My parents visited me a couple of weeks back, and my mom and I had a profound conversation one night.
It all began when we came across children of her friends in Dubai at a congregation. For some reason, they didn’t acknowledge or greet her; in fact, I saw my mom make an effort to greet one of them, but they seemed to be in a hurry, and quickly excused themselves.
I come from a culture that stresses on respect for elders and expects children to respectfully greet elders at all times. Seeing the way attitude and values had changed over time, she sat me down one evening and said: “We have taught you well. You have been taught to respect elders and take their blessings. You have not been taught to be arrogant, no matter what or who you become in this life. Always make the first move and greet your elders and people of your faith, even if they think less of you. Remember the One above does not approve of arrogance.”
I nodded, as was expected. But the truth is that I am more of an introvert than an extrovert. My reason for being stingy with greetings, hugs, kisses and overt display of affection towards strangers and mere acquaintances stems from shyness and awkwardness than superiority complexes.
But I did make a conscious effort. I do not go to Jamat Khaane as often as I would like, so my interaction with elders is rather limited. Instead, I would go up to people who I often meet at events; the same people are generously loving over social media, with abundant kisses, hugs and xoxos, but in person, they looked at me like I had suddenly morphed into a parasite. A quick ‘Oh hi, been so long…’ and they’d get back to whatever it is they were doing before I had trespassed unwritten social boundaries.
Rationalising their reactions, I have come up with following scenarios –
Shaheen: Heya, how is it going? Been so long!
Person: Oh Hi, yes been forever…
And then silently in her head, person wonders:
- She is generally a cold, barely smiling b***h, why is she being nice? Does she need a favour?
- Amm, this is awkward. I can’t keep a conversation after the courteous greetings. Should I comment about the weather? I am definitely not complementing her for those stunning pair of heels – HELL TO THE NO!
- What’s her name? Shireen? Shermeen? Shaneen? Damn it!
Well, I am quiet disappointed with the result of this exercise so far. We live in a world of emoticons, where real sentiment mostly makes us uncomfortable and human contact is kept at a bare minimum. Sad, sad state of affairs.
I am not having any of it – I am going to come to you, say hi, and let you judge me, while hoping that we can talk – like real people do (or are at least expected and capable of). If you want, feel free to carry on this chain and make an effort to go across the room and say hello.
Let’s do this!