I think the time has come for us to take a firm and collective stand against the growing social menace of hugging.
As of now, it is prevalent only in certain urban pockets. But that is no reason for us to be complacent. Because so were low-waist pants. Now they are all over, except in the place where they have to be — the human hips.
The thing is, these days, people don’t hold back when expressing their emotions. They are not averse to warm backslapping, endearingly tousling the hair, heartily high-fiving and convivially exchanging jokes. This is just with people they had met just five minutes ago, technically people they don’t know. But with those they have had some acquaintance with, the hug inevitably comes out these days. There is usually a huge embrace and some good-humoured banter, even if both of them are stationed just outside the loo. And in case of people whom they actually know the name of, the embrace is usually tight enough to possibly enable transfer of DNA molecules and the terms of endearment also tend to be effusive: ‘I’d murder my pets to go to a movie with you’.
But just to clarify, what we are specifically against is hugging as a form of social greeting at weddings, parties or on happy and emotional moments, which these days include successfully clearing the Vadapalani junction or adroitly managing to eat the pooris with the masal that comes with the original order at the Saravana Bhavan. But hugging in certain extenuating circumstances can actually be allowed and even actively encouraged: like when a person is literally aflame, he or she can, if fortunately Ramiz Raja is in the vicinity, should have the absolute liberty to tightly embrace him. This is for the larger benefit of cricket watchers on television.
Why some of us are uncomfortable with hugging is because it is something we are not used to. Till a few years back, it was technically allowed or possible only on two occasions: 1. The other person had to be your spouse. 2. You were part of a sumo wrestling bout.
Even with your spouse, you resorted to hugging only at moments of love or passion when no other family member was in the vicinity, which was a technical impossibility. It is a fact that not long ago couples in these parts copulated through photosynthesis.
Also, hugging, again in these parts, was a good idea only if it were to convey the human feeling of warm sweat. I mean in the weather here everyone have their armpits oozing sweat like out of a hand shower. And, in the extreme stickiness of the situation, there was also the kinky possibility of two people hugging each other ending up as conjoined twins.
The real problem with hugging these days is it is gender-neutral. Everyone is out to hug everyone else and this puts some of us who are of shy disposition in a very delicate situation. And our shyness centres around the gender factor. To be precise, the fact that many who hug us are of our own gender. We are otherwise used to hugging people of our own gender only when we are drunk or the other person is, not to get too morbid here, dead and is a corpse in our hands.
As always, North India, which if you are living in Tamil Nadu, is also taken to include Maharashtra and Gujarat, is to blame for this hugging epidemic. It has been pushing a lot of these negative things into our territory. First it was the Panneer Butter Masala. Today it has become a very popular dish and you can heartily savour it at that cradle of North Indian culture: A traditional Tambrahm wedding.
And now we have Tamil grooms wearing Sherwani type outfits at their wedding receptions. Sherwani, truth be told, is an elegant attire. But when a typical Tamil wears it the elegance gets hidden in its folds and what we usually get to see is a human being clothed in a well-tailored sack. But like with Panneer Butter Masala this is also a lost cause. There is no way we can get back to status quo ante.
But if you are a Tamil, you have a chance to stop on its track this culture of hugging. I don’t know about you I have already thought up my best defence and it is an explosive device that can be triggered when someone hugs you. It is a contraption that will set off the most dangerous of –- you guessed it right –- songs sung by Udit Narayan in Tamil, which is also a good reminder as to when we started losing our quintessence.