“The true meaning of friendship” reads a text message (aka SMS) that landed in my mobile phone a couple of hours ago. In the name of “meaning” the message enlightened me just with some good words beginning with the letters F, R, I, E, N, D, S, H, I, P –as if the word “friendship” was an acronym. I am positive that the sender had sent the same message to a number of other people as well. Moreover, this elaboration of “true meaning” was not a product of sender’s own genius. The message was most certainly written by someone on the payroll of mobile service operators for writing and spreading similar messages. In these “quick” times, we all are falling prey to the influence of market and losing the real underlying meaning of some of the most fundamental feelings in life. Now, apparently, declaration of friendship has become as easy as sending out a 140 letter chain message.
But do we know what friendship REALLY means?
A few days ago, I came across the amazing story of Christian, the Lion. Christian (obviously) was a lion. He was born in a zoo enclosure. As a little cub, Christian was acquired by Harrods, the iconic departmental store in London. In 1969, the store put Christian for sale and the cub was bought by two Australian friends named John Rendall and Anthony Bourke. The duo paid 250 guineas for the cub.
Rendall and Bourke began to raise the lion inside their house in London. But soon the lion grew bigger and had to be shifted to the basement of Rendall and Bourke’s furniture store. The men took permission from the local vicar to exercise Christian in the church graveyard.
Despite of being a beast, Christian had grown close to Rendall and Bourke; his care-takers. The bond of friendship kept the trio always together. However, as Christian neared adulthood –it became clear that he could not be kept in the city anymore. The rising cost of his maintenance also contributed to the tough decision that Rendall and Bourke had to make. Eventually, they decided to release Christian in the Kora National Park of Kenya. Although it was tough but Rendall and Bourke had to make this decision with a heavy heart for they had no other choice. They took help from George Adamson, a Kenyan conservationist, for integrating the lion in the wild.
Christian successfully adapted to his new wild surroundings. Adamson introduced him into an existing pride led by a lion called Boy. But soon the pride met with a number of attacks and it lost two lionesses. Boy, the leader, also got injured and was later shot by Adamson as the lion attacked one of his assistants.
After Boy’s death, Christian assumed the leadership of the pride and he also took companionship of two lionesses called Mona and Lisa. Now Christian was a king flanked by two gorgeous queens.
In 1971, Rendall and Bourke decided to pay a visit to their old friend in the jungle. Adamson warned that Christian might not remember them and they could come under attack from the lion who was now completely wild. Nevertheless, Rendall and Bourke decided to give it a try. They went to Kenya and this reunion of three friends was shot in the form of a documentary.
The film shows Adamson bringing Christian to Rendall and Bourke seen standing on a rocky terrain. The lion first took a few cautious steps towards them as though trying to get close enough to ascertain the identity of Rendall and Bourke. The jungle had taught Christian many things. But as soon as Christian was assured that the two men were Rendall and Bourke –he broke into a run and leaped playfully onto his friends.
Christian had not forgotten his friends despite of living in the wild for more than a year. Christian was now a hunter, a killer and a very strong adult lion. For more than a year, he was killing animals and tearing them apart. But this fearsome lion played with Rendall and Bourke as if he was a little cat.
Christians also introduced Mona and Lisa with his human friends. Even Mona, Lisa and their foster cub, named Supercub, accepted Rendall and Bourke as their own. There was no hesitation, no fear, no skirmish and there was not even slightest trace of aggression. Rendall and Bourke stayed with Christian and his family until the morning of next day.
Here are excerpts from the documentary:
In 1972, the two men again went to see Christian and that was the last time the lion was sighted. After that he was lost in the jungle –perhaps got killed in the “might is right” environment of the wild.
Even animals understand the value of friendship. And they do honor it (otherwise for Christian it was only a matter of seconds to tear apart two skinny men!).
Do we, the humans, also understand, value and honor friendship in its true meaning?