“How’s the josh?!”


Jiya Singh

“How’s the josh?!” my dad asked me loudly.

“Um … high,” I responded in a mumbled, annoyed voice. 

And just like that, I saw my dad’s face fall, my weak answer falling short of his high expectations.

Contrary to popular belief, “josh” is not just a nickname for the popular name Joshua — it also means confidence, or enthusiasm, in Hindi. After watching the 2019 Bollywood movie “Uri,” which portrays the lives of Indian army officers, my dad picked up on a phrase the lieutenant in the film would yell to his soldiers before every battle — “How’s the josh?”

In the movie, the phrase was used to hype up army officers as they responded to the question with a unified, passionate yell of, “High, sir!” The question was intended to remind the soldiers of the joy that existed amid the mentally and physically taxing toll of going to war. While I am no army officer, my dad has asked me this question every morning since Jan. 11, 2019, when the movie was initially released. 

If there’s anything I’ve always known about my father, it’s that when he fixates on something, he doesn’t just appreciate it for a week — he sticks to it. For example, when he wanted to start working out, he spent six hours in our home gym making sure he would reach his desired weight goal. When a neighbor made a slightly snarky comment about our sloppy front yard, he spent months waking up at 5 a.m. to mow the lawn to perfection. Yet while I’ve always admired my dad’s extreme commitment to every little thing he does, I simply wasn’t that way at all. 

Instead, I have always been more of a tries-something-out-and-likes-it-until-she-gives-up kind of person. My achievements —  from publishing my own book at age 10 to being an award-winning tennis player — were all accomplishments of mine that I’d just tossed away when things became more difficult. In fact, being given the label of “quitter” by my parents at a young age created a mental understanding that I would never be enough for my driven father, and his over-excitement of the phrase, “How’s the josh?” was just another reminder of our differences.

I couldn’t understand why I needed to be dragged into my dad’s hyperfixation of the movie dialogue when my “josh” was most certainly not “high.”

And so, groggily walking down the stairs each morning to my father passionately yelling “how’s the josh” was not a fun experience for 13-year-old me. As my years of reluctant, “High, sirs” finally gave my dad the hint that I did not care about his childish ritual, he slowly backed off. And so, in my junior year, after three years of endless eye-rolling and mumbling, our daily exchange finally stopped.

But soon, walking down the stairs to a bagel sitting on the dining table and the sound of peace — what I thought I wanted the most — began to make me feel lonely. Despite the corniness and seemingly stupidity of it all, the simple call-and-response of my father and I each morning was unintentionally hyping me up for the school day. 

My father’s look of disappointment when my, “High, sir!” wasn’t happy or loud enough would motivate me to try harder for his approval, and the daily practice of it all taught me the importance of creating a routine in my messy life, the absence of which I felt deeply.

I realized that my dad didn’t necessarily derive joy from childlishly yelling to me each morning — it was my passionate screams of response, despite my inner emotions, that made him satisfied in knowing that no matter what, I retained my self-confidence and would be OK. Even if I was having a bad or stressful morning, the practice of yelling and training my brain that I had high spirits and someone (my dad) to rely on instantly made me feel better —  eventually completely removing the idea of me being a “quitter.” 

And so, as my father is currently going through some personal struggles, it is now me who asks him how his “josh” is every morning, condemning him when his responses aren’t loud enough, to make sure he too can get his confidence back the way that I did. As it turns out, whether someone is the commander-in-chief of the Indian military or a normal Bay Area resident, everyone’s ‘“josh” can use a little uplifting.