In almost every culture in the world children grow up hearing that it was right for girls to shed tears but “big boys don’t cry”. Tears are said to be a woman’s biggest weapon and her winning argument.
Men are taught to hold back their tears, at least in public.
This is a culture-imposed stereotype. The reality is that some people are easily moved to tears – by a touching event or memory, not necessarily by tragedy – while others are not, whatever their gender. The propensity of women to burst into tears is, perhaps, more of a culture-imposed habit.
Modern social norms may scoff at tears but ophthalmologists will tell you that tears are healthy for eyes and that dry-eye syndrome needs treatment.
There are some narrations that never fail to move me to tears, even if I am hearing or telling them for the umpteenth time. Very often smiles are used to hide tears, as depicted in a famous Ghazal sung by Jagjit Singh:-
Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho
Kya Gum Hai Jisko Chhupa Rahe Ho
tum itna jo muskura rahe ho
Aankhon Mein Nami, Hansi Labon Par
Kya Haal Hai Kya Dikha Rahe Ho-
(You are smiling so much, which sorrow are you hiding? Eyes are moist, but tips smile, what is the reality and what are you showing?)
A hauntingly memorable Hindi poem by Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan, quoted by his legendary actor son Amitabh Bachchan, says:
आंसुओं को बहुत समझाया तनहाई में आया करो,
महिफ़ल मे आकर मेरा मजाक ना बनाया करो !
आँसूं बोले . . .
इतने लोग के बीच भी आपको तनहा पाता हूँ,
बस इसलिए साथ निभाने चले आता हूँ !
जिन्दगी की दौड़ में, तजुर्बा कच्चा ही रह गया,
हम सिख न पाये ‘फरेब’ और दिल बच्चा ही रह गया !
बचपन में जहां चाहा हंस लेते थे, जहां चाहा रो लेते थे…
पर अब मुस्कान को तमीज़ चाहिए और आंसुओं को तन्हाई !
हम भी मुस्कराते थे कभी बेपरवाह अन्दाज़ से,
देखा है आज खुद को कुछ पुरानी तस्वीरों में !
चलो मुस्कुराने की वजह ढुंढते हैं…
तुम हमें ढुंढो…हम तुम्हे ढुंढते हैं !!!
– हरिवंशराय बच्चन
(A free-verse translation:–
I told Tears again and again, come only when I am alone
Don’t embarrass me when I am in a gathering
Said Tears: Even amidst all those people, I found you feeling lonely
And came to give you company.
In childhood I laughed or cried whenever and wherever I felt like
In the race of life I could not learn deceit and be cunning
Experience did not teach, and my heart remained childlike
But a smile is now governed by social etiquette and tears need loneliness
A look at old photos shows I could once smile without fear and care
Now Smile searches for me and I search for reasons to smile)
It is not sorrow alone that brings tears. A touching act of kindness, the innocence of the good person who suffers to spare others pain and even extreme happiness can result in moist eyes. Tears can be a way of unburdening the mind of pernt-up emotions.
Age can leave with you memories which are “too deep for tears”.
Author of ‘A TOWN CALLED PENURY -the Changing Culture of Indian Journalism’ & ‘JOURNALISM, Ethics, Codes, Laws’