When a close friend of mine called me up a few days ago and asked how I was, I nonchalantly replied: “I am fine!” Innocuous as the question may sound, I feel uncomfortable answering it. She may have inquired about my health (what else?) to break the ice or out of pure formality. I don’t know. I, too, answered back instantaneously and without much thought.

All my acquaintances keep asking me the same question and I parry them with the same

answer, “Fine!”

But am I really fine when I say so? Do I even think twice when I reply that I am fine? I often request people not to ask me this stupid question, but to no avail. No one realises how irritating I find answering it. I detest the very inanity of the inquirer when he knows my answer beforehand.

I think people put this question across to me without much thought. One day, as I was bedridden with typhoid, the same friend entered my room. “How are you?” she blurted. Of course, “Fine”, escaped my curled lips. Another day, I was mourning the death of a close relative. She again assailed me with the same irksome query. What was I to answer?

Once, my dear friend left the city. Without her, life was dull and tiresome. I felt alone and desperate and I could do nothing to sooth my turbulent mind. I had no one to talk to, to share my feelings with, no one to turn to when faced with some difficulty or during my emotional lows. Yes, I was missing her like hell!

Even while she was around, we didn’t talk much, send mails or make phone calls, sometimes, for months. Just the knowledge that she was around comforted me no end. But

now that she was gone, my life seemed to be devoid of all joys.

While she was away I sometimes wanted to wail out loud and tell her that I have forgotten to smile, forgotten to hope, forgotten to live — literally.

But on her return, I could say nothing along this line and lied to her, yet again. Didn’t she realise that she was forcing me to lie against my very will?

But what else can I answer, no matter pissed off I am, when someone asks me the same question again? What else am I expected to say, except, of course, “Fine!”