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Pakistan: She says: Just good friends.

Pakistan, June 27 -- 'Aik larka aur larki kabhi dost nahi ho saktay!' So says the grand-old-daddy of Hindi and Urdu cinema. Is that an exaggerated lie conceived to segregate the sexes or an uncomfortable truth we love to deny? Lady Hollywood seems to agree with Dada Jan for doesn't Harry echo this very sentiment in When Harry met Sally when he says, 'The sex part always gets in the way.' Though his friend Sally vehemently denies this, after a decade long friendship, sex does indeed get in the way, taking their relationship from platonic to romantic in a matter of eleven minutes. Coming back to desi fillums, Salman Khan seems to have the same problem in Maine Ney Pyar Kiya and later in Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, where he zealously sets out the rules of friendship as, 'no sorry' and 'no thank you', but conveniently forgets 'No flirting'.

Switching from reel to real life, is there really no such thing as 'Just good friends?' As far as us women go, I can safely say that when we tell a guy, 'I just want to be friends,' we usually have even less than 0.1 per cent of any irrational notion that the man before us could be the father of our future offspring. After all, having a relationship is not like picking out a handbag or a pair of shoes that, once you get back home, you think maybe not my colour. Think I'll change it. But no such misery for our male friends. When a girl tells them, 'I don't want to risk our friendship,' they nod understandingly all the while thinking, 'hmmm, must try another time.'

As my lawyer friend, Angeli, puts it, "Platonic friendship between a man and woman can exist only where one party (or both) is positively averse to the other as a partner. For example, I love my guy friend as a friend but would hate him as a boyfriend because he is (a) unattractive and (b) stingy. Secondly, he doesn't fancy me because he sees me as a 'sister'. Even then, I think that, given the chance, he would try it on in a moment of vulnerability, but I wouldn't (which is a big difference in the strength of characters of men and women) and so our friendship is, and always will be, platonic. On the other hand, if two friends of the opposite sex just don't fancy each other, I don't think the platonic label washes: something could (and with time and proximity, inevitably will) happen."

I find my friend's view rather pro-Talibanish, for isn't she, in a way, saying that men and women are not capable of being together without temptation rearing its ugly head? A classic case for the burkha!

As I run through my contact list hoping to speak to a male friend who will refute this view I realise the only male friendships I have which have not at some time or the other gravitated towards a mild flirtation (initiated from the guy's side of course) are with friends who are either gay, married to extremely beautiful women or very old. So perhaps there is some truth to the grand old daddy's saying. As a gay friend of mine tells it in his pakao humour, "the only way a girl and a guy can be in a truly platonic relationship is if he is gay or she is unattractive. Otherwise, why would a guy want to be in her fan club, make her feel desired, put up with all her dramas - without any fringe benefits? Any girl who believes otherwise is fooling herself."

So do girls enjoy the attention?

"Why not?" says Zoya, a housewife. "If guys can have a hidden agenda, why can't girls get a kick out of being secretly admired? In Pakistani society a girl has to play dumb pretending not to know a guy's intention. Sometimes that's necessary simply due to the sheer lack of company."

"Even if you are married," says Ayesha who works in advertising, "don't assume that will automatically deter a male friend from trying it on. You can be just hanging out and at some point or the other they will make a sexist joke or flirtatious remark like, 'I wish I had met you earlier in my life' - just to check your reaction. Any hints of intimacy will encourage them to make the next move."

"It's a shame because I really enjoy talking to men," says her colleague, Mina. "Either they see you as one of the guys (which means you have zero sex-appeal) and there can be a platonic relationship. Or, if they find you remotely attractive, you might think you are hanging out with a buddy but buddy here is probably checking you out. Not all girls mind," she winks.

Some might, I think, if it's indeed all about attraction. Not so much by what goes on in a guy's minds but by what doesn't if they truly are in a platonic relationship!

"Platonic friend-ships are like the Titanic," says another girlfriend and adds before I can ponder further, "They sink."

And my personal favourite and probably the most truthful quote is from an English friend who's been married for eight years and is known for her optimistic cynicism. She says "Of course platonic relationships exist: it's called marriage!

Published by HT Syndication with permission from The Friday Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at

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Publication:The Friday Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:Jun 27, 2010
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