Studying in the school that I did, between the ages of 4 and 10 we would go on a field trip every month. We’d be piled up into a bus complete with colourful baskets, water bottles with pictures of Dora on them, and self-appointed buddies. I can assure you that this process of picking a buddy was ruthless.
Full-fledged soap operas would unfurl in different corners of the playground, complete with dramatic accusations of “You’re not my friend” and “I don’t care, our marriage on the playground was a sham anyway”. Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi pales in comparison. If you were unlucky and your class had an odd number of students, you would end up being the kid who had to be ‘buddies’ with the teacher. The scramble to find a friend was frightening back then. The only fight that was more dramatic than that was the fight for the window seat.
You can imagine my wariness, hence, when I was told last year that I would have to come a week early to college for the Buddy Project (Project doesn’t sound too good either – it has only ever meant ‘work in disguise’).
A year later, I can genuinely recommend the experience to anyone who’s moving away to a strange place and for whom making friends is as easy as flying is to a frog.
Eager to give the incoming batch as warm a reception as I received, I signed up to be a volunteer for the Buddy Project this year. I did not think the experience would be as rewarding as it turned out to be, even though I had to say “The next step for registration will take place upstairs. Please walk straight, take a left, and go to the second floor using the lift. Yes, I know it says first floor in the pamphlet you were given but we have a mezzanine floor in-between” about 350 times and then smiling so hard I could swear my skin hung a little loose after. I discovered more like-minded people, even within my own batch (my batch has 400+ students and my rate of making friendships is about 5 per year, I can’t know all of them). Some of my now-closest friends and I were initially bound by nothing but the common goal of buying toothpaste from the convenience store.
It also makes you reflect on your responsibilities as someone who should supposedly know better. You’ll find yourself answering many questions centred around life and all of its vagaries. But the big secret I have stumbled upon is that I really don’t know better. This is a journey of self-discovery and all that I can claim any insight into is myself (barely). Whichever kind of coke addict you are (I only recommend the kind you can get from the vending machine) you’ll always keep learning and sometimes you’ll learn by answering questions.
All I know for sure is that I’m quite comfortable being bipolar and swinging from end to end. Finding other similarly neurotic people only makes it better.
We’re all metaphorically hand-holding and standing in a line now. The Dora water bottles have been replaced by convenience store Kinleys and the baskets by bags. We still have buddies, though.
And this Buddy system works because no buddy gets left behind.
Disclaimer: Making bad (good) puns could ensure your buddy-less-ness in the future. Be warned.