x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

It's your birthday every day with the best of all possible BFFs

Friendship has its ups and downs but only a special best friend can get away with embarrassing you with a public surprise.

Surprises by best friends are the best kind.

The term "BFF" is not one to be assigned to anybody, however deserving, without trepidation. It stands, of course, for "best friend forever". As Paris Hilton so kindly demonstrated to us on her show My New BFF, which aims to root out her best friend forever by means of a televised competition, "forever" need only stretch from the time the winner of Season 1 is announced to the beginning of Season 2, when the hunt for the next BFF commences. Friendship among teenagers can be a fickle thing. Occasionally, it stands the test of time; a nice gesture by a loyal friend is very often the thing that can put a perk in your step and slap a goofy smile on your face for the rest of the day.

A couple of years ago, Jasleen and I swore to be best friends forever, buying pairs of identical friendship necklaces (one saying "Best" and the other saying "Friends"), owning diaries with one lock and two keys, and indulging in other similar twaddle that corny young teenagers are prone to indulging in. Hundreds of tearful arguments occurred, more often than not because "I wore those shoes last week, I can't believe you bought some exactly like mine".

So did as many grudging reconciliations, though, and there were waterworks when she moved away from Dubai.

Last week, Jasleen was in town and suggested we meet up. Fair enough, I thought, and duly accepted her invitation aboard her family cruise dhow-cum-floating-restaurant on the Dubai Creek. Squeals of delight ensued when three other mutual friends turned up, too: none of us had any idea Jasleen had organised a reunion.

We passed a pleasant evening, to say the least: pasta, the gentle creek-breeze, waiters plying us with glass upon glass of orange juice and the glimmering city lights on either side of the creek. In addition, of course, to lots of girlish chatter about crushes present and past - which change every week. And then there was the time we were ball kids for the Dubai Tennis Championships and we'd fight to be on the side of the court where Federer or Nadal or Djokovich was playing, and silently egg on the better (read cuter) player.

There was a magician aboard, too, who entertained us with, er, fascinating tricks of making buttons appear in his hand to the lyrical, if a tad loud, strains of the Chicken Dance. Full and content, I was just nodding off as the waves gently lapped up against the sides of the dhow when the speakers suddenly terminated blasting out the Chicken Dance.

There was a drum roll. I woke up. People stopped concentrating on what there was on their plates and looked up. The magician looked highly affronted. All at once, Happy Birthday blared out, and as I looked around questioningly trying to identify the person it was directed to, Jasleen caught my eye. It was me.

Jasleen had arranged a surprise birthday celebration. For me. It's at moments like these when you wonder how you could ever have thought that the world was a less-than-wonderful place to live in, when you want to sniffle and forgive your best friend for all the times she ever copied what you were wearing, and other similar unforgivable offences.

Granted, my 16th birthday was a while away - I think she was under the impression that it was on the day of the cruise. But she had the month right, which she hasn't for the past four years. And no teenager says no to some admirably crafted chocolate cake a waiter has plonked down in front of her, no matter what time of the year it is.

I then proceeded to dive under the table as flashes of light started going off in my astounded face, emerging only when they all reassured me that they'd put the camera away. Everyone on the dhow was staring at me. All I could do was mutter, over and over: "Earth, just swallow me now." We stuffed our faces, hugged, hugged again and kept coming back for more hugs.

Jasleen had put quite a bit of effort into this: there was a present for me, too, which I ripped open immediately. It was a lovely handbag. (Bags and shoes: things a girl can never have too many of.) I gave her another hug for that.

The people at the other tables had resumed eating and everything quickly went back to normal, but in plain Shakespearean: to we few, we happy few, we band of… well, BFFs I suppose… the stars seemed to shine just a bit brighter.

We are a soppy lot.

The writer is a 16-year-old student in Dubai