household help, though it goes without saying that they have my eternal thanks. I mean those people on the fringes of my life, whose contribution I have tended to take for granted.

For instance, I certainly appreciated my colorist a lot more when, a few weeks into the lockdown, I turned my attention to my greying roots and reached for a home-dye kit. I will spare you the details of what followed but suffice it to say that the results were not pretty. If any salon had done that to me, I would have demanded my money back. But given that this was self-inflicted, all I could do was try not to wince every time I looked at myself in the mirror. And give thanks for the man who would soon be asked to launch a rescue mission.

I felt much the same way when I tried to recreate some of my favourite dishes in my own kitchen. As I peeled and chopped and sliced, and then stood sweating over the stove for hours on end, I suddenly appreciated the effort that had gone into all those restaurant meals I had taken for granted all this time. Never again will I dig into a biryani or tuck into bedmi aloo without giving thanks to the many hands that have created that magic on my plate.

If the lockdown has taught me anything, it is this. It is people that make our world go round. Not just the ones whom you count among family and friends. Not just the ones you love to distraction and would gladly take a bullet for. Not just the ones who love and cherish you.

It is also the ones whom you don’t see or value as you rush through the day. The ones who remain invisible, but bring tangible value to your life. The ones who toil silently so that you don’t have to. The ones you take for granted.

We really should appreciate them all. Lockdown or no lockdown.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Comfort reading

Trust me, it’s the best way of keeping calm and carrying on in the midst of a lockdown

Whenever I am going through a period of stress – and it will surprise precisely no one that this lockdown period has been a unique stressor – I always seek succor in my comfort reads. 

You know what I mean, right? Comfort reads are those books that transport me to better worlds, minutely imagined parallel universes, where all problems have resolutions, and every loose end can be niftily tied at the end of the narrative. These are books I have re-read so often that I know some of the dialogue by heart and yet the punchlines leave me chuckling each time. And these are the books that I have been turning to, to keep my spirits up, during this enforced stay-at-home period.

I am happy to report that they have done the trick quite nicely. I usually spend about an hour or so with them in the late afternoon after I have done my writing for the day and need to decompress. And I turn to them last thing at night, when I read myself to sleep. And they soothe and calm me much more than actual meditation ever does.

So, on the off chance that you may benefit from this remedy too, here’s my list of go-to books and authors. I hope they bring you the same comfort they do to me.

I have always been a fan of Margaret Atwood, but it had been a long time since I read her seminal work, The Handmaid’s Tale. But after bingeing on the three seasons of the TV show on Amazon Prime, I had this irresistible urge to go back and re-read the book the series was based on. And I am ever so glad that I did. The sparse prose, the easy cadences, and the effortless grace of Atwood’s writing left me in awe yet again. To read this book is to see the author at the height of her powers. And marvel once more at the imagination from which the dystopian world of Gilead sprung, fully-formed and full of horror.

The other TV series that sent me scurrying back to the book it was based on was Little Fires Everywhere on Hotstar. I had read Celeste Ng’s bestseller when it was first published but given that my memory is like a sieve these days, going back to it was like reading a new book. So, I could appreciate afresh the universe that Ng had created, with two intertwined families at the centre of the narrative, which spooled in a direction that was entirely unexpected. The show has deviated at many seminal points from the book, so even if you have seen the series, the book will still provide you with many surprises.

I had mentioned in my last column that I intended to explore the entire oeuvre of Elizabeth George, to chart the progress of Inspector Lynley and Barbara Havers’ careers as they went about solving murders across the decades. I have since begun reading A Great Deliverance, the very first Inspector Lynley mystery, which came out way back in 1988, and I am astonished to see just how much the characters have evolved since then. In this book, for instance, Lynley is portrayed as a dashing ladies man, who has slept with most of the women in his department, and Lady Helen Clyde is described as his ‘longest-running mistress’. As someone who rejoiced at their wedding and (spoiler alert coming up!) and cried tears at Helen’s passing, this throwback was startling to say the least.

