Hands That Shake

It’s such a small gesture. Such a subconscious mechanism of the human body.

Like simpler animals sniff each other at the first meeting, us primates grip the other’s hand.

We shake.

We smile.

If we don’t like the person, we crush their hands and paste a sickly sweet smirk on our faces.

It’s natural.

It’s instinct.

It’s taboo.

Us Pakistani women, do not shake hands with men. Actually, most Muslim women don’t. But after careful research, I learned that according to most scholars , shaking a man’s hand for purely courteous is not as much a fuss as it’s made out to be.

That leaves behind the society. The way our peers look at us with narrowed eyes.

My university is different.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Liberal.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not completely out of control.

Just a little different.

We have a culture of shaking hands with our friends, and of exchanging  casual high-fives here and there, be it with girls… Or boys.

Oh the astonishment on my face.

Oh the flies in my  mouth.

Oh the size of my eyes.

Oh the blush on my face.

Oh how liberal!

It happens on the first day, while we are talking of music. A new-found friend asks what genres we are interested in. I cheer for rock. He says, “High-five”. And extends his hand over the head of another girl walking between us.

I do it.

A few seconds later, I say to myself, Raiha, what just happened?

The next day when we meet in the morning, all the girls shake hands with the guys.

It’s my turn.

How can I turn down someone’s offer of a handshake? My brain won’t let me be that discourteous. And while I’m talking to someone else, I unconsciously shake his hand.

Again a few seconds later, I ask myself, Raiha, did you just shake a guy’s hand?

And let me tell you, I’m not one of those people who do fleeting split-second handshakes. My father’s training again. “A person’s handshake is a measure of his/her personality, it should be firm, steady and powerful.”

It’s the day after that. Again when the group meets we shake hands. Again, Raiha takes one offered hand and high-fives another.

A few seconds later, I say to myself, to hell with it. When I’m Prime Minister, I would have to shake many hands. Might as well start practicing now.

And besides, I seriously do not have control on instincts.

Someone extends their hand, you take it. End of story.

Besides, I know what to do if the handshake becomes inappropriately long.

Swing my bag and smack ‘im in the face!


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