ERUPT -VIII

After a while Rex decided to just distract himself from the recent events and went on to switch on the television. After watching some random sports channel for a while, he came across a familiar face on the News channel. “Isn’t this the same lady? Why is she on the news?”

He browsed across all news channels. It was all over. Her face, her name and her connection Mr. Jay Kapoor. The more Rex watched it, the more intrigued he felt. 

How come he found this drunk lady who is the wife of would be health minister on the beach in that condition? What pushed her to take such a drastic step? How did she even land up in that situation?” 

The news said that she slept with some random guy on the beach. It was possible, but he did not believe it. He had noticed that her eyes were naïve, she wouldn’t do something so drastic. But what was she running from? He could not stop himself from thinking about her over and over again.

Did somebody take advantage of her situation while she was unconscious and left her on the beach? Maybe she doesn’t remember anything about it? She might be in pain? Why did she cry and scream when he handed her over to the police?”

Rex was determined to find more about Reeta Kapoor. There was something that drew him towards her, he wanted to know her story, her pain. She was definitely in pain, a lot of it that was screaming through her eyes. And something inside of him told him that her pain is not very different than what he had gone through in last few years.

He started following every news channel for the whole story. One of the news channel had a man who was talking about the events of last night. This man claimed that he had saved Reeta from the police and she drove his car like crazy. He also mentioned that she threw him out of his own car and banged it. The name of the man was displaying on the news channel – Mr. Akash Mishra. Rex quickly picked up his phone and googled the name. Within a few mins, he figured out his Facebook ID. He was a musician and also had a page where he posted his videos and interacted with his minimal fans. His page showed up his phone number Rex took no time in dialing his number. Nobody answered. He left a message saying that he urgently wanted some information about Mrs. Reeta. But he hardly believed that he would get a reply. 

He continued to follow the story on the news. Akash mentioned the spot where the lady bumped his car. There was even a journalist on the spot on another channel saying – “As you all can see, this is the place where Mrs. Reeta drove Mr. Akash’s brand new car hysterically. When police tried to catch her and offered to drop her home – she ran from them too? Is this supposed to be the way of would be minister’s wife to behave? Can Mr. Jay Kapoor really handle the ministry when his own wife is getting rowdy under his nose?”

Rex recognized the spot, it was hardly 200 meters from her cottage. So, that is where Reeta ran from and landed on the beach. But why? 

Almost the same time, he got a call on an unknown number. Expecting maybe it was Akash, Jay quickly received it. “Hello Mr. Rex, we are calling from TV 10. We would like to talk to you about Mrs. Reeta Kapoor. We came to know from our sources that you rescued her from the beach and she spent the morning in your home. Can you please let us know more details?”

No, I cannot. And do not call me again.” Rex shouted at the journalist. 

In next half an hour, he received about 8 calls from different news channels – all inquiring about how Reeta spent the morning in his cottage. Fed up of this, Rex switched off his phone. He walked out and went to the spot where Reeta supposedly ran away from the Police. Last of the news channels were leaving the place. Rex got down and unsure of what he wanted to do at this spot and why he came there at the first place – he just randomly started walking around.

After walking about a kilometer, he came across a wall which was painted with a spray can. It was written “ERUPT” at multiple places on the wall. His feeling told him that this word was related to Reeta. But how and who wrote it? The paint looked fresh.

ERUPT -VII

Standing by the French window of her plush apartment on the 24th floor, Reeta was sipping her ginger tea. Yes, ginger tea was all that she needed again to jump back to the real world. What had happened in last 24 hours? Reeta was numb, her head was pounding. Alcohol had done no good to her.

Who was Rex and why did he get her arrested? Who was that boy who left her on the road? And why was she even in the pub on the night of her wedding anniversary? Wasn’t she supposed to be with her husband celebrating (so called) love? Reeta was wondering about all these while rubbing her temples… but it was not helping to subside the headache. Was it a headache really or a different kind of hurt?

Having lived the the life she did for the past 15 years, no kind of hurt was new to Reeta. From forced physical pleasure to domestic violence she had timidly taken all. What else could she do? After all she was married to one of the most popular politician who had won all hearts except her. With no siblings and dead parents, she had no choice but to be with her husband. Or that is what she chose for all these years. It was never like this initially. Jay was a very nice husband. But when money and fame walked into his life hand in hand, his mind started to get corrupt and devilish. And Reeta, his wife became the object of his pleasure, his game, not love.

Now, she wanted to stop it right away…  She was yearning to break free. She wanted to break the shackles of deception of love, she wanted to put down the pressure of being famous and she wanted to live a normal peaceful life. Just like the random people she saw on the road. And yesterday was her first attempt to do so! What better day to escape from the grip of a monster than the day she married him. Hence, without thinking too much she let herself go wild. But it was a mistake. Her monster was far more powerful than she could imagine. He made arrangements to bring her back anyhow.