As regular readers will know, whenever I need cheering up, my go-to author is Georgette Heyer. Her Regency romances have been a staple of my comfort reading list ever since my teenage years – and that hasn’t changed even though I am now well into my middle age. This time round, I first sought refuge in Venetia, in which the heroine of the title falls prey to the charms of a well-practiced rake, only to win his heart – and his hand – in the end. And then, I dived right into The Grand Sophy, in which the redoubtable heroine re-arranges the lives of all those around her, much to their consternation and my delight. 

Now that I am cooking more than ever, given that there is no other way to put food on the table, I keep dipping into food books to find inspiration (not recipe books, I am afraid, because I like to make things up as I go along, rather than follow in well-trodden paths). Some of the books that have provided food for thought in this period are Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat (she has a show by the same name on Netflix, which you could check out), Pasta Pane Vino by Matt Goulding, and closer home, The Flavour of Spice by my old friend Marryam H. Reshii. I like to think that the information I have gleaned from these worthy tomes has made me a better cook – the botched experiments, needless to say, are entirely of my own making.

If you too want to read yourself out of a lockdown-induced depression, then I can’t recommend comfort reading enough. Start with some of the books I have recommended, or find your own. But do read for a couple of hours every day – and no peeking at your phone while you do it. Believe me, it will make a world of difference to your day.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Going stir crazy?

Here’s a taste of some of the things that are getting me through quarantine

As I sit down to write this column, I have spent five weeks in quarantine. The first two were down to being exposed to a person who was later diagnosed with Covid-19. The next three were part of the national lockdown we are all part of. And it now looks as if we will spend the next two weeks (at least) as well cooped up in our homes.

I don’t need to tell you that this is not easy. All of you must be coping with your own unique difficulties. Some may be finding it hard to work out of home, while juggling the kids’ online classes and household chores. Those who live alone will be suffering the ill effects of social isolation. And there will be those who will be struggling to get even essential supplies in.

I have written in earlier columns about how I was coping with quarantine and what I was most looking forward to when it was finally lifted. But I think this is the time to tell you what are the little joys that are actually helping me get through this period. And yes, despite all my anxiety and angst, there are many.

Here is just a random sample:

Cooking: I have always enjoyed pottering around in the kitchen, playing around with ingredients, and coming up with dishes that owe nothing to recipe books. But that was an occasional pleasure. These days, though, I am cooking both lunch and dinner, and I must admit that this task is keeping me sane. Partly, it is that I am forced to innovate, because so many ingredients are simply not available, so that makes me stay engaged. But mostly, I think it is because the instinct to feed those you love (and that includes your own self) is the one thing that keeps us going in difficult times. So, I spend every afternoon and evening in the kitchen, making no more than one dish per meal-time – this is not the time to show off – trying to vary the cuisines as much as possible, and making just a little bit extra to bung into the freezer in case of emergency. 

Sitting out in my balcony: This was always the one area of the house I never visited. For one thing, it gets the full force of the sun all day and can get unbearably hot. And for another, it is so narrow that it can just about accommodate one chair, with no scope of placing even a stool in front of it. But now that this is my only source of fresh air, I have discovered the virtues of this tiny space. For starters, it has a massive Alstonia tree (what we call Saptaparni in India) growing by its side, which has become home to all the neighbourhood birds. Then, there is the fact that the curry patta tree that my housekeeper has nourished to an amazing size, is flowering and the air in the entire balcony is scented with its amazing perfume. Also, when the sun finally goes down, there is a nice breeze that sets up, blowing away the cobwebs of mind as I sip my of coffee (okay, who am I kidding? A gin and tonic, more likely!), balancing the glass delicately on the ledge.

Comfort reading: I started quarantine off with the best of intentions. I was going to read every worthy tome that was lining my bookshelves, restricting myself to serious reads now that I had the space and time to concentrate on them. But that didn’t last long. A fortnight in and I was done with expanding my mind; now all I wanted was to comfort my soul. And there is no better way of doing that than revisiting your favourite authors, who have kept you entertained for years. So I dipped into a bit of Agatha Christie, burrowed into a few titles by P.D. James, and am now planning to re-read the entire oeuvre of Elizabeth George. Given that she has written some twenty books in the Inspector Lynley series, that should see me through quarantine.

