Tuesday, 25 January 2022

An easy embrace

(Seattle, August 2021)

My husband and I have adhered to the social-distancing, minimal meeting protocol of Covid times like good students. We have followed the rules. Over the last fortnight or so, however, we have started emerging out of our long hibernation and engaging in the social etiquette of meeting with other human beings, mostly friends--tentatively and cautiously.

At all these recent meetings, what struck me was the palpable discomfort and uncertainty surrounding the erstwhile easy practice of shaking hands and/or hugging each other.

Open palms pause in mid-air, turn to closed fists and proceed to bump fists of friends. For that split second fist contact, I, at least, feel like breaking into hip-hop or rap. Thankfully, my mask hides my silly grin and I continue to act my age.

Then there are those hanging in mid-air moments when both of us bend our bodies towards each other to hug, and realise we're not ready to throw caution to wind just yet. We turn sideways and offer an elbow bump instead: Bhangra style sans music.

Embracing reality has made us let go of the ease of embracing each other. 

When I was growing up, japphis (hugs in Punjabi) were the privilege of family and very close friends. It was a valuable commodity used sparingly but honestly. When you received a pyaar wali japphi (a bear hug), you knew you'd be okay. It was a token of love. For strangers, acquaintances, and friends-in-the-making there was Namaste: the no contact way of expressing a phenomenal range of emotions, from love and respect on one end to  discord and disagreement on the other. How hard the two palms come together to form the 'namaste' can convey the intention of emotion very clearly to the other.

Sometime in the past, the 'hug' became as mandatory as wearing deodorant in polite society. 

Suddenly, everybody was offering themselves to be embraced at parties, meetings, conferences and get-togethers. Sometimes, the ubiquitous air kissing would provide the sound track to these newly adopted social norms.

I must admit I participated in the practice of communal hugging myself at first. 

Then, with dwindling need to fit in, I became more discerning of who I hugged. But my hugs became deeper and more meaningful. They were my expression of love for the one I hugged. My hugs were never flippant. They lasted. I have friends who'd come over just for a hug. 'I need a hug today.' I'd demand solace from friends when I felt vulnerable. And they'd do the same. My body remembers those beautiful hugs, still. 

Moving forward, I wonder if we'll learn from the pause provided my the non-contact era of Covid'19. Will we practice deeper, more meaningful embracing of friends, family or will we continue to engage in fickle, societal norms to fit in? 

What do you think? Are hugs a part of your 'normal'? Do you miss them? Should we be more discerning of who we embrace? 

I'd love to know your thoughts. 

In the meantime, I'm sharing a poem I wrote for a contest run by Soul Craft Poetry on Instagram last week. The task was to write a poem in exactly 44 words on the theme of:

Harvesting Hope

I know not how to harvest hope

four letters long



indestructible harbinger of spring.


it lies 

in snowdrops all winter long

like a lover's hug

breath. raison d'etre

gallantly, gracefully, generously rising 

to embrace

all my cells

to keep me alive.


Wishing you all a wonderful week. Stay safe and healthy. Embrace hope, love and a warm blanket if it's cold where you are.

Monday, 10 January 2022

What has made you happy thus far in the New Year?

7 a.m. January 10th 2022

Holding a glass of warm water in my left hand, I open the front door with my right and step out onto the porch.

Winter wafts in like a friend who knows me well. Even before the door fully opens, a faint smell of wood fire, mixed with the sharp, soft rays of the morning sun, rushes in to embrace me. Winter's nippy kisses tingle my skin--clad in a cotton kurta and yoga pants. I'd slept in those last night. I shudder with delight. Winter is rare in Doha. I want to inhale it to my core. The bulbul mimics my joy and frolics noisily on the neem tree.

6 a.m. January 10th 2022

I turn off the alarm and promise to be up in 10 minutes. 

10 p.m. January 9th 2022

I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and then change it to 6 a.m. to be reasonable. I've just finished reading 'Kafka on the Shore' by Murakami; my first Murakami. Even though it took me four months to read the book, I've loved reading it. So, naturally, as soon as I put the book down, I  google Murakami's  'writing process'.  My phone screen informs me that when he's writing, this famous and successful author's day looks like this:

  • Wake up at 4 a.m.
  • Write for 5 to 6 hours.
  • Run a 10 K or swim 1,500 meters in the afternoon.
  • Read and listen to music.
  • Be in bed by 9 p.m.

He attributes his writing success to the 'routine' he follows. 


Dear Readers,

It feels so good to be back here: writing and sharing after a gap of 4 months! As you may have gathered by now, I've been an absentee blogger and to some extent an absentee writer. Apart from a few Instagram posts and a couple of poems in Hindi, the last four months have been dedicated to dealing with surprises LIFE springs on us rather than documenting it in prose and paragraphs.

Last night, when I read about Murakami's routine, I thought I'd give it a try. 

'Sadhana' in Hindi means 'dedicated practice or learning'. Whether it's yoga, music, or passing an exams in school or college, a dedicated practice births results. I know that but when one falls off the wagon of one's practice, it can be a struggle to get a foot hold back on. At times like these, it's sensible to look to the masters and follow in their footsteps. 

I don't know what 2022 has in store for me but I do plan to visit my writing desk every morning. Why am I telling you this? Because, writing a promise down makes it real. And sharing it with you makes me accountable to myself. 

Adriene of Yoga with Adriene who I follow when I'm unable to join my yoga class, always says: "the hardest part is to arrive on the mat." And I agree.

Irrespective of lost time, the uncertainties and turmoil of the last quarter of 2021, I'm happy to be present at my writing desk today, typing out my first post of the year. 

Thus far, 2022 has been joyous in many ways:

The food, friends brought from their travels and shared with me, made me relive my childhood without the need to time travel! Thank you Vini for the rusks from Sunrise bakery of Dehradun and Anshu for the delicious gajak from Moradabad. Another dear friend sent home -made makki ki roti and sarson ka saag so I could enjoy Punjab in Doha this winter.

Long walks on sandy beaches, sunsets, one lone sunrise, reading 'The boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse' and finishing 'Kafka on the shore' have made me happy despite the pounds that I've piled on -- thanks mainly to binging on Downton Abbey and Ozark on Netflix and NOT moving much.

I have a long way to go before I can discipline my day as perfectly as Murakami but I've made a start.

I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy 2022.

I'd love to know what has made you happy, joyful, smile in the last 10 days of this brand new year?

Till we meet again, take good care of yourself.