I cry a river…

The art of crying is about losing your form — your eyes becoming the primordial ocean of existence and lips twitching and twirling into a knot that keeps you from falling apart — so that you may learn to be able to accommodate more and more.

Why do we cry? Why do we emote our feelings welling up like tides responding to the vagaries of the moon? Why do we let it out by displaying it on our solemn faces?

An international study of criers suggests that the reasons behind crying are often mundane like watching a sad movie or dealing with a small failure and somewhat dependent on previous experiences. I recently cried when I watched Patrick singing a Tina Turner song to David in a Schitt’s Creek episode. I will never call it mundane. *sigh*

It goes on to note, “…for someone to start crying, exposure to an emotional event by itself often does not suffice. Instead, the person may need to be in a particular mental (and/or physical) state and situational factors should not too strongly discourage the shedding of emotional tears.”

I find the privacy of my room the only place where I do not need to hold off from spilling my tears. It is the only safe space as it has been imbibed in me that crying in front of others is not done. It is vulgar and unsophisticated when small streaks of water run down from my long lashes to a scraggy chin. They dry quickly as well, leaving the skin stretched out and clean as if it has undergone some kind of a cosmetic treatment.

“Your skin looks so good,” a friend told me, looking at my tear-worn face. I had not washed it after a small session of inadequate crying. I do not know whether they figured it out or not. Sometimes, I do position myself in front of the mirror when I cry. It is discomfiting, like when others cry in my presence.

From what I found out from the various modern researches on why we cry, some postulated that crying is a form of social bonding — it acts as a tool to evoke empathy and reduce aggression in others. Another suggested that it is manipulative in nature.

For those who still believe that crying is about releasing toxins or controlling body heat during a surge of emotions as has been hypothesised previously, all of it is now disproved. Also, it does not always lead to immediate relief as many self-help articles would say. “But the work that’s been done on this indicates that, if anything, we don’t feel good after we cry,” says Randy Cornelius, a professor of psychology at the Vassar College.

I am not going to delve into the science of it too much as it is still not entirely clear.

I am concerned about crying as a form of self-care. Well, I am having a pretty not-so-okay week, and I have taken many breaks already for some sob soirees in the middle of writing this piece.

Why am I expressing myself and my complicated emotions through tears?

Some of my close friends would know that I am quite harsh on myself; it is sometimes so bad that I tend to feel physical discomfort and even disgust looking at my image and the resulting intrusive thoughts make me almost nauseous. Such an unrelenting attack often leads to days and even weeks of absence from life — forgetting to feel my skin and just following a mechanical routine with no control over anything else — as a form of self-punishment. Therefore, I have realised crying for me is an expression which mellows my response to the situation.

How would you react if you see someone cry in your presence? If you have even a semblance of emotional intelligence, the social cue must make you reach out to them in some way, either through touch or words, to comfort them.

When I am the spectator of my tears, crackling breaths, and gurgling sounds that escape my parched tongue, I respond kindly. I am not that harsh; I seek to comfort and alleviate some of my pain. It does not make it better in a short term but allows me some space and time to recognise (and not antagonise) the cause as well as the effect of crying. It is not self-love but rather self-care that I aspire for and try to achieve at such times.

It is a reaction that I am learning and trying to replicate even if when I cry over the smallest of things. I may even call it a kind of intrapersonal conditioning. The tears accompanied by a debilitating experience act as a stimulant for me to act more gently. I am not self-diagnosing myself with anything, as no one should, and I am not saying that this is the ideal way of going about it.

We do what we have to do, to see through the night to another day and yet another one. Crying seems to be my thing right now.

Agha Shahid Ali ends his collection of ghazals, Call Me Ishmael Tonight, with a short ghazal, which is actually just a couplet:
“If you leave who will prove that my cry existed?
Tell me what was I like before I existed.”

In my case, I want to be the witness of my crying so that I can cogently believe that I am worth something, that my tears have meaning; there was existence prior to the pain, and there would still be one beyond it.

This is the third in my #Trash essay series. You can check out the previous essays here and here. This wasn’t a fun write but it was good for me to navigate through the art of crying and realise some things about myself. Let me know what you think about this essay, why you cry and what it means to you, as well as some book/movie/song recommendations for a good cry. I welcome your feedback and topic suggestions to continue this series.

If you liked this piece or anything I have ever written, I would appreciate if you would share it with others in your circle and show your support by making some contribution at Buy me a coffee (it accepts Paypal as well as UPI payments). Thank you.

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of heat and pain

kahlo

the pain comes in waves, rising with every twist and movement, closing like a sunflower in that one particular posture and head tilt that makes it recede to an invisible centre (all else silent). in that particular pose, a burst of senseless laughter escapes me, of relief, of sweet, sweet relief. it has only been a couple of days and i am sick of its tentacles piercing and needling my muscles into tight knots. the right quadrant of my upper back is a plain, a parallel dimension for unintended consequences of seemingly inconsequential actions.

a hot water bottle rests against the hurt. the nightlight makes the red rubber look like blood. its scaled surface feels like old skin. letting the heat transfer and latch onto my pain, i feel light. the waves pass me by, hungry for new flesh and brittle warmth. lying in this manner, i drift off to visions. it may be the result of a muscle relaxant i took in one go that i feel the vibrations of a half-dream on my left shoulder and forearm, and numbness spreads throughout like apricot jam on a burnt toast.

with this unkindly sleep, i stay in a drug-addled awareness. all is as should be. all is on its way to becoming a memory.

embracing the pain, i read of an empress and bulimia, bridges made of watermelon sugar, and the kill list of a forgotten virus. the night becomes predawn becomes the first glimmer of light becomes a hot day. the water turned cold hours ago, the anti-inflammatory chemicals have absolved themselves. i move around and struggle with the weight of my small being in the vastness of this bed, all in the hope to find a way through the pain.

not to avoid it. to be it.

the pain as a reminder as a prophecy as a hypnotic dream as a sunburnt image as a rain besieged sea as a burnt-up pyre as an acceptance.