Reeta put the empty mug on the corner table and looking herself in the mirror said “You can do it Reeta. Plan better next time. These are the last wounds Jay can give. Not any more.” Reeta broke down looking at her bruised face and body even though she knew that was what would happen once Jay gets hold of her after her stint of running away.

There was a soft knock on the door.

Come in…” She said.

A servant came in and placed various tabloids on the table and left. It was a routine. Jay would ask to read all the news paper and tabloids every day to keep abreast with the current affairs. Reeta wiped her tears and picked one of them. She was shocked! She picked another, yet another… but all were the same. It was all over in the news that, the would be health minister’s wife was found drunk. It was not only that but there were many stories fabricated around it. Some tabloids said she slept with someone on the beach, some said she was found drunk on the road… But out of all these news items one particular headline caught her eye – “Would be health minister shows concern for the health of the state but couldn’t care for wife’s mental health

Reeta started laughing hysterically. She didn’t mind that she was being judged as psychic but instead she was ecstatic for reading something against her abusive husband, Jay Kapoor. After all, he really never cared for her! Why would she!

After sometime she took a hot water bath which calmed her down. She had also called for food. While she was setting her plate for lunch, she thought of the brunch Rex had made for her. He had taken such good care of her, a stranger. He treated her with grace, spoke to her with lot of respect and more importantly did not take advantage of her unconsciousness and vulnerability. She was filled with gratitude when these thoughts cleared the clutter in her mind. She couldn’t remember when was the last time Jay had treated her that way.

Life is funny you know, sometimes what you crave for from your closest people, a stranger is able to give you that effortlessly! Who was this Rex? And why and how could he be so nice to me? Reeta again lost in deep thought as she felt a strong urge to go back to him with a small present as a token of her gratitude but she immediately waved away the idea because she didn’t want to put him in trouble any more. However, that kind man, Rex refused to leave her mind!

13-apply-to-broken-pot
(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

On the other side of the city, that man kind man Rex, was sitting all alone by  the window of his cottage watching the waves of the sea. He held his mug of hot chocolate and laid down the broken pieces of his wife’s mug on the table beside him. He had saved them all from the dustbin, just like he had saved all her memories for so many years. Hot chocolate and watching waves crashing to the shore was their daily ritual. He held one of those broken pieces on his palm, felt it as if it was Mary herself, he kissed it and gulped down the hot chocolate roaring “Cheers!”

ERUPT -VI

Rex stood there perplexed, looking down at the passed out woman who was turning into a nuisance with every passing minute. Maybe he had bitten on more than he can chew when he decided to rescue her from the beach. She seemed ungrateful and pretentious and not to mention insensitive. He leaned down and picked her up once again with an exasperated sigh and laid her on the sofa. He tried to rouse her by calling her, ‘Miss…’, several times but she won’t stir.

He lit a cigarette, wondering what to do with the unhinged damsel. She seemed wealthy, educated, sophisticated yet rogue, unruly and demented. He decided he didn’t want her to be in his home anymore; neither did he wanted her mess. He followed his instincts and called the cops.

The cops knew exactly who she was and told Rex to hold her there until they come to pick her up. The police were almost grateful someone tipped them off about the missing woman’s whereabouts as her powerful husband was making their lives a living hell since last night.

They had already been warned to find her by morning or face the consequences. They called Jay Kapoor at once and gave him the good news.

“Sir, we located your wife. She will be home within an hour.” The cop said on the call, relieved to have Jay Kapoor off his neck finally.

“Good, be as discreet as possible while handling this. I don’t want any mess at this time of my career at the hands of my wayward wife.” He said in a commanding voice and hung up.

Meanwhile, Rex smoked another cigarette, wondering who this woman was? The cops were more than happy to pick her up, and they told her to keep her safe until then, but they never mentioned who she was.

He put out his nicotine stick in an astray and emptied the full astray in the bin where he saw the remains of the broken mug lying at the base. He sighed and closed the bin. There goes his dead wife’s coffee mug, thanks to Miss Trouble.

“Hello again,” she said, and he turned to see the woman in the ruined little black dress sitting up on the sofa, pushing back her slovenly hair. He fixed her a piercing gaze.

Reeta could tell his earlier courtesy had vanished. He seemed stoic now. She swallowed and scratched her neck in embarrassment.

“Hello there, Miss….?” He let the question hang there in between them.

Reeta knew it was the time when she has to tell him the truth or let him think she’s a no-good miscreant. She chose the latter; the former option was absurd right now.

“Miss Gone!” She said, getting up from the sofa and extended her hand towards him. “Thank you for everything, I think I have been enough trouble, will leave you alone now to your birds.” She chipped in with a casual smile, a frail attempt to make an uneventful exit.

