A few days ago, while I was reading Sheikh Saadi Shirazi’s famous book Gulistan (its English translation actually), I came across a very profound piece of writing about friends and friendship, which goes like this:

One day, in the bath, my friend gave me a sweet smelling piece of clay. I asked the clay, “Are you musk or perfume? I am charmed by your delightful fragrance.”

The clay replied, “I was only worthless clay, but for a long time I lay close to a rose. The virtue of my companion transformed me, otherwise, I am still the same old dust.”

This piece of writing is not only beautiful, but it is a universal truth and holds equally true for me as well as for everyone out there. And this is why I wish to share my own experience regarding this.

When I joined a college, I was a well-mannered and bright, yet meek teenager, who outdid everyone at the campus in studies. My peers and teachers admired and respected me for my extraordinary brilliance and refined conduct. However, at the same time, I was considered to be an arrogant and proud girl, who hardly spoke to anyone except for an academic reason.

Actually, this was due to a rather weak side of my personality and the fact that I was an introvert. I was hesitant to mingle with my peers and even cousins. I absolutely enjoyed the company of books, but when it came to socialising with real people, a creepy feeling used to take over me.

Then came a twist in my story, as I developed a bond with Farheen, the girl who used to sit next to me in my class. I realised that although she was not good in studies, she had a pleasant and jovial nature. She always had a smile on her face that made others feel comfortable in her company.

With her as my friend, the boring and tedious tasks of preparing notes and submitting assignments stopped worrying me, the stressful exam days turned into real life adventure as I gradually learnt to be happy, no matter how stressful or gloomy the situation appeared.

I also learnt how to express my feelings and communicate my thoughts to others. Another good habit that I cultivated was the fondness for Urdu and English literature. Earlier, I was accustomed to reading just textbooks or reference books and the newspaper, but once I introduced myself to novels, poetry and biographies, my vision about life broadened, which taught me things about human nature and relationships that I was earlier unaware of.

This was, however, just one side of the story.

While I worked to overcome my weaknesses, so did Farheen. Her grades improved notably and she, who could hardly get through the mathematics paper in Grade 11, turned into my competitor by the end of Grade 12. Everyone, from our teachers to Farheen’s parents and Farheen herself, credited me for such a steep rise in her academic performance that eventually led her to pursue a career in the field of bio-medical engineering.

To cut a long story short, Farheen and I remained together for two years, but we still cherish that little period of our lives, during which I learnt communication and socialising skills and developed fondness for literature, all thanks to her influence.

On the other hand, my friend learnt time management and academic skills just by following the way I used to manage my time and studies.

I can’t totally deny the fact that each one of us did make conscious efforts to bring about improvements within ourselves, however, there were so many things that we adopted subconsciously, not quite realising at that time, that those little insignificant things would cast a strong and positive impact on our entire lives.

So, whatever the phase of life maybe, a good company not only brings joyful moments, but also lets you discover your hidden talents and enables you to turn your weaknesses into strengths.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 24th, 2019