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© Anmol Arora

Image source (Frida Kahlo, Arbol de la Esperanza (Tree of Hope), 1946 (Photo: Nathan Keay, ©2014 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, D.F. Artists Rights Society (ARS), Private Collection Chicago))

of ants, words, and passages

the-ants.jpglarge

my room is infested with ants. their dark, mellow bodies struggle against surfaces, solid or not, to find a passage to somewhere. some of them climb on me, walk up to my calves, to my thighs, before i realise they are there with stinging pain and shed them away. some die in the process, the rest wriggle free of this temporary shortcoming and find their way again.

they are like my words, that are often incompetent and even inchoate because i see life as a long series of misguided and misunderstood syllables. they are like wor(l)ds that speak from the downfall and seek approval to be present.

last year that i spent in a far off city, i would often jump a wall, go out in search of a cup of chai and smoke, with words bursting like tiny crackers in my mind that got transferred to all those who sought (something) on the streets. and sometimes, i would want to be that tall woman in a magenta saree to have that purposeful gait, that man who seemed like a fleeting answer to all my shattered believes, or that dead butterfly.

(i encountered some ten of them this time last year, followed by dead dogs and dead birds till the end of the year, which i took as a marker of my own death but it hasn’t worked out too well)

i have a lot to say but words seem futile and rudimentary for something wordless, even soundless. like the moon seemingly in the wrong direction on that beach evening (i cannot begin to forget it) or those crabs carrying my weight in the dark as i ventured alone with only moonlight as my guide to a bridge i knew was there, but not reaching anywhere. when i had opened the maps application on my phone, it showed that i was in the middle of the sea, the unstable ground left far away. but i was not drowning. so, i retraced my steps, lonely as wind, frazzled like an ant.

now i am in my home, spent more than three months here already, which is at least twice the total time i spent here (before this) in the last seven years. words are simple here. they come and go, climb up and down, rise high and low, sometimes without consequence, sometimes requiring me to kill them because of the pain that they cause — a moment’s pain but measured in the depths of a lifetime.

and i carry that alone through the day to the next, through the month to the next. waiting. believing that the words would set it right, that i will learn to walk out and get somewhere again.

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© Anmol Arora

This blog completed nine years a couple of weeks back. Marking the anniversary pretty late but here’s something.

Image source (The Ants by Salvador Dali)

Book Review: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Let’s begin with what is to be said at the end. There is a certain bewildering sense of acknowledgement that this book can’t be reviewed in terms of common nuances related to plot lines and character development, which are usual in case of a novel. One can see that Roy has an exceptional craftsmanship but its resulting art is something you would gawk at with a scrunched up face, because there are elements which would leave you emotionally drained and then there are others which are plain awkward.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has one of the most beautiful beginnings, with allusions and metaphors and motifs and motives, clearly etched in every single word. It sets a certain mood which unfortunately doesn’t last. The poetic prose is something to cherish all through the book indeed, just that it comes heavy handed sometimes.

The storyline follows the trajectory of contemporary India, from the streets of old Delhi and activism hub of Jantar Mantar to war-torn and militarized Kashmir valley and the lush tribal forests of Central India. It seems to work out an interwoven tale of characters who are seeped in the political ideology of the author. Emotions are parlayed in favor of politics and politics is parlayed in favor of preaching in its exploration.

The characters work well enough – the Hijra, Anjum and the eccentric architect/activist/traitor, Tilottama or Tilo (modeled after the author herself) have gripping tales of pain and coming of age and political maturity, while the secondary characters create the interconnecting web through their identification as a Dalit masquerading as a Muslim, a Kashmiri militant, a civil servant, a charismatic reporter, a military commander, an Imam confidante, et al – it’s still burdensome to encompass the depth of such important issues like military occupancy, tribal rights, caste conflict, religious fundamentalism, third gender struggle in one piece of text even through such myriad characters, so much so that it just comes out hollow.

With such writing devices as letters and random scribbles on pages and manifestos and poetry, all the tropes succeed to some degree in telling a shattered story. But it’s not by slowly becoming everything or even everybody.

It’s a good book but it could have been something so profound – how though – it is hard to tell. That “lack of” though just can’t be overlooked and that undoes wherever it was headed.

untitled (verity)

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where do truths come from and where do they go to die?

in this dreary consolation of time, I can see the whirl
of their wheels, and banished desires living on scraps.

if you’d told me of this night two nights back, I’d have believed
but never more.
who’s to say when the flowers droop and colors fall off of the sky?

it’s an inlaid embroidery; intricacy paves the way for simplicity –
I see babies cooing to each other, and people fucking their lives up
in search of one consoling hand. I see men showing junk, and women
trying to hide their breasts, both from an obsolete sense of loss.

where do lives begin and where do they fall over?

in this nest of living and unliving, dying and undying,
I carve lines into the air, of desire, of an unintended mirth
and we laugh. We laugh, we weep, but we just can’t hold each other.

we just can’t hold each other up anymore.

things fall apart.
my lips bleed, my body’s sore and the sour taste lingers in my mouth.
things fall apart.

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For “A Skyflower Friday” writing prompt at With Real Toads.

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