How does one answer to the simple question of 'How are you?' Should one fake it and say 'Good' and follow it up with a polite 'How about you?' even though the last thing that one wants to know is how the other person is doing?
There is no simple answer to this simple question. How am I what? How am I doing health-wise? How am I doing professionally? How is Life treating me? How am I feeling right now? Essentially, 'How are you?' is an incomplete question.
Perhaps, the question deserves a response for a thought which is on top of the head or for filling up an information gap. Like if I was met with an accident or had fallen ill and I go to office after a week, the 'How are you?'s are to be received with 'Much better, thank you. Still a long way to go to be up and about.' Adds a dose of self-pity and a reminder to others to be polite and understanding! Been working late for days together, and not working smart? The 'How are you?'s are to be received with 'Hanging in there' or 'Just breathing.' Again, adds a dose of self-pity and shows how much of hard work is being put in!
And for people wanting to be truly honest, and thinking the person who asked the question really wanted to know, they can start off with their feelings on almost all topics that is currently concering them! For most other situations, a rhetoric and meaningless 'Good' will do good enough.
The relationship shared between the requestor and requestee also matters in the response. If its just an acquaint, it would involve a short 5-second exchange. If perhaps, its more of a What-the-hell-happened-to Ganguly? relationship, you might as well dwell in a bit about what a dog's life it is. Climbing up the ladder of relationships, if its friendship, a 'How are you?' will be met with words of truth to which one can relate to easily. If its more of a spousal relationship, such a question might just about break the dam and make the tears flow, or equivalently but less likely, might start a hand-in-hand sprightly dance!
Perhaps it is a shortened version for the question 'If you were to rate between 1 and 10 as to your current status of Life, 1 being best and 10 being worst, what would you rate it today?' And perhaps, people with a habit of colouring their days with the appropriate shades, they might choose black as a very bad day and blue being a cheerful one! So then, a typical conversation will be like :
'How are you?'
'Hmm, 6. And you?'
'Oh ok. Good!'
Neither of them will know what they are talking about, but atleast it stops your lie clock from ticking each time you utter a false 'Good'!
There are a 100 things that will be going on in the head and when someone asks how am I, what should I give preference to and what should I partialise against? What should I lie and what should I hide? That in itself will become the 101st thing to think about!!
How am I?