Tears | Symbol | Weakness | 27th June 2022 | Virtual Wire
"Pushpa… I hate tears"
This iconic dialogue uttered by Anand (Rajesh Khanna) to Pushpa (Sharmilla Tagore) in Amar Prem (1972) is a treasure of Indian pop culture.
This dialogue was intended to comfort the sobbing Pushpa; however, a part of Indian culture does hate tears. There are several terms like chichkadune (namby-pamby) In Bengali and nakhrebaaz ( tantrums) in Hindi that include crying as one of the attributes of causing drama or being cowardly. There exists certain toxicity around the very culture of letting our emotions run through tears. We all have heard of at least one elder or a peer state bitterly about the uselessness of wailing about the hardships of life; there's no time to shed tears. Why is crying a symbol of cowardice and defeat in our culture?
We all possess the glands that produce our tears. Yet crying is considered wholly a feminine trait. Women in media, myth and real-life are seemingly the sole owners of emotional outbursts. In the traditional view, They are the makers of families and the next generation. They form the heart of the hearth while men form the muscles that protect the hearth so thereby it's natural that they should cry more. The image of the crying mother, the sobbing wife and the tearful daughter in movies and shows played the ultimate card to crack the cold exteriors of characters toughened by trauma Scientifically , women do get more emotional than men, especially during pregnancy and menstruation. But the stereotypical attachment of crying as a strictly female thing has led to blatant toxicity when it comes to male emotions.
Men Don't Cry
Toxic masculinity is permeated thoroughly in Indian culture. The macho-man stereotype demands that men should not cry; they are nothing less than girls or cowards if they shed even a single tear. I myself have experienced my male peers in school mockingly stating that only girls cry and boys don’t because they are tough. “Mard ko dard nahi hota” right ?Only if he’s made out of mechanical body parts. This prevailing attitude has led most men to suppress their expressions of grief to stony faces or complete avoidance until those feelings burst out of their chests in a volcanic eruption. The most emotion men are allowed to have is anger which helped spawn The Angry Young Men trend, popularized By Amitabh Bachchan in India and portrayed perfectly by Jimmy Porter, a fictional character, from Look Back In Anger.
The state of mental health and the conversation around it is still at a nascent stage in India. The view of crying as a solely female attribute and the toxic behaviour towards men doing the same has sadly garnered much psychological damage due to suppression of emotions. Crying is often a necessary outlet for emotions and an effective way to deal with grief and stress. A good crying session leaves us exhausted but relieved.
Since the general dislike of shedding tears forces us to repress our negative emotions inside, it often leads to fatal consequences. The lack of focus on emotional stability has been and continues to be a leading reason for suicides, divorces and so on. The devastation of the Pandemic has led to a new appreciation and empathy for mental health. But we still have a long path to walk.
As I wrote at the beginning, crying is usually considered a symbol of cowardice or tantrum. The infamous daily soap culture has done the most to reinforce this viewpoint. The Vamp fake -cries to get her way, the whinny characters sobs hysterically and cause drama and disturbances and the defeated characters are usually seen shading a tear or two after they get bamboozled ( in Joey's words) by the protagonist. Fear is an emotion, apart from sadness and stress,
that tickles our tear glands. It's natural to cry when you are frightened or suffering from anxiety. however, this has been badly represented and reinterpreted as crying being a number one indicator of a cowardly person who can’t do anything.
Tears of Power
Like Chris Martin of Coldplay Sings “Every tear’s a waterfall". Tears have the power to move hearts, if not mountains. For mental health, crying helps us with emotional relief and clarity. It's Ok to shed a few tears, no matter how much our culture says it's not. Films and literature have evolved a lot in the portrayal of men who are sensitive and unafraid to let out their feelings in a wail. We underestimate how much as social beings, we need a stable emotional core to keep our heads straight. Our ability to cry does not rob us of our prowess to kick ass; it rather enhances it. Tears eventually don’t solve problems so we have to get up and do it ourselves. But Pushpa, it's alright to cry sometimes.