Scent: I was never one for spraying perfume on myself every day, even during those halcyon days when we could step out of the house. But now that I am housebound, I find myself reaching for the perfume bottle the moment I am out of the shower and spritzing myself with the pick of the day – usually a soothing floral scent. Somehow, in a way that is hard to explain, smelling good serves as a pick-me-up and makes me feel more equipped to face the day. Similarly, when I am getting into my nightclothes, I spray some lavender eau de toilette on myself. And so far at least, it’s helping me sleep well.  

There’s a lot else, of course. There’s my cross-trainer, which has never got so much attention from me and is not quite sure what to do with it. There are the video calls with my girlfriends as we commiserate with each other on our greying roots and unkempt eyebrows. And then, there’s Insta, where we post our cooking videos so that we can share recipes virtually. 

In fact, a couple of days back I even went ‘live’ on Insta, to give my book recommendations to those who tuned it. And I had so much fun doing it, that it’s going on the list of things that will help me get through this. So, stay tuned. I’m going to pop up on your screens soon, wittering on about something or other. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

Post-Corona life

When things go back to normal – and they will – this is what I will do first

As I sit down to write this column, I have already been housebound for 14 days after having come into contact with someone who was later diagnosed with Covid-19. And just when I was ready to rejoin the world, the Prime Minister announced a three-week, nation-wide lockdown, which means I will now end up being quarantined for five weeks in all.

I shouldn’t complain, though. With a well-stocked kitchen, plenty of books to read, and three streaming services at the ready, I am more prepared than most to ride out a lockdown. Also there’s the fact – as I wrote last time – that as someone who works out of home, I am more used than others to the solitary life. But even so, staying cooped up at home, with just the occasional visit to my teeny-tiny balcony to catch a whiff of fresh air, is beginning to make me stir-crazy. Not to mention, a little bit bonkers – I even caught myself talking to my plants the day before yesterday. (Though psychiatrists say that talking to your plants is fine; it’s when they start talking back to you that you should ask for help.)

That said, I am trying to keep to my normal routine as much as possible. I still get up at my usual time, have breakfast, make sure to shower, dress and even slap on some make-up before I sit down to work on my book. I stride up and down the house in lieu of my usual walk in the park and try to ensure that I get my 10,000 steps in. I mark mid-day by having lunch. I celebrate the end of my workday by having a last cup of coffee. I cook dinner every evening, set the table, and eat a proper dinner with my husband. Sometimes to cheer ourselves up, we even open a nice bottle of wine to accompany our home-cooked meal. 

I try not to disappear down the hole of social media, restricting myself to checking Twitter every couple of hours. I don’t watch TV during the daytime. And I turn off Netflix/Amazon/Hotstar at a reasonable hour at night even if I am not sleepy. I find it’s much better to wind down by reading in bed rather than watching yet another episode of that addictive show. 

But even though life goes on, albeit in an altered form, I find myself acutely missing many things that I took entirely for granted in pre-Coronavirus times. And I can’t wait for this period of quarantine to be over, so that I can go back to doing all the things that mark normality for me. 

Here’s just a small sampler:

Going for a walk: I wouldn’t have thought that I would miss this quite so much, given that in normal times, I often had to push myself to get my sneakers on and out of the door. But now that that option is no longer available to me, I find myself longing for the spring-flowers laden ambience of Lodi Garden, where the sound of birdsong accompanies me as I walk down the tree-lined pathways. And I am sure that when I am back at my favourite walking spot – even though the weather will have heated up by then – I will appreciate it even more for having experienced its absence.

Having lunch with my friends: Hanging out with my girlfriends, whether over lunch, a coffee, or even a drink, was something that I always took for granted. In retrospect, though, those girlie lunches or girls nights out were a lifesaver for me – and I suspect, for them as well. It gave us a chance to vent if we were unhappy, to exult if things were going well, and to share if we were troubled about something. Yes, I know we can always use Zoom for a virtual hang-out, but sorry to say, it’s nowhere as nice as the real thing.

Dropping in on my sister: I don’t get a chance to do that very often at the best of times, but this may mark the longest period that I have not had a chance to see her in person – video chats are all very well, but there is no substitute for in-person contact. So, as soon as this nightmare is over, I am headed over, with a hotpack containing the channa-bhaturas we love so much, for some much needed Didi-time.

