One of the biggest problems I tend to face in navigating adulthood is building and maintaining genuine friendships. Back in Singapore, I was never the sort to really care whether or not I had friends. I had a super strong bond with my family and cousins and that was really all the socializing I needed (or could handle). The very few good friends I did have always knew my family came first, no question about it. But then everything changed when I started a new life in the US. Without my family physically around, friends obviously became a much bigger part of my life and I had to learn how to not only seek out good friends, but to also BE a good friend myself (which I must admit was not something I consciously tried to be before). It was a new experience for me—trusting others enough to share my innermost thoughts and secrets with them, learning how to earn their trust in return, asking for help when I needed it and also offering help whenever I could. Basic things like that.

That was a lead-up to this piece of exciting news: Molly and Pratik, two of my best friends from Minnesota, spontaneously packed up and moved to Seattle about a month ago and they now live 10 minutes away from us! AHHH, I still can’t believe it. It’s probably one of the happiest things to happen to me in a while. I’ve missed them so much, and I’ve missed the easy, honest sort of friendship we have.

Well, because I happen to have some time and like to recount “how we became friends” stories, here’s how I became friends with Molly (and later Pratik):

*Disclaimer: This might or might not be fully accurate but it’s how I remember it.

The first time I encountered Molly was when Tehreem (whom I had also just recently befriended at that time) invited her to one of our Ramadan iftar dinners because they had some volunteer work-related stuff to discuss. Most non-Muslims, when invited to these dinners, are really shy and polite. But not Molly, oh no! As soon as I saw how she helped herself to the food and how she was just so genuinely interested in everything—not bothering to self-censor or mask her curiosity/ignorance (ha)—I knew we had to be friends. Don’t you feel like that about people sometimes? Like you just know you’d hit it off with them based on little things like the words or gestures they use? That’s how I felt about Molly. She was so unpretentious and candid and effortlessly funny! It was refreshing.

We didn’t really talk that night, beyond quick introductions, but I kept trying to figure out how to see her again. Yeah, I know it’s creepy but whatever. We crossed paths now and then but I didn’t know how to move beyond acquaintanceship. Then the following semester, one of my assignments for my Documentary Photography class was to photograph an “interesting stranger”. I immediately thought of Molly. I didn’t know much about her but I figured it was a good excuse to at least get to know her better. (Also, I remembered her mentioning that her husband was a Nepali guy she had met while on a volunteer program in Nepal, so naturally I was curious about him/their story too!)

So I got in touch with her, went to their house and photographed them. I found out they were hardcore animal lovers—they had a cat and two rats, and were fostering another two kittens at that time—which was perfect for my project because it made them look a little eccentric:

I also learnt more about how they met and the hurdles they faced while trying to make a super long-distance relationship (and then an international, intercultural marriage) work. Their story was beautiful and inspiring and crazy and chaotic, just like them. I loved that their personalities were so dynamic yet complementary, it’s almost impossible to like one of them and not the other.

Side note: That first time I met Pratik, he made some kind of amazing spicy Nepali chaat using instant ramen noodles, which I guess was a prelude to us finding out later that he was a really good cook.

From there, we all hit it off just as I had foreseen, although Gani likes to mention that he wasn’t a fan of Molly at first, apparently because she was so loud. Honestly, I think he just used to be intimidated by confident, opinionated women in general. But the point is, we did eventually become firm friends. And I’m so glad we did, because I can’t imagine life without them now. I’ve learnt so much from them and we’ve seen one another through some really wonderful and shitty times. We’ve also crossed a lot of “boundaries” together. For example, Gani and I have this unspoken rule that we won’t fight in front of our friends, but we make an exception for these two, lol. Mainly because we’ve seen them ugly-fight too. (Another example: underwear sharing… I’m not even gonna elaborate on this here.)

So yeah, that’s the story. :)

It’s been a trying time for Gani and I lately, but having them around has really lifted our spirits. That’s something I am super thankful for and in the spirit of giving thanks, I just wanted to acknowledge that. Now, back to discussing our Friendsgiving plans.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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