One of my friends came home last year with his wife. Before he reached, he called me up and said half-jokingly and half-seriously, “Hey, don’t hug me when you see me okay? My wife is with me.” I laughed and said I wouldn’t.

Another time I was saying goodbye to Hari’s parents after staying there for a week. As I do with my parents, I went ahead and hugged them. I was very aware of them stiffening and even keeping their hands behind them so as not to hug me back. I knew that they were not very used to getting a hug; but I was a little surprised at the reluctance to hug me back. So I joked to my father-in-law who I am closer to that it is not a crime to hug his daughter. He gave a sheepish grin and said, “It’s just a thing from the West, not our culture.” I didn’t know what to reply. But I made sure that I never made them uncomfortable by hugging them again.

There have been several other instances where people have looked at me with eyes wide open when they saw me hugging a guy, as if I was making out with him in public. All these instances made me think why a simple hug is such a big deal in our society. No matter how much thought I gave it, I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer.

By now you must have understood that I am a hugger. I love hugging people who are dear to me and getting a hug back from them. Whenever I meet my friends or dear ones, the first thing I do is give them a hug. I do the same when I say goodbye to them as well. Of course, I do that only with people who are close to me and who I am comfortable with. I don’t take it to the level of “Jadoo ki jhappi” as they show in Munnabhai MBBS and hug every other person I come across, because that would be weird and inappropriate. I also do know that there are at least some people who think that a hug is either a stepping stone to getting laid or the only bit of “action” they can hope for. And I’m not a fool to not know perverts like that and go ahead and hug them.

To me, a hug is the simplest and purest gesture of the love and affection we have for a person. It is also a reflection of the comfort level we share with the person and the happiness we feel when we meet them or the sadness we feel when we part from them. And at times when we are feeling really down, there is nothing more comforting than a hug from the ones we love. There is nothing Western or Eastern about it. It is not unnecessary physical contact, the way some people make it sound like. It is not a means of snobbish show off. It is simply an act of love! When someone close to you gives you a hug, try to think of that. Stop worrying about what others will think.

Now if you get a hug from me, you know that I’m really comfortable with you and I’m really happy to see you. So the next time you meet someone who is dear to you, open your mind, go ahead and give them a hug. Let them know how much they mean to you. Trust me, you will feel good. And if you are indeed dear to them, so will they!

P.S. I am not responsible if after reading this blog, you hugged someone you ‘thought’ you were dear to and ended up getting slapped! 😀