As a nation I think we are not a very demonstrative people particularly of emotions of love and affection.While we may jump and scream during a cricket match and express our joy and anger, when it comes to showing love and affection we tend to underplay and even suppress.Most Europeans and even in America, it is common to greet each other with a peck on the cheek, a hug or a half hug. But in india, most of us shy from being touchy-feely and demonstrative. It is not difficult to understand it as in our culture physical contact was restricted to family - in south India,a brother is not allowed to touch a grown up sister, leave alone hug and plant a kiss. With a lot of people travelling and with the western influence on our life style, things are changing.
One sees a lot of it in the Hindi film fraternity and among the college students. Actually it feels quite good when many of the younger girls in the french class spontaneously greet you with a hug. It does seem therapeutic and may be there is some truth in the famous treatment technique of Munnabhai m.b.b.s. - the jadoo ka jhappi treatment. According to a family therapist Virginia Satir "We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth!"
Next time you find someone close in a sad or low mood, try giving them a hug and see the difference. If you love someone or care about someone, it is ok to express it - it does not make you weak or vulnerable.
Apparently hug can be an effective neutraliser of anger. Walter Anderson says
"If you're angry at a loved one, hug that person. And mean it. You may not want to hug - which is all the more reason to do so. It's hard to stay angry when someone shows they love you, and that's precisely what happens when we hug each other."
Kids know this instinctively. The moment they sense that you are angry, upset or sad they give you a hug and make you feel better.
This article has some interesting information on the importance of hugs as a therapy.
And next time you meet a friend but did not have the time to buy a gift remember this:
“A hug is the perfect gift; one size fits all, and nobody minds if you exchange it.”
14 Responses
  1. MJ Says:

    Usha..whta should i say.Ur post just stumble me evrytime i read them...touching every corner of life.Now this line -"We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth!" really true.

    I always make it sure to express my love to someone with a gentle touch...may be a simply caressing the loved one hair/holding their hand in mine and those who are very close to me i share a half-hug.These really share some strange love n ones feelings in a better understandable way.No words can ever give the same affect.

    Cheers on this....:)

  2. Deeps Says:

    Usha, its strange, but I have also wondered why we Indians are like that. We don't hug, don't kiss, don't even say "I love you" to loved ones. I have always been a touchy-feely person, putting an arm over the shoulder of friends, holding hands if they are feeling low etc.

    But you are right, I am more expressive now that I have been in US for a while. When I was in India recently, I hugged most of the relatives I met and am not scared to say "Love you dad" or "love you mom" explicitly anymore :).

  3. Hip Grandma Says:

    i don't remember ever hugging any adult not even my grown up daughters. my son occasionally puts an arm around my shoulders and i tend to wriggle out as if by reflex you say we south indians are perhaps the least demonstrative and i would feel strange when in north india,a bride leaving her maternal home would hug her family members turn by turn with tear filled eyes to say good bye.but recently i met a school mate after 39 years and i hugged her tight in the pathway that led to my daughter's home and believe me it was spontaneous!i didn't even realize what i was doing!

  4. Raj Says:

    "But in india, most of us shy from being touchy-feely and demonstrative"

    Maybe it's something to do with the weather here. Sweat and BO reduce the co-efficient of huggability.

  5. Shruthi Says:

    Very good post. I have wondered about this too, and I have personally taken it upon myself to change the situation :D I routinely hug my parents, sister, cousins, aunts, grandparents, friends, - and it's great!! and of course, a hug to and from the husband can be very comforting and therapeutic :)

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Maybe its just a cultural phenomenon. Its better to have love in your heart than on your lips. But yes, if there was a little more expression of it, it would be soothing. I am sure if not hugs and kisses, we can atleast remind our loved ones about our love once in a while. Maybe through words, acts or cards !!


  7. Visithra Says:

    its an asian thing - they dont show affection - it took me so long to learn to hug - its still awkard come times with new ppl

  8. Mahadevan Says:

    We cannot laugh at ourselves nor can we express positive emotions demonstratively. As hugging is quite common in north India the reason could be, as pointed out by Raj, weather - the oppressive heat that plays upon our psyche. Our culture too plays a role. We have been brought up to be non-demonstrative with our positive emotions because our elders believed that to be emotional was a sign of weakness.

    While a hug can effectively neutralise anger, it is quite interesting to read about the therapeutic value of hugging. Perhaps, like that apple, a few hugs a day can keep the doctor away.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    This is pure pornography. Talking about hugging and so on and so forth in public...shame on you.

  10. Wild Reeds Says:

    Dear Usha,
    I remember reading a true-life story about a boy-girl pair of twins born in a maternity home. The girl was healthy but the boy was very critical and had a slim chance of survival. The doctors placed him under the best of care and supervision but he did not get better. The twins were in different incubators.
    Against advice, protocol and warnings from doctors, and putting her own job on the line, the nurse who delivered them moved the healthy baby into the incubator of the fragile one.
    The healthy child, eyes screwed shut, turned on its side and "placed" her arm on her brother. Miraculously, the fragile baby's condition stabilised and he became healthy.
    Hugs to you!!

  11. Mohan Says:

    Nice post..

    and who is the anonymous perverted coward? or is it someone playing a prank? if it is, its in poor taste...

  12. Usha Says:

    M j:Yes, I agree touch is very expressive and healing.
    Thank you.

    deeps:And when you are suddenly so expressive, do the others feel uncomfortable? or they like it? I am sure it is very liberating to you.

    Hip grandma: That is so sweet.I alos feel it is so natural when you are overwhelmed and cannot find the right words to show how overwhelmed you are. A hug says it all!

    Raj: Interesting persp(iratory)ective. Hm..makes sense!

    shruthi: I notice that it is becoming common among the younger people to hug.

    Guns: It is a cultural phenomenon and yes there are other ways to express. But nothing is so simple and so completely expressive as a hug, I think. They say a hug is a handshake from the heart - it does make a difference.

    Visithra: I see what you mean.

    Mahadevan: Interesting point about our inability to laugh at ourselves - another sign of ego. I guess we should learn that skill too - would simplify life vastly.

    Anon: I think I know who this is. Welcome Pinchas - where have you been all this time!

    Wild reeds: What an amazing story. Wow and thanks.
    Hugs back to you!

    Mohan: Thanks. I think the comment is from an old friend who likes to sensationalise things just for effect.

  13. Shashi Iyer Says:

    :) i agree! nice post

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Most Europeans and even in America, it is common to greet each other with a peck on the cheek, a hug or a half hug.

    The exception are the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestants a.k.a. WASPs!