Eating a meal in a restaurant alone: Most people don’t get it, but I actually enjoy going out to eat on my own. Whenever my writing is not going well, I head out to one of my regular haunts, with just a good book for company. I eat a simple meal, flush my mind out completely, and come back to work, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I can’t wait to do that once more.

Going to the beach: It’s a funny thing. Until now, whenever I have been on a beachside vacation, I have always ended up complaining about what the humidity does to my hair (you really don’t want to know). And yet, now that travel seems an impossibility, it is the beach that I find myself longing for: the smell of salt water; the smoothness of the sand between my toes; the cooling waves lapping against my feet. Even the wild, frizzy tangle that is my hair at the beachside will be well worth it.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Life in the time of Corona

Some handy tips to deal with the virus (but before that, wash your hands!)

As I sit down to write this column, I have a completely empty diary staring at me, with no upcoming trips or events listed. Just a week ago, my schedule looked very different, with both domestic and international travel scheduled through the month. But as the coronavirus scare got scarier by the day, I cancelled two trips to Mumbai as a measure of abundant caution. And today, as the Indian government banned all non-essential travel by Indians abroad (with the very real risk of quarantine when we get back), I cancelled a trip to Singapore scheduled for the end of March.

And even though I show no symptoms of the disease (so far!) I have decided to self-isolate at home as well. And that’s not just because I don’t want to catch an infection as I go about my normal day. It’s also due to the fact that the last flight I took to Mumbai featured an air-hostess who coughed dramatically throughout the two-hour journey even as she did the meal service (yes, I kid you not!). I quickly donned my mask for the duration of the flight – though the passengers around me did not seem unduly concerned – but there is always the chance that the damage may have already been done.

So, for the past week I have been staying in for the most part, declining events and avoiding crowds. And even though I risk coming off as rude, I have been refusing to shake hands with the smattering of people I do meet, offering a Namaste instead (it came as something of a relief when I saw Prince Charles and President Macron of France doing exactly the same thing).

It helps that as far as self-isolation goes, I have some experience in the matter. For the past several years, I have been working out of home, and often go days without seeing anyone other than my husband and the household help. So unlike others who may be freaked out by the prospect of isolation, I have already made my peace with it. And it is on that basis, that I offer the following tips to cope with being home alone.

First, set up a routine. When you are just schlepping around at home, the temptation to lounge around all day in your pyjamas, without even having a shower or shave, is hard to resist. But resist it you must. It is crucial to keep up appearances, even if there is no one around to watch. So, make sure that you are bathed and dressed (and by that I don’t mean another pair of pyjamas) as you prepare to face the day. Don’t skip lunch and grab a bag of chips instead. Have a proper meal at midday, even if it is just you sitting at the table. Stop working in the evening, to give yourself some proper downtime. And don’t eat dinner slumped in front of the television. Set the table and eat with proper crockery and cutlery laid out. It is these civilizing touches that make your daily routine; and you must stick with them no matter what.

Yes, this is the best time to binge on those shows that you haven’t had the time to watch given your hectic schedule. But TV shows – especially those that have an addictive element – have the tendency to take over your life to the exclusion of all else. So, it is imperative that you set limits on yourself. Speaking for myself, I have an iron rule in my household. The TV does not come on before 8 pm. That is the only way I can discipline myself to work during the day. Because once you descend into the pit of daytime TV-viewing, there is no coming back.

A far better use of your time would be to catch up on all the books you’ve been meaning to read (but have been piling on your bedside table because of lack of time). Now that you are at home with time on your hands and minimal distractions, tackle all the books that require your undivided attention. Choose books with important themes if you are a non-fiction fan. Pick sweeping sagas if you prefer fiction. This is the best time to delve into three or four-part series like Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, for instance (I promise you will love it).

Just because you are in isolation does not mean that you have to feel isolated. Use social media to stay in touch with the world (though Instagram is a more feel-good place than Twitter; and Pinterest much more fun than Facebook). Facetime or video call your friends and family rather than just phone; seeing their faces will make for a stronger connection than merely hearing their voices.

