The first time I saw my father cry was when I was in my late twenties. I am sure he had cried before, perhaps many-a-times. Of-course, he must have cried before.From that day, till today, I have wondered on where he cried before? At his office, in the bathroom as he showered(tears unseen even to himself, mixing with water), as he drove to work, in the morning as he did the toiletries, standing at the paan shop with his Four-Square cigarette? We are a family of six members, four children and my parents. And we just almost always never had more than three rooms in the house. He could have never found a ‘corner’ for himself in the day, to hide and cry. I do take this line of thinking forward till I can, knowing very well that it is not about the physical space that I did not see him cry.I was entering the house from my media job late in the evening that day, the day I saw him cry. I remember it was a Saturday. My mom was in the kitchen making a hurried cup of tea for him, when I entered. He was standing on the door of the kitchen, between the dinning area and the kitchen itself, not being able to decide where he wants to be- with his children in the dinning area, or his wife. He was not hiding his tears as he stood there. One can cry freely when one’s mother dies, even a man can. It is fine. It is expected. It is almost normal male behavior unless you start to go into hysterics.
I remember how his small eyes (eyes three of us have)- became- so full and brownish red. I also remember how particularly he caught every tear before it fell from his eyes and reached his temples, his cheeks, his chin. He did not cry in that messy way, the way my mother cries. Only his moist eyes, that is the island of crying he was comfortable with.
Of-course, none of us knew what to say. I mean we knew what to say on our grandmother’s death, and his mother’s death, but we had no clue how to connect it to an adult man who is crying before us. So none of us said anything.
My mother gave him tea. He sat on the dinning table as twilight laced his face from the adjacent French windows. He kept sipping his tea slowly, his eyes kept welling, and he did not allow his tears to roll down his face.
It is extraordinary that that is the only memory I have of my father crying. Only memory of tears. On the other hand I cannot even remember how many times I have seen my mother cry. She cries like a river flows. Healthy, happy, redemptive, laugh tears, healing tears, angry tears, cooking tears, bedroom tears and filmy tears. She has normalized crying in our house. My mother has never been taunted as the Nirupama Roy (the sobbing mother of Indian cinema) in our house; the fact that she is so certain and free about her crying helps her case perhaps, and puts everyone in doubt about their not crying. She, indeed lends confidence and strength to tears of our family. I do think something monumental would have changed for me if my father cried like my mother in my growing-up years. I think he would have become more approachable, more accessible emotionally and more of a friend.
It is true that apart from some films, I have hardly seen many adult-men cry. The social training is stiff and certain. Rules laid as early as pre-school. This world indeed needs more men to embrace crying, be comfortable with it as an emotional tool for release of tension. And perhaps then fewer women will cry.
But of course these men must be crying- in dark places, nooks and corners, under school desks, bathrooms, on pillows. Just a few days back, at a birthday bash, I saw a father shouting, a slice of pizza was lying on the floor in the middle of him and his eight-year son as he told him quietly-“Stop crying.” As the boy hiccuped to more crying he shouted loudly this time. “Stop crying or I will make you really cry.” Another of those island of tears was being drilled. I looked away and had my iced tea.
Just yesterday my eight-year-old niece came running to me. We share stories. I have to tell a story of my work place, and she narrates a story of her school. I was not surprised when she told me this- “You know, Meghana and Aarav had a fist fight. And Aarav started crying.” Then she sniggered, and chucked and added -“Maasi, Ayaan teased him- woh toh Deepika Padukone se bhi jaldi rota hai.” And she laughed loudly. I didn’t need to ask if she agreed with Ayaan.
Let us have a day for crying- all men and women, like the tomato festival or some such other thing. By the way- which screen hero’s crying makes him a Marlboro man for you? And please don’t say the many Devdas s’, somehow Devdas’s failure at life as a man, as a lover, has led to a lot of problems for men, women and crying.
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