You remember the Mata Amrita Index? I’d first defined it in early 2009, and it is broadly defined as “the likelihood that you will hug a randomly chosen friend or acquaintance you meet”. There is a bilateral version as well, which is defined as “the likelihood that a given pair of people will hug each other when they meet”.
I’ve revisited this concept several times on this blog. Once, I had wondered how you can go about “changing your MAI” with someone. On another occasion I had tried to add a quality dimension to the index, to account for the “quality of hugs”. But indices in general don’t do well when you try to complicate them too much.
In any case, I’ve been wondering how people’s MAI will evolve given the covid-19 crisis. I also wonder how the quality-adjusted MAI will evolve.
For one, Mumbai Mirror reports that Mata Amrita (in whose honour the index has been named) herself has been badly affected by the crisis.
“Like everywhere in the world, life in Kerala and the ashram have changed,” says the ‘hugging saint’, Mata Amritanandamayi, known to her devotees as ‘Amma’, over email. “This is the first time in more than 45 years that there has been no darshan.”
The crisis automatically means that we will, to the extent possible, try to avoid physical contact with other people. When shaking hands itself is frowned upon, hugs are out of the question. However, there will be people outside your immediate family with whom you would have developed a high bilateral MAI. How do you deal with them once you start meeting them again?
My guess is that the bilateral MAI will get sharply partitioned, and “collapse” (in a Schrödingerian sense). For people with whom you’ve had a high historical MAI, and where the historical quality has also been high, you are likely to take a “hell with the virus” approach and continue the (high quality) hugs.
Among other things these also tend to be the people you trust very well (why would you hug someone tightly if you don’t trust them?), and also there aren’t likely to be very many of them.
At the other end, anyone for whom historical bilateral MAI is not close to 1, or with whom the historical quality of hugs hasn’t been great, you’ll simply eschew the hug, going all the way to the namaste, maybe.
So all these “polite hugs” will disappear (which isn’t a bad thing at all, in my opinion). People will also feel less queasy about rejecting a hug – now they have a very good reason to do so.
The other thing is that you need a sort of “trust jump” with someone to get to a point where your MAI jumps from 0 to 1. The old progression (which was never a continuous progression) from handshake to side hug to quick hug to full hug is not going to be valid any more, as you need to directly jump from a zero MAI to a high quality one MAI.
Finally, what will happen of Mata Amrita herself? Is the dip in her “darshan” a temporary impact or a permanent impact? I suspect it’s the former?