Friday, April 22, 2011


Last few months saw an entire spectrum of emotions unleashed on television. On one hand Japan ravaged by earthquake saw its people stoic, calm and composed under the tsunami of grief, and on the other, after the World Cup win India erupted in joy as the celebrations spilled on the streets.
I was particularly moved after reading the story of Tamiki Hara, a Japanese master of prose. He held the ashes of his dead wife when his hometown Hiroshima was decimated by the nuclear explosion. Hara survived and continued to write brave and heroic stories. In 1951 during the Korean War, there were rumors about a likely bombing and Hara buckled. Even though the bombing did not take place, Hara committed suicide in anticipation of another nuclear strike. Perhaps years of bottled emotions and the wounds of being a mute spectator to earlier devastation was beyond him. And then there is this also the story of a Nobel writing winner, Kawabata whose emotional out-pouring in his writings took a toll on his psyche, finally forcing him to end life.

Now when I read that Japan known for its calm, is also known for its suicides, I wonder if it is okay to suppress emotions instead of embracing them. Why do Indians express emotions like there is no tomorrow? And even if we do, is there any harm in doing so?
Call us all kinds of names but one thing we don’t have is a ‘stiff upper lip’. Expressing emotions is hardwired in Indian DNA. Facial expressions, laughing and crying are all parts of a language after all. Undoubtedly, our emotions speak louder than words.
If you want an emotional roller coaster ride, the perfect carousel is any Indian marriage. Relatives, friends, neighbors all express a certain madness which reaches its crescendo as the groom arrives with band baja baraat. To any other, we might appear zoo exhibits; singing and dancing outrageously. And what’s more? The same celebrations fade into melodramatic scenes as the bride leaves the following day.

Yet functional waterworks are not only a woman’s prerogative. When emotional dam bursts even tough dudes get swayed by the surge of emotions. So, when Yuvraj and Harbhajan cried after winning the World Cup, it appeared as the most natural thing to do. Who can forget how Kapil paaji broke down and sobbed on national television after allegations of match fixing. Sportsmen, actors, writers . Ms Worlds all have their own teary moments. However, I am yet to see a politician expressing genuine emotions. Politics and a thick skin go hand in hand.

Recently in Japan as the earth shook, the human spirit remained calm, almost surreal. Erie. The world admired their composure in adversity. It’s no surprise then that a country that prides itself in composure is facing a spike in mental disorders. Perhaps in their society expressing emotions in public is just not an option. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing.
My seven year old niece instinctively knows when to cry, cool down, blow her nose and feel lighter after the entire session. Of course, for adults the emotional surge need not cloud decision-making abilities. Yet, whatever is bubbling inside during calamitous times must find exit to maintain sanity. Someone has beautifully said- Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming but we can choose which ones to surf.


  1. Japan is known for it calm, suicides, comics and cartoons which are categorized as Mangas and Animes. Yes, I am a die-hard Manga/Anime fan.
    It's important to express; that is why emotions are for. What is the purpose of "being human" when there is an emotionless expression.
    Politician expressing emotion is an extinct sight. They sell it before they join politics, don't you know?
    I remember there was a crying Yuvraj, crying Harbhajan and cried Shreesanth in IPL (Harbhajan also made him emotional during the match *Slap*)

  2. Nice read! I suggest giving some sort of World Cup to politicians, just to check if they would cry or not. They get galis all the time, which has hardened their skin :-/

  3. I agree with you.. the art of expressing our feelings is something which makes us stand out from rest of the animal kingdom.

  4. I second you with the cultural roots thing which you have talked about. It probably is. We are more on-the-face than say, Japanese. To attach a value judgement, however, as you said, is difficult.

    And, a wonderful observation- Politicians never cry !

    Can hardly add anything but the read was a breeze... :) Thank you Ma'm

  5. Hi Alka,

    I like the new look of your blog. Perfect!

    Yes, over the last few weeks we have seen a spectrum of emotions and we have also seen how different cultures have different ways of expressing their emotions. I have seen how Brits unleash their emotions. It is so very different from how Indians express their emootions. I agree with you, for us Indians our emotions speak louder than words. Personally, I think that is a good thing. For me expressing my emotions is the only best way to deal with it. That enabes me to put things into perspective and make right choices and move on.

    Oh, politicians expressing emotions? wonder if it will ever happen?

  6. Well we were doing exactly this study, if job satisfaction is so high in Japan, why is the suicide rates so high and u gave an alternate option..
    As regards Indian expressing emotions, last night v had fare well and v truly danced like band baja baraati...
    Nice post.

  7. I agree we Indians love or shall I say show no qualms about exhibiting our emotions.

    The Japanese are indeed known for their calm and poised behaviour.

    I wonder why the politicians cannot express their emotions the way the rest of India does. Great post.

  8. @Prateek...Yup, I forgot Sreesanth...that was hilarious.


    @Rachit....Thanks for reading.

  9. @Sritatsat...After a long fact I was missing your comments. I value them because they are honest.

    @Always Happy....Thanks. What to do Pollies are my pet peeve. The post is not about them yet I end up mentioning them somewhere.

  10. @A...Thank you A.

    @Perception...Oh, really...would love to know about your study.

    @Rachna....Thanks for reading. Its a social cum cultural thing perhaps.

  11. I think unvented emotions are like fully steamed pressure cooker. Cannot tell when it bursts. In japan, several disorders like depression and anxiety are rampant...

