Until just a few years ago when I asked my son everyday after school “how was school?” I would get some details about snack time, a teachers’ comment or an encounter with a friend. Now, that he is 11, and I ask him the same question there is the usual mundane four-letter word “Fine!”
Lately I began to realize that its not the answer that is uneventful it’s the ordinary, completely unremarkable question that is put forward. His day at school has become a lot more complex than just snack and circle time. If I am not specific in my words how can I expect him to tell me explicitly about his highs and lo’s at school. The lack of detail and triviality from my side will obviously fetch me such detached and alien retorts.
I have often heard people asking each other “Kya Khabar (whats the news)?” I mean do I look like a newscaster to you? Or would you rather expect me to say “ Aaj kee breaking news yeh hai keh General Pervez Musharraf ko dil key ilaaj key liye bairoonay mulk jaana paray ga” or else “ Federer ko muun tor shikast ka saamna karna para, naughty Nadal!”
With the uncontrollable increase in text messaging, whatsapping and bbm-ing friends near and far often type “How are you?”
“Ummm 5’6”, black and pepper hair…are you interested in the vital statistics also?”
Or those rushed for time would often write “Haal?”
Or “All ok”
Men often ( and sometimes not at all) ask their wives “How was your day?”
“Ah, brilliant, the usual 1 hour long school run, the grind at the gym, the buk buk with the maasi, grocery for aalo, tamater and pyaaz and then the school run again…”
Would anyone be interested in listening to this toneless whining every single day?
Would relationships be different if we were to pose questions in a more emotionally attached way?
Would I be able to get more detail if I were to ask my son “ What was the most exciting thing that happened at school today?”
Instead of asking for “khabar” wouldn’t it be better if one were specifically asked “you were meant to go to the doctor, did you manage to?”
It might require some more time and typing energy but “Haal” can easily be replaced by “Is the pain in your back better?”
And as I recently read counselors recommend to spouses to ask questions like
“Did the kids give you a tough time today?”
“How did the meeting with XYZ brand manager go?”
I wonder if we are actually trying to seek an answer or simply tick mark a “to do.” One-word questions seem more like a hit and run situation rather than striving for a complete answer. Or is it that we are afraid of asking for detail because we might have to sit down and actually listen, empathize and reason later on. Adding just a little more element and consideration in our questions can bring about a lot more tenderness and responsiveness. And possibly closer relations also.