Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Free Hugs

I did the “Free Hugs” thing this past Saturday evening on M.G. Road here in Pune. For those of you who aren’t quite aware of what this involves check out the videos on Youtube or this Wikipedia article. This is the Free Hugs Campaign website.

I will be soon posting more stuff on my experiences in the coming days. I also plan to keep doing this. For now though, here’s an article that I wrote for the Pune Mirror regarding the my adventure.

Stay tuned.

The following piece appeared in the Pune Mirror on Monday, 7th July 2008.

How would you react to someone standing at a street corner with a sign saying “Free Hugs”? Would you be willing to give someone you hadn’t met before a hug if they asked you for one? Why is it so hard to get a hug from someone you don’t know? These are some of the questions I wanted to find answers to when I decided to conduct my “Free Hugs” social experiment.

The idea, of course, wasn’t an original. The concept was started by a person called Juan Mann (One Man) in Sydney in 2004. Since then it’s been carried out in many cities across around the world—and popularized thanks to the online video sharing site youtube.com. When I mentioned trying it out in India to some friends, the responses I got leaned heavily toward “It won’t work in India.” I disagreed but thought it was worth finding out.

I picked M.G. Road because I had expected it to be a Walking Plaza and also because I thought it would have a fairly distributed demographic set. (At the last minute, I found out that the Walking Plaza had been put off for two months because of the rains, so that was a bit of a disappointment.) I could have tried a mall or a multiplex—but in that case I would only come in contact with a certain type of people. I wanted a slightly more varied sample set.

After just one run of the experiment, I would have to say that it was a success. I received a fair share of hugs yesterday and only a couple of really negative responses. Most people who declined, either did so with a smile or just refused to look in my direction at all. That’s okay—everyone has the right to make their own choices. No one told me to get out and go home. So experiment part – success.

There is another side to the whole story though. I actually do believe in the power of the hug. I’m sure every one of us has at some point in their lives felt like that they needed a hug real bad but there was no one around who would offer them one! It shouldn’t be so hard to get one from someone you don’t know. When I stand on the street with a board saying “Free Hugs”, the statement I’m making is that irrespective of who you are—young, old, rich, poor, clean, dirty, anything—if you want a hug, I’m willing to give you one. I think that’s a powerful statement to make.

I plan to continue doing this in the future. Not for the experiment bit—okay, not just for the experiment—but for the sheer fun of it. At the end of the day, each single hug I got, more than made up for all the hugs that were turned down. Hug someone around you now and see if you don’t feel better!


Saurabh said...

I've been reading your blog since last 6 months and the moment I read Arnold D'souza in Pune Mirror I had you in my mind but was not sure. Now this entry confirms it. CONGRTS mate for the great campaign and keep it up!!

Saltwater Blues said...

...shit that WAS you!!! Read about it in the Mumbai Mirror.


But I thouigh you was in Germany, and Arnold D'souza is a common name.

But if you were offering free hugs to anybody who wanted it, where's the question of anybody declining?

Cheers mate!

Fangs said...

if you'd posted some warning, you'd probably had me by your side!

Anonymous said...

Hey Arnold,
Have been reading your news hugging venture and looked you up on the net and found your blogspot. Have been having a good laff at some of the bits on the fair sex. tell me why do you call Pune, Poona; like the old aunties and uncles do? Beware the MNS or SS will get you! Bye and shall keep tuned in.

Arnold said...

@Saurabh - Yes Sir, that was indeed me. Thanks and keep reading. Hope to increase the blogging frequency!

@Saltwater Blues - I was in Germany. Got back some weeks ago. I knew that the Pune Mirror was going to cover it. Was a little surprised that the Mumbai one did too. Will keep it going. Cheers!

@Fangs - Didn't post a heads up, but there was a pre-event article in the Mirror. Guess you didn't catch it. Anyway, all you have to do is make a sign and stand somewhere! :)

@Anonymous (Maria) - I've been calling it that since forever. When I was a kid, everyone I knew called it 'Poona' and so the name stuck with me. It's got a certain charm to it and I like that. FYI, I also call Mumbai "Bombay". Sue me. :P

I was a bit afraid of getting beaten up my the MNS or the SS (especially because of the pre-event article in the Mirror). Thankfully that didn't happen, but I do plan to continue this so you never know. Fingers crossed.

Do keep reading. Yes, I have been harsh on the 'fairer sex', but I guess you realize that it's mostly in jest!

Siddharth said...

Fantabulous... Way to go...

rahgujar said...

hi, I want to join this movement. let me know how.

yes said...


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