THE JOY OF EXTENDED GREETINGS (not the kind you leave on your telephone while going on vacation!) Raheel Raza

This morning as I came down in the elevator, I greeted an older gentleman (guess who’s calling who older but that’s relative!) who lives in my building. I said an automatic “good morning” and he turned around, beamed a beautiful smile and said “may your day be wonderful, may your dreams come true, may you be full of light and I hope you have a beautiful life”.

He would have continued but there were a couple of young kids in the elevator who had the usual thingamajig stuffed in their ears and had a bored look on their face and a raised eyebrow as to say “o-comm-on – who has time for all this?”

To say I was taken aback is an understatement.

I felt so nostalgic for a time and a generation where greetings actually had meaning, and we seem to have lost that art. These days if someone asks “how are you?” they don’t even wait around to hear how you actually are and have walked off before hearing more than ‘well thank you”. Everyone is not always well, but do people have the time and patience to listen to a real response?

So I sat in the lobby and tearfully recalled that when we used to wish my mother Salaam Alaykum (peace upon you), the return greeting was not just Walaikum Asalaam but more. She would place a kiss on my head and say “jeetee raho”, “khush raho” (live long, be happy) and so on. If she was particularly chipper that day she would fold me in her warm embrace and add blessings for a good husband and in-laws, kids,  and more, while I tried to squeeze out quickly so I could go play. A mother’s prayer means a lot and is given in such sincerity that there is strong belief no one can pray or bless you like a mother can – and I miss that non-judgemental love. There is a tradition that a companion of Moses said to him “be careful wherever you go Moses, you don’t have a mother to pray for you”.

And it wasn’t just my mother. All elders in our society bless the youth when they wish them and on visits back to Pakistan, I have to do the rounds and go visit the older generation who in turn are so happy to see me that the blessings and wishes they pour on me, stay with me for the longest time. This is why my trips back are spiritually rejuvenating and reviving for the soul (as long as I stay away from religion and politics)

We alas, are of a generation where many of those elders have gone. And we are physically far away from our near and dear ones and crave the blessings that were so much a part of daily life. The whole concept of greeting takes on a new meaning and warmth. It’s so much better than a tepid response. We would be hugged and squeezed in what my grandsons today call a “squeezer” which is hug that can take your breath away. I’m so glad their parents comes from a culture where heartfelt and extended greetings, blessings and hugging are all a part of growing up naturally. This human contact can become the bridge between depression and light.

Today we seem to have lost some of that warmth and spontaneity. While technology has brought about wonderful progress, there is definitely a downsizing of human contact. When birthday cards and most greetings become electronic, there is a fear that relationships may also become electronic and automatic.

However there is hope when someone like my friend in the elevator gives us an extended greeting.

Be blessed; have a long happy life; may there be light in your life and may you have a wonderful day.