  12. True, emotions need an outlet.

  13. the last line sums it all perfectly! We Indians usually get a bit overboard in expressing our emotions..take d television itself..u watch any serial, a lil twist and d facial expressions would be shown a zillion times from various angles and ironically most of d time v find it completely normal!


  14. so right...have I ever disagreed with you anyways?:-)

    I loved the ideas of us being zoo exhibits...reminds me how I cried at my wedding much that all the kaajal of the eyes had smudged down to the cheeks by the time I reached for the so-called golden night n u can imagine what happened thereafter;-)

    for me too laughing crying expressing is like language itself...and sometimes we really can't choose what feelings surface:-)

  15. Loved the last part. It is indeed unhealthy to suppress emotions. One thing I have noticed during funerals is how the womenfolk keep talking of the deceased so that the family members can let go of their emotions to lighten their hearts. There is no dignified silence, but loud wailing. They don't say, 'don't cry.' Instead they exhort, 'cry and get it out.' There is wisdom in our customs.

  16. loved the quote about emotion surfing...

    some years back had read a report about primary school students in japan suffering from stress related ulcers!

    whither childhood?!

  17. @Harish True.


    @Sarah...TV has dramatic emotional scenes..esp the serials.Sometimes even the news.

  18. @Suruchi...Sorry dearie, I cant imagine what happened afterwards...can u enlighten? Ok not in cyberspace but in secret.The voyeur in me wants to know the details....Dont tell me u slept off!

    @Zephyr...Loud wailing is again hysterical and not desired, but a good cry certainly helps.

    @Deepak...Really? I did not know.

  19. I loved the way u expressed the blog...among Indians I think Punjabis are the ones who easily show up emotions!

  20. That is so nice of you to say ( the 'honest' thing ). Though you are smart enough not to talk about the thin line demarcating honesty and insanity :D :P. Well there is this ground rule of readership ( that I have made up myself )- no point in reading if you can not add to what is written. Passive reading/ pravachan/ 'wow-so-well-written-kind-of-reviews' is a total waste of time. Has to be a two way process you know...

    Life has gotten happening in more than one ways. Trying to hang on with little success :) ... Hence online absence (

  21. very written Alka...wonderful..
    We as Indians..wherever we are...we show are emotions brightly irrespective of environment...
    and what's harm in that!
    I mean to be practical...there should be no shades!!

  22. I think it a good quality amongst Indians to be so expressive in our feelings

  23. @Jon...They live life King size in every which way.

    @Sritatsat...Mutual backscratching is a norm in blogosphere. Unfortunate!Its easy to make out that some have not read the post but are commenting on it.
    Carry on with the good work...and wish you all the best.



  24. That is a penetrating discourse on emotions. I liked the way the river of thoughts turned its course several times and swept over suppressed grief, union and parting out of marriages, bond between a father and the daughter, tears of joy and grief. I would, however, beg to differ with the conclusion. Sometimes, the choice of choosing the right wave may not be yours. And it may be better to let the heart ride the wave it wants rather than suppress it with pills of stoicism.

  25. This is such a beautifully written post. You have captured in perfection the emotional roller coaster called an Indian and the perfectly calm Japan.
    Actually, it is not only with Japan, I feel that a lot of western world is surreal when it comes to emoting their inner feelings. My aunt and her family who have spend most of their lives in the US of A, I see them so aloof of things that would otherwise make any of us emotional.

    I used to think that it is just me that is overtly sensitive, great to know it is actually the DNA that has it! And I am glad that I am wired like that! :)

    Great read!

  26. I want my emotions to be known, but dont want them to be hurt!

    But suppressing the emotions does lead to many mental ailments as you have rightly pointed out, which are too distressing one!

    and some sect of people cant even shed whats called crocodile tears ;)

  27. We're all about the drama,arent we? Then again, I guess thats what sets us apart.

    Politicians never cry. Do you mean Indian Politicians? I think Carla Bruni definitely cried out loud when somebody called her husband short. :D

  28. So true...yes it is important to express. I always feel its better to say what u feel rather than bottle it up inside. it does take a toll on you sometime or the other. Very well written and totally can see where u r coming from.

  29. @umashankar....I am glad you added another perspective . With emotions the reaction is instinctive and not planned or thought out. We cant think , "Oh I am going to ride this one or I am going to succumb to this one."
    @Sakshi...Perhaps its about social and cultural conditioning. Thanks for reading dear.

  30. @Poonam....Perfect!The poet in you has put it so well.

    @Cinderella and Ria...Girls perhaps have connected with this topic in a natural manner. Men are thinking what is this Rona Dhana?
    Thank u both for reading.

  31. nice read
    i am sure politicians always laugh in or out of Jail

  32. Alka,

    It is better to let your emotions show than to suppress it. Of course, it does not mean that we overdo it but right amount will depend from person to person.

    Take care

  33. I agree to you and I had written something long back that I would like to share.

    A moment to come.
    A moment to go.
    Touched by a thought.
    Melts like the snow.

    Untouched with warmth.
    It turns to rigid frost.
    Reposing on green earth.
    Freshness and flow lost.

    So, let life flow with a smile or a tear.
    Or even with your fear.
    Thoughts and emotions demand expression.
    Precious they are, but not a possession.

    And Mountain greenery too is lost.
    When heat does not flow to melt the frost.