• Mohana Prabhakar

Greeting forwards: To answer or not?

We are just on the third day of the new year and I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year again. And love, happiness, health, wealth, prosperity, blessings, rainbows, miracles and so on. While it seems phones are as essential to our life as the air we breathe, the one time I wish I didn’t own a phone are times like now.

I can understand why friends send you greeting messages, but I get greetings from people I don’t really know beyond the one and only time we may have spoken or messaged each other. Or those with whom the only interaction I have is a few times a year - on National Day, Diwali, Christmas and New Year.

Not being much of a ‘forwarder’ of jokes, videos, pictures of sunshine, birds and flowers, and a participant of less than a handful of WhatsApp groups, I don’t get too many messages compared to some of my friends. Yet, it’s not only receiving the messages as much as what happens after that, that drives me crazy. Let me explain.

First is the attack phase of a message when it arrives: It’s time to decide whether to read or not to read. If I am busy, or I see something like 16 unread messages, which seems like too many to deal with, I often keep them aside to read later. The danger there though, is that I end up missing messages from friends I don’t want to ignore.

I think the truth is that sometimes I don’t read a message because it kicks off the second phase. This is one that I want to avoid for as long as possible.

The second phase is the response phase. One option is to ignore the message. This gives rise to occasional pangs of guilt which sometimes intensify when I see the unread message and can’t get rid of the feeling that it’s impolite not to read it. It logically follows that the next action would be to respond. I somehow manage to make it even more complicated at this stage.

As I begin to type, I start with a very generic response like, ‘Wish you a very Happy New Year too’. Then I pause and delete. Isn’t it rude to just send an impersonal return greeting when that person took the trouble to greet me? How can I get personal with a person I don’t really know? Should I mention names? Do I know the names?

Or should I make it a funny one? What if they don’t find it funny? Is the occasion too momentous to be irreverent? And oh my god, am I jinxing my own ‘happy new year’ by making fun of it? How many exclamation marks should I use at the end of my greeting? Is two just right and three too enthusiastic?

If by now, faint suspicion is setting in that I am overthinking this, I think it’s safe to say you are not too wrong. But the saga hasn’t ended yet. After much thought, on occasion I do manage to type out a reply, which also involves getting rid of excess emojis, which I find ridiculously addictive. The kicker, though, is that every so often I find that I’ve forgotten to hit send after spending an hour writing the message because I got distracted by something else.

I am going to go ahead at this point to yet again wish you a Very Happy New Year and All the Joy and Success in the World (no idea why so many people use capital letters with such abandon). And in case you messaged me and I haven’t responded yet, it’s because I am probably still trying to add some value to it.

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