As I was watching the FRIENDS Reunion episode, I kept checking how much more was left. Not because I was getting bored but because I did not want it to come to an end. And after it did, I wondered, “That’s all? Surely they had a lot more stories to share from those 10 years than what they did in 1 hour and 39 mins.” But then, how long an episode would have been satisfactory, when we still have not had enough of 10 seasons, running to almost 121 hours.
I have met different kinds of Friends fans over the years. In India, a very small portion of them actually saw it when it was first aired. Some saw it during the umpteen reruns on television. Some got the episodes in a pen drive from their friends during their college days. Some sat with their friends to watch it and some watched it to battle their own loneliness. But everyone has a Friends story and that makes each of them unique. We all have lived that life when friends were family. Some of us are still in the middle of it and some, like the characters, have moved on.
People would talk endlessly about the show and drop references from it in their daily conversations. And when someone got the reference, it lit them up. Somehow they always seemed to have a Friends reference for every situation. To come across a work which explained how exactly you felt about something and which was also understood by others was a comforting experience. And when such works are understood by all in a similar sense, they become a part of pop culture.
I still never felt the need to watch Friends until six years ago, which meant I entered long after the party was over. I had just moved into a new apartment with a friend and we had a closely knit circle that hung around during weekends and even weekdays. One night as we sat chatting, some of them decided to play Friends on a laptop. I watched one episode and then another one. The next week, I began watching random episodes of Friends on Comedy Central. To give me a context about the show, my roommate told me, “Monica’s home is similar to ours. These characters always hangout there and she is their host.” That one idea caught on in my head. Now I had started seeing Friends as a personal story.
All the characters of Friends came with their own set of flaws and yet were lovable, because we knew their stories. Rachel would have been intolerable had she been in any other circle. Ross behaved like an ass with Emily but you still wanted her out of the picture because you knew Ross and Rachel were meant for each other and that is exactly what the creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane did eventually. To know that one could press the reset button in one’s career after 30 like Chandler was reassuring because he did fine eventually. People who lived with friends could relate to the everyday nothings of Chandler-Joey and Monica-Rachel. Phoebe wore her eccentricity like a badge of honour and I knew it was fine if I didn’t fit in everywhere. There is a circle somewhere meant for you. Also, the belief that things turn out fine in the end is a good thought to hold on to. Friends kept you going.
I have lost count of the number of bad days set right just by watching Friends. When life seemed unpredictable and uncomfortable, I knew that inside Central Perk, time stood still in a happy place. To come home after work and watch it over dinner was like coming home to people you love. A friend of mine would cook in the morning with Friends running on her TV and she would listen to it from the kitchen; she knew the visuals byheart and would crack up in the kitchen. The show made you believe that these were your friends too. And only those who came from non-English speaking backgrounds will know how Friends helped people learn English.
I have not seen the last episode of this show till date. I know all good things in the real world come to an end but I do not want this story to come to an end. I never liked moving out of cities and places I enjoyed being in but as life took new turns one had to keep moving. I decided long back that a day before I have to leave my home where I began watching Friends, I will watch the final episode and let the curtains fall.
There was something about the timing of this reunion episode, right in the middle of a pandemic and a lockdown that made the heart go back to that happy place for a while. At a time when this clearly has not been our day, week, month or year, this reunion gives you the feeling of having met your friends and relived a time of your life when friends were family. That one can still go about laughing this away. What more can one ask for now.