Situation 1: My brother asked me, “Where are you? (Tu Kahan Hai?)”.
Without answering the question, I replied, “What’s up. Tell me what do you want me to do?” (I did not want to share my exact location).
He said, “Are you at XYZ place?” I said, “Yes, I am.”
He said, “In that case, get some curd from the shop nearby.” I said okay.
Situation 2: My mother asked me, “Where are you? (Kahan Hai Tu?)”.
I said, “I am at XYZ place.
She replied in an authoritative manner, “It’s been so long, what you are doing there? Come home, there is some work that needs to be done.” I said okay.
Situation 3: A friend asked, “Where are you? (Tu Kahan Hai?)”.
I said, “What do you want?”
He replied, “My cab is coming at XYZ place, I want you to drop me there.” I said okay.
Where are you?
In all the above situations, the same question is being asked but with a different intent.
The thing that I am pondering over is why do we ask this question? Does this question, “Where are you?” serve any purpose?
In the film pK, Aamir Khan talks about the weirdness behind the word Achha, which can have a hundred different meanings depending on the context. It appears “Where are you?” is no different. In fact, while this particular word (Achha) is harmless in itself, “Where are you?” is an inquisitive question which can be considered as an infringement of one’s privacy.
Besides, if the intent of the question is not to know the answer but to bring out some other agenda (as in case of my brother or friend), why do we ask this question at the first place?
Further, it being an open-ended question has the possibility of opening up a whole new dimension of conversation which you wouldn’t even want to get into. An elongated answer to “Where are you?” would be something like, “Oh you don’t know what happened today. First I went to the mall, then while on my way back the car tire got punctured, then I realized I left my wallet in the mall only. Somehow I managed to find 50 bucks to give to the puncture guy. I then went to the mall again to fetch my wallet. If that was not all, this happened and that happened and then this happened and so on and on and on…”
Wasn’t it better to just have come up with your agenda at the first place?!
A Yes/No question would, in fact, be much more relevant in this regard. Something like, “Hey, are you at XYZ location?”
“Yes, please get me this.” or “No, can you go there and get me this please?”
Think-it-over: Have you been asked this question, “Where are you?” by someone – a friend, a relative, a family member or anybody else? What was your first thought the last time this question was asked? Have you always answered this question truthfully or have you, at times, given a reply which had nothing to do with your location?
Now think of the times you asked this question to your friend/family member!
It appears, a lot of times we add cushion in our conversations either because we think that it would reduce the impact of the request/demand or because we have been doing it the same way since always. I think it’s time to rethink our conversation cushions!
P.S. Similar other formats of this question are, “What are you doing?” or “How is it going?”