This is the time to indulge your hobbies, or even develop new ones. Dabble with new recipes in the kitchen. Learn how to knit (it’s supposed to help reduce stress, so that’s a bonus). Or maybe spend time researching the destinations you would like to visit when this nightmare is over. I have already shortlisted two that I have never been to – Greece and Croatia – and I am having a tremendous time planning itineraries in my head, while I wait for the real thing to materialize. Let’s hope real life lives up to my imagination. 

And now, if you will excuse me, I am off to wash my hands – yes, again!

Palling around

Making friends as you grow older may be hard; but it’s even harder to keep the ones you do have

I’ve always been skeptical of those who say that it is impossible to make new friends when you hit middle age. You know how the theory goes, right? The best, the most intense, the most valuable relationships are those that are forged when we are children or in our early adulthood. It is these childhood friends or college buddies who become our support structure as we grow older along with each other. This tight-knit group has no secrets from one another; they have seen each member at his or her absolute best and horrific worst; they share memories and secrets; they have witnessed the seminal moments of each others life; and the bonds thus created are unbreakable. You could never replicate that kind of friendship with someone you meet when you are fully formed.

Well, that’s the argument, anyway. And I must confess that it’s not one I necessarily agree with. As someone who moved town because of my career and lost touch with most of her childhood friends (who are now scattered all over the globe) I could not have negotiated life without the friends I made in my thirties and forties. 

These friendships are arguably even better than the ones I had forged in my youth and teenage years. For one thing, they are not based simply on proximity, on the coincidence of attending the same class or living in the same neighhourhood. These are people that I actively sought out and befriended because I felt I had some sort of special rapport with them. And more importantly, these relationships were formed when I had a better idea of who I was and what I wanted in a friend – and at a time when I had zero compunction about walking away from people who simply weren’t doing it for me. So, these are the friends not just of my heart but my mind as well. 

But as I grow older, it is not the thought of making new friends that preoccupies me; it is the dread of losing any of the friendships that I have spent so many years cherishing and preserving. And yet, as life gets more and more frenetic, as our familial obligations increase, it is an inescapable fact that we have less and less time for friends. 

We all know that relationships are more like houseplants than trees. While trees do well even if they are neglected and left to their own devices, houseplants have a most disobliging way of dying on us if they are not nourished and looked after. So, how does one keep a friendship going, so that it lasts us a lifetime?

Well, here are just a few tips, based entirely on my own experience:

Stay in touch: And by that I don’t mean that you should share the occasional joke on Whatsapp or like each other’s pictures on Facebook or Instagram. By ‘stay in touch’ I mean that you should be present in one another’s life. If your friend gets promoted, buy her lunch to celebrate. If she loses a parent, don’t think your duty is done if you attend the funeral; call her every day for a little chat just to check that she’s okay. If she is depressed, don’t just send her motivational quotes; show up at her house with a box of chocolates and spend time raising her spirits. 

Don’t let feelings fester: If you are feeling neglected by a friend, if she hasn’t been in touch for a while, don’t respond by deploying the silent treatment. If you value that friendship, take the initiative to change things for the better. Pick up the phone and speak to her. Be honest and admit that you miss her presence in your life. Ask her for the reasons behind her absence. If she is upset about something you have done, address the issue head-on. Similarly, if you are upset with a friend about something, don’t just sulk in silence and assume that she will pick up on your unhappiness. Express your displeasure clearly and firmly; only then can you move beyond it. If yours is a true friendship, it will survive this honesty stress; if it doesn’t, well then it wasn’t much of a friendship at all.

Do fun things together: If you only turn to your friends when you are in a funk and need cheering up, or you are in a spot of trouble and could do with some help, it won’t be long before they start dreading your call or email. So, it’s important to ensure that you guys have some fun times together as well to remember why you became friends in the same place. Meet for a few drinks in the evening, maybe go for a walk on a weekend morning, or just share a meal together to catch up on the minutiae of each other’s life. 

Make an effort: You do that in your romantic relationships, don’t you? (At least, I hope you do!). You put a lot of thought into buying a birthday present. You send flowers on significant anniversaries. You plan surprise parties on special occasions. Well, a friendship doesn’t deserve any less effort just because it a platonic rather than a romantic relationship. So, do your best by your friends, and more often than not, they will do even better by you.