He didn’t take her hand and added, “How will you go? You have no money and no car; I think you need help with that. Let me get my car keys.” He played along.

Saying this he went out of the room and noiselessly locked it from outside, somehow his instincts told him she would make a run for it.

Reeta didn’t want a lift. As soon as the door closed, she tried to follow him out but found he had locked it shut. She panicked. Why would he lock her in? She attempted to open the door a few more times before she heard tyres screeching in front of the house, followed by voices.

She understood he had called the cops on her. No, she couldn’t go back. No more of that. She looked around the room and ran to the window overlooking the deck and opened it wide. She was about to jump out when a muscled arm held her wrist and handcuffed her. She turned to look at the cop and gave a shrill scream.

“How dare you!!!???”, She shouted, trying to get away, but the cop held her other hand even harder and cuffed it too.

“Let me goooo…” She cried as two men pulled her back into the room and outside.

Rex watched it in horror. She tried hard to break free crying, “Let me go; you will be sorry for this.” but the cops made her walk to the nearest cop car.

A light flashed and then another. Someone was clicking pictures. The cops looked around frantically for the source of the light while they dragged a resistant Reeta into the car and pushed her in, head first before locking the doors securely.

“Take her to him.”, The officer said to his junior, “I will look for the photographer.”

The junior officer got in the car and drove it away, but not before Rex could see Reeta crying bitterly in the back of the car like a trapped animal. Her state made him wonder if he had given a lamb to the wolf for sacrifice.

The senior officer came to Rex and shook hands with him, “Thank you so much, Sir, we have been on the lookout for ser since yesterday night. You have been a responsible citizen by helping the police; we are grateful for your help.” The cop said with a sincere smile and Rex merely nodded.

“Officer may I ask you a question?”, Rex said.

The officer avoided Rex’s gaze and nodded his head in a yes.

“Who was she? What has she done and where have you taken her?” Rex was blunt and point-blank.

The officer’s amicable smile faded and was replaced by a tight-lipped smirk.

“That’s three questions,” he said pointedly and added, “The less you know, the safer you are.” with these dark words the officer left in search of the man who was clicking pictures.

Rex found it to be disturbingly curious; he also felt a sense of wrongdoing. All night he tried to brush the guilt off and sleep but couldn’t. The woman was on his mind; he felt responsible somehow. Trying to get rid of those thoughts he got up early and picked up the newspaper from his doorstep.

All his questions were answered on the front page with huge headlines and coloured photographs.

ERUPT – V

The bird-watcher, Rex, as he had introduced himself later, had a modest cottage of his own just by the sea-shore to which he had carried the inebriated Reeta this early morning around 4:30 AM. He laid before her a generous brunch – sweet potato pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, fruit salad, an assortment of nuts, a glass of fresh orange juice and a jug of water.

“Have you made all of these?”, Reeta asked.

“Yeah! I’m the lone king in this castle, you see. And, I’m a foodie. I’m always this generous to my guests”, said Rex with a grin pointing towards the food on the table.

“Thank you!”, said Reeta forcing a faint smile for her saviour of the day. “Won’t you join in?”

“I had breakfast already . . . It was almost morning when I carried you in. And now, though its almost time for lunch, I thought a little light food would do you good before you decide to head homewards to have lunch. I’ll give you company, though. Just fixing myself a hot cup of ginger tea”, replied Rex who was dressed in a loose white t-shirt and grey baggy pants with a cowboy’s hat on his head.

“In that case, if you don’t mind please make two cups. My head is aching terribly and I think ginger tea is just the thing I need right now”, sighed Reeta turning her gaze out of the open door towards the sea outside. She was unusually calm. No one who had seen her the previous night or in the wee hours of the morning would believe that she could indeed be so calm. A complete contrast to the noisy sea outside!

“Sure lady!”, said Rex with a smile.

The cottage was sparsely furnished. But, she observed that the tiny kitchen was well-stocked with food supplies.

She took the cup of tea from Rex without a word and sat sipping the hot beverage as she continued to the stare blankly at the waves crashing on the shore.

“So Miss, you were a bit high last night, weren’t you?”, quizzed Rex.

“I wish I would really have been”, Reeta replied absent-mindedly, her eyes still fixed on the waves crashing outside.

“What! You had already passed out when I spotted you. There was no one around. I caught sight of you when I went out for an early morning stroll hoping to spot some birds. I didn’t want to leave a beautiful lady lying unguarded for human or animal predators to pounce on. And yet you say, you wished you had passed out? Huhh!! I think you have had enough partying last night and it’s time you went home. Your folks must be pretty good worried by now. I’ll drop you wherever you want me to”, said Rex placing his empty cup on the table.

“You see those waves crashing on the shore? How emphatically they keep surging forward across