After millions of lives were washed off in the deluge of Mahabaratham war, Dharmaputra and his brothers went to Dritharashtra seeking his blessings. Burning with anger at his brother’s sons, the blind king, after hugging the eldest Pandava invited the next one Bhima for hugging. Lord Krishna, cleverly pushed Bhima aside and in his place placed a steel statue. The blind king, hugged using all his strength intending to smash Bheema, the killer of his hundred sons. The steel statue tumbled in bits and pieces. Lord Krishna again saved a Pandava.
So hugging was not unknown to our culture. Lord Krishna hugged SudAma, his childhood friend, who came all the way by walk to meet the Dwarakaadeesh. Lord Rama hugged Hanuman, when he brought the glad news of locating Ma Seetha.
In USA, hugging is very common. While entering the house, hugging, while leaving too. When I see huge figures of ladies in the Gym, I move aside to ensure that I don’t come across any known faces and inadvertently get crushed, as I’m anxious to get back to India in one piece.
When I returned to Hyderabad, last time, after staying in USA for over three years, my neighbor Ammini came to meet me with two pieces of mirchi bajji, one for me and one for my junior Viswanath Iyer. I hugged her purely out of the inherited habit and out of love for the pieces of mirchi bajji, she had brought with her, as a welcome gift. Unused to the hugging formality , she screamed and her husband came running and asked for a Karthi, knife to cut of my throat. My brother Vicha could’t hear her screaming but grabbed the word ‘kathi’ and thought that Nair was asking the knife for slicing the jackfruit which was lying in a corner.
‘Kathiyo, koduvaala?,’ he asked in all seriousness.
Kathi is small knife which we use to cut vegetables and Koduval is the big one used to break hard coconuts.
Suspecting that my brother would have lent to someone the axe, we had in our house for cutting firewood, I screamed at him, ‘namma mazhu enkedaa tholatchai- you lost our axe?’
I was more worried about the probable loss of the axe than the threat of Nair to slice my throat.
My brother heard ‘mazhu’, as ‘puzhu’ or worm. He retorted:
‘Puzhuvum illai poochiyum illai. – there is no worm or insect in our house. I have been maintaining so well. Don’t yell unnecessarily ‘
‘What an obedient brother;’ Nair praised my bother. ‘I feel hugging him’
‘No bug too, Nair’. Junior Perinkulam clarified.
I won’t blame him. Between hug and bug, there is only one letter different