The reluctant hugger

I have realised I will never be a good hugger and I am glad most of my friends aren’t either. Indians used to hug only in ‘reel life’ and not in ‘real life’ till it became a more fashionable thing to do. Hugging is a foreign concept much like pasta, noodles and cheese. Same with
‘mwah’! Maybe with time hugging will become more commonplace and easier to do! We were never a family of huggers and I cannot recall a single instance when my Mom ever did that.

In her most vulnerable and emotional state (which I assume must have been when we each got married) my Mom would just keep a stiff upper lip tightly closed over the lower one lest a sob should escape and she would steel her eyes, opening them wide so that no tear would fall. Whenever she did that it made me more prone to guffaws rather than feel sad (of course I was too afraid to do that openly so while others thought bugs were biting me, I would shake all over trying to control myself)! She looked comical not trying to emote during my elder sister’s and my marraige but with age the steel went away and we saw her for the first time sobbing freely after giving away my sister. It was funny but seeing my Mother like that, even my steady as a rock elder sister, P started crying and laughing together. It was a hilarious scene. The poor girl was being given away, her mother was crying, one sister looking pretty foolish doing both crying and laughing, and I shaking all over wrecking my make up with sobs and my body with suppressed giggles and she had this question mark writ over her face. Sensibly the photographer did not capture the moment though in retrospect I think it could have been the best picture – candid as can be! Dads of course have still no choice but to retain a grave look on their faces as crying is still not considered manly and no amount of androgynous fashion trend has managed to pervade real life yet (at least not in India).

And then I became a mother (before the younger sister’s marraige of course!) and brought several books and attended several parenting classes. I did not pay for them. My organization believes in sending their employees to several psychology classes of which I have had the privilege to attend maximum and parenting formed a half day session as it was considered the most complex thing to do – rightly too! I read in books and we were also told repeatedly in those sessions that the best bond between a parent and a child comes from touch and so I decided I would practice hugging till I became a pro. I did not want to be caught giggling while hugging my children. My husband loved the practice sessions and his verdict after each session would only be – “No, no. Not perfected yet.” Men, I tell you! I was surprised how naturally motherhood transformed me from a rough tomboy to a doting woman. Till my children turned 8 it came naturally to me also. Something snapped when they turned 9. One reason could be that they were turning into young adults. The more plausible one is that thanks to exercise and dieting I had lost my layers of cushioning fat around the same time and it was no longer a very pleasant experience for them. I still keep the practice going and my husband still feels I am not good enough but now I have a second mode of practice.

I end my mails with ‘hugs’, ‘xoxo’ etc. and hope the dear friend on the other side only knows as much hugging as I do.

I am even worse at pecking and ‘mwah’. I have encountered embarrassing moments when I offer my hand and realize that my friend is giving a hug and it is a bit of commotion and we end up hitting our shoulder bones or me poking her stomach or something like that. These recent developments in social etiquette generally only have the effect of turning me to stone and freeze in my place when I find that look or manner which says – “Hey, I am a hugger.”

What is your experience? Are you a good hugger? You should try writing ‘hugs’ at the end of the mail for a start if you aren’t. It may help.


Apart from being co-founder of, Harini is a vegan food photographer and recipe developer who earlier blogged at Her love for photography includes people and events. She enjoys feeding birds, loves reading, is crazy about films and TV series, loves music and takes pride in being a 70s child. She draws inspiration from memories of childhood, lunch-boxes and tiffin breaks, and movies, and believes in free-cycling.

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  • Alka

    Lol Harini..thoroughly enjoyed reading every bit of it.So very true…it doesnt comes very easily to me too.Unfortunately I am more comfortable and easy going in virtual world and bit introvert and held back types in Real world. I have to work really hard to look comfy and make others comfortable too.
    I hope Aunty Ji do not read the above post 😉
    And yeah, right now I enjoy hugging my baby a lot who prefers a hug from his Soft fluffy(yeah he calls me that)chubby mummy than his sturdy father ,but I know after some years, he will feel embarrassed with this gesture of mine.So till then I am enjoying my HUGGER status when it comes to my baby
    Hugs (pun not intended) !

  • sra

    I just read this. Even I started hugging only recently, maybe in the last 10 years or so, due to friends – like you said, we don't hug, most of us in Indian families, not much physical display of affection. Funnily enough, I have a few friends I hug, that's it, and i think the other person has always initiated the hug. With some people nowadays, after loosening up, it comes naturally. I wouldn't know how to receive it, except awkwardly, but now I'm okay with it.

    Not that I have anything against hugging first, just that I'm too inhibited and have years of conditioning behind me.

  • Fangs

    i love hugging and am known to give really warm hugs..

    but yeah, its awkward when you're leaning in for a hug, and the other person is a non hugger..

    and side hugs are fake hugs.. its gotta be a bear hug to be called a hug.. 🙂

  • Jyothi

    I am embarrassed with mutual hugging..but I occasionally hug my mom from behind while she is cooking in the kitchen. My hugs are always one-way as when I feel very happy I like to hug my friends tightly:)..they need not hug me back:)

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