One early morning, amid streets full of the sleeping, homeless poor of India, well-known author and journalist – Malcolm Muggeridge accompanied Mother Teresa to Calcutta railway station to see her off, and this is what he wrote: “When the train began to move and walk away, I felt as though I was leaving behind me all the beauty and all the joy in the Universe because God’s Universal love has rubbed off on Mother Teresa, who is the living flame of love. Such people are transformers – they transform whatever they touch; and Mother Teresa actually, physically touched the old, the sick, the abandoned and the dying. Each time she touched or embraced another, she transformed a life.”
No matter who we are or what our calling, we too can be transformers of love just by touching, caressing or hugging someone who is in physical or emotional pain. If God is love and we are made in the likeness and image of love, then at our very core, we too are love and we all house a real and innate need to give and to receive love. One of the best ways to is by being demonstrative and touching those you love. When you hug a person who is going through a rough patch, you are actually saying, “I understand your grief, I’m grieving with you and I’m here for you.”
In a marriage, touching, hugging and kissing are a very integral part of cementing the relationship. Whenever a couple is in conflict, the first casualty is distance and lack of touch. One partner builds a wall around him or her. A hug or a ‘jhappi’ is a gesture of love between friends and on a personal note, I enjoy giving ‘mummy-hugs’ to my young girl-friends (my babies) because they genuinely bring out the mother in me, which brings me to the famous saying in the hit films of ‘Munnabhai’ – who knew that hugging is healthy.
Research conducted in USA’s School of Medicines’ Touch Research Institute suggests that we need four hugs a day for our survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth. Psychologists praise the therapeutic value of hugs and say that merely 10 minutes of parent-child hugging a day can help in curing childhood maladies like diabetes, insomnia, fear of the dark, asthma and thumb-sucking.
For a child, hugs, kisses and cuddles are more important than being fed on time and sent to school with all the homework done. It’s proven that children who have not been hugged grow up to be emotionally unstable, insecure, maladjusted adults whereas cuddling and hugging a child gives it warmth, love, security and a big boost in self-esteem, resulting in a mature, stable personality. It’s important to note that children must be taught to distinguish between the ‘right’ hug and the ‘wrong’ hug, so they don’t fall prey to perverse people with wicked minds.
Adults seem to outgrow the need for hugging and in a rocky marriage, hugging is the first casualty. When problems come in through the door, love flies out of the window, even in the so-called love-marriages. If couples can hug and cuddle each other during difficult times in a marriage, the marriage grows stronger over decades. Hugging is vital in old people – old age is second child-hood and seniors cherish being hugged. Hugging them prevents senility, according to one school of thought. Old people who are frequently hugged by their children and grandchildren are less prone to loneliness and depression. Of course, old people can be very demanding and troublesome and at times, they are worse than naughty children, but a few hugs along with comforting words, go a long way in pacifying them to do your bidding.
There are wide cultural variations regarding hugging. In the West, hugging a friend of the opposite sex is acceptable while in India, some fathers hesitate to hug an adolescent daughter. Hugging should never violate social norms of decorum and decency. It should project warm regards with not an iota of obscenity. It should be genuine with real affection for the other, for it to be therapeutic and not like the social hugging and artificial ‘air kisses’ seen at parties – the senseless ‘Muah-Muah’!! Galey lago yar!
The therapeutic effect of parent-child hugs cannot be overemphasised as these actually ‘heal’ the child’s emotions and soothe the mind. Remember, when as children we would get hurt and ‘mummy’s kiss’ would make it alright? Hugs are exactly like that – they make everything alright! Boley toh… Hug your loved ones! Your time starts now!