Tuesday, January 25, 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.


  1. Hari Om
    Gorgeous poem...

    Hugs. I am a hugger - but a discerning one and have always been thus. Deep and meaningful where required, providing solace or reassurance when needed, simply expressing appreciation worth more than just nod. Hugs are therapeutic in all instances. Like all medicine, they ought to be doled out according to need. If I don't know you, if I have not been able to assess (diagnose) you, then you will not be prescribed a hug from me. But you do not have to be a close friend or family. You could be the person I met on the bus who was distant for home and unfamiliar with the area. After discussion and falling into more personal talk, alighting from the bus together, the parting was warm - an arm hug was offered (drawing the person to the side, no necks involved) and accepted. A memory was made. Ten years on, I still remember that lady and her recent bereavement and her need to lighten her load a little...

    The current situation does indeed need to reset us. But ultimately, we must be true to who we are. Once a hugger, always a hugger! YAM xx

  2. Dear Yamini,
    Thank you for sharing your hugs and your words with me:)

    I like the medicine analogy--makes perfect sense.


  3. Undoubtedly touch/ hug has therapeutic, healing properties. But then the pandemic has, at least temporarily, reset our social behavioural patterns. I am sure we will all learn to live this and find a way out to be our normal selves back again.

    1. I'm sure we will Pradeep. We are a resilient bunch:)

  4. A heartwarming read and a fabulous poem ! I need hugs , I miss them too immensely. I feel elevated whenever I get a meaningful hug and not just hippie style hug that are just touch and go. And the pandemic has brought in so many changes that I don't know if we will have the same feeling when we go back to our normal lives . Someday, may be if we meet and there is normalcy, I would need that pyar wali jhappi from you for sure ��✨ Wishing you a great week ahead ��

    1. That japphi is looking forward to meeting you too Chinmayee:)

  5. I was always uncomfortable with hugs and any physical closeness. Now i have reasons😅

    Hope you are doing fine.

  6. Love the poem Arti. How wonderfully you crafted the embrace in it. Or did the poem come first and then give rise to the hug in the post? We are a very huggy shuggy family but the pandemic has put a big stop to that. Notwithstanding the fact that despite practicing caution we all got the big C. Personally I need hugs and handshakes to connect.

    1. Thank you Sonia. The poem came before the post:)
      Hope the big C didn't cause too much discomfort and that you and your family are all well and healthy now.
      Sending you warm hugs. xx

  7. Enjoyable all through...
    I love not to intrude into personal preferences of people, to get embraces or not, but it certainly does not mean to conflict with any sense of social distancing or getting closer...in either case it's emotion that is the ruler, not the palms or chicks, for me...
    But, I am more drawn to your poem...that you have admitted to be seed of this post...and I find it to a wonderful seed that is sown so passionately to reap the harvest....hope...
    It is promising when closer, moistening when apart, prospering in sense and defining in sensibility...the harvest is stacked in some old barns of memories...
    nice to have a brief visit to blogspot and read your enlightening post...regards

    1. Good morning Saibal,
      It's always such a pleasure to read your comments. Dare I say, your reading of my poem sounds like poetry to me.
      Thank you for visiting.
      I wish you a happy and healthy 2022.

  8. "How hard the two palms come together to form the 'namaste' can convey the intention of emotion very clearly to the other." -- I never knew this! TIL!
    Beautiful poem.
    I do miss being able to hug others, to offer that comfort. To feel it offered. I really hate this pandemic.
    I was under the weather earlier this week (not the C👾vid, don't worry), but I'm much improved now.
    I've been scheduling debut author interviews at Operation Awesome. If you know one, please tell them to reach out to me.
    Over at the a-to-z challenge, plans are hatching for April 2022, including a big event this month (starts Feb 4).
    Plus, WEP has the "All You Need is Love" flash fiction challenge on February 16 - 18.
    Quote for February: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” -John Bunyan

  9. Thank you for visiting and for commenting.
    I'm glad to know that you're feeling better.
    I'm in good company today--what with John's Bunyan's words and the WEP challenge to look forward to.
    Heartfelt gratitude:)


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