The Handshake, Cheek Kiss, Deep Bow and everything in between...

Alok Kejriwal

So, I've been kissed, shaken, stirred, pecked and God knows what... a million times.

This is what I think about global greeting habits and how they make me feel:

The Handshake

It's the least sensitive of greetings. Handshakes are doled out like free fliers at the mall. They are inexpensive & cheap. It's the safest when you are in a country whose customs are unknown and the easiest way of contracting a nice virus.

Handshakes are limp, soft, hard, knuckle breaking and slippery. The slippery one is the one in which you extend your full hand but the monkey on the other side just sticks out 4 fingers - that quickly slither away. The handshake that irritates me the most is what I call the 'infatuation' handshake - in which my newfound lover (always a man I've never met before) just doesn't want to let go of my hand!! It takes a solid wrenching to escape!

I don't like handshakes. They are 'personality less' and definitely not memorable.

The Cheek Kiss

I remember God the first instance I see I'm going to be subject to a Cheek Kiss - in the hope of guidance.

First of all, I can't understand which side to kiss. If this beautiful girl kisses me on my left cheek, do I do the same on her left side or swing like a pendulum to her other cheek. If I am done with her right cheek, do I pay a visit to her left cheek again? Is it a peck, a brush, a kiss, a real kiss? Do I use my lips or my cheeks? What should be the pace of the process? Where do my hands go during this transaction?

Thankfully I have still not been cheek kissed by a man. Ugghhh... To think of even going near a forest like beard gives me the jeebie jeebies.

I guess some people are Natural Born Cheek Kissers. I am not.

I honestly think cheek kissing is very artificial and false. There isn't even any eye contact involved.


I am really proud of Namaste (the Indian mannerism of folding hands and greeting someone).

It's elegant, it has a charm to it and it's kind of spiritual. It's 'touch free'; so no sanitizers required. Also, it allows great eye contact.

But, there is a cold side to a Namaste. First of all, it's over used. Everybody everywhere is folding hands. Staff at hotels, airports, malls, shops are all in folded hands. Enter an airplane and it's a Namaste that greets you. It's becoming a National gesture. Also, I don't see a direct personalization to it. It's the same gesture for all. It's not granular (different folds for different folks). And there is a bit of defiance in it. For instance, if the person doesn't smile while doing Namaste, it's a strong 'I have to greet you but I really don't want to' signal.

And when Politicians just hold their hands in perpetual Namaste like their hands have got stuck with super glue, it's disgusting.

Namaste is OK for me at times. But there is still something missing in it.

The Bow

I just love the Bow. Not the overt Japanese style that is so deep and vigorous that it could give you vertigo. Just the subtle bow that makes you tilt your head gently downwards and then move up (only once please) in a nice fluid motion.

For me, the bow comprises everything perfect about a greeting. It's humble, personal and direct. You make eye contact for a flash and then bow and then make eye contact again. It's a surrender yet lasting only for a few seconds. It's not touchy, feely, flirtatious or frivolous. It's so gentle.

The bow powerfully impacts the person you are bowing to. It makes her feel as if you are ego less and very receptive.

I just wish people would bow more often in India.

Everything in between...

There is the toe touch. It was nice in medieval times and is natural when you meet your guru today but in the general context it's kind of demeaning. I mean which daughter in law wants to touch the feet of the mother in law she wants to actually murder? The Middle Eastern 'hug' just passes above me. I think I'm far away from hugging any kind of man (be it fat bellied, sweaty or stinky) in this lifetime. Those funny hand gestures that rap artists and Gorge Bush make are best suited for youtube. Also, I hope never ever do we have to witness the horrific 'Nazi Salute' again (it reminds me of a tank nozzle). The gentle tap on the hat is very nice, but then you need to be wearing a hat. The worst in-between greeting I have come across is that pansy one hand to the chest 'pranam'.. perfected by the 'Sahara Group'. It takes the Oscar for the weakest greeting in the world. Phew.... It's amazing why people can't stick to the basics!

If you want to greet someone, there are myriad choices to pick from. And if you aren't sure of any, just smile. It's the safest bet.

Alok blogs at