Of Hugs and Kisses

 This is my first attempt to write something for a Weekly Writing Challenge. Since I wanted to start somewhere, I thought I will start with something that was not funny to me at the moment it happened, but it sure is now. Hope you enjoy it.

Being born to a semi-orthodox family in South India doesn’t expose you much to the concept of hugging, unless its your sister or your mother. So when I entered my office in Guadalajara, Mexico, I was slightly taken aback and became very stiff when I was wrapped in a big hug by the manager and must have turned beet red, if not for my wheatish colored skin which hid that fact, was kissed on the cheek. My brain’s transformers got fused for a minute and I had to imagine myself replugging it to get my senses back. What in the hell are they thinking… hugging me and kissing me on the cheek…I have seen the way they treat each other (men are greeted with a form of dance routine that involves their palms, arms, shoulders and fists and women are treated to a hug and a peck on the cheek) and resolved myself to spare me any more embarrassment by making things straight. As if he read my mind, the manager smiled to me and said, ‘ I know how it is in India, but this is how we greet here. Being in Rome ….(a wink)’….Ooookay…Thankfully my other team mates whom I had met already during my U.S.A trip deferred their traditional greeting to a simple handshake. But since I would have to endure the rest, I made all of my team mates to group and then talked to them about how we *do not* hug in India, at least the women and least of all , me. They were surprised to it and I clarified that its not like that in all parts of India. It depends on the place, community etc. But hugging is not a common mode of greeting. You should have seen their faces once I said that. I felt like an alien among them. I wasn’t sure how to tell them, that the only man I ever hugged was my ex and this kind of greeting was too close to my comfort and it sort of invaded my private space. One guy was like ‘If we hug, is it taken as a mode of flirting and that we are trying to hit on you? Is that what you mean?’. Now I was mortified. I would have to explain them about the various customs, communities, their behaviors etc if I have to make them understand and not offend them about their ways. For e.g. I have seen people in North hug each other, be it relatives, families, friends. But in South, its a total no-no, especially in the deep southern part. I gave them a small explanation and told them (mainly not to offend them, because I would need their help to understand this place) that it depended on people and I am so not comfortable with it. They did not understand the reason fully, but accepted my apprehensions and from then on, thank God and thank them, stopped their traditional greeting with me, even though they slipped a time or two causing me to stiffen.

After a week or so, when I got introduced to their friends over the weekend, I was back to square one. All of them, I mean ‘all’ of them, hugged and kissed me on the cheek. Now I cannot lecture to each and every one of them, can I ? So what did I do. I kept quite and mentally prepared myself for more hugs and kisses. Not only from them, from others too, when I attended a Barbecue. By the time, I am out of that place after a month, I was little more comfortable with the hug thankfully, because I was again being hugged by non-Indians even in U.S.A after that…as if they were waiting for me to get used to it. Not that I was totally OK with it. If you can do without hugging me, I would really appreciate it, but if not, well, at least warn me a little ahead before you kiss me on the cheek. I am still not comfortable with it. And this applies only to non-Indians, who might not understand or know these small things about me as an Indian. But if an Indian tries to do any of these two, well don’t tell me I did not warn you, because I might box your ears.

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