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.