28 January, 2021

Mouth Ke Saudagar

Out with the Mwahists! Social kissing is anti-national!

illustration by Sorit
Mouth Ke Saudagar
In the early '90s I left India for a few years, and when I returned in 1998, I found Delhi in the grip of a mwah-mwah epidemic. Kisses were now flying about at every social gathering, from weddings and art exhibitions to book releases, product launches, even seminars. Former colleagues and old friends who had never, ever kissed me before now routinely proffered cheeks whenever we met. I realised how firmly entrenched the social kissing habit had become when I saw the transformation in a burly son-of-the-soil journalist who used to greet one with, at most, a laconic nod—he had now become a champion air-kisser, smoothly mwahnoeuvring his way around the room at cocktail parties. The rule now seemed to be: anyone you'd met more than once qualified as a kissing cousin. Meanwhile, the namaste had been quietly retired, brought out only when you were meeting a neta or greeting your guruji.

Not so long ago, kissing was regarded as a disgusting western habit (like taking tub baths, or using toilet paper instead of a lota), violating our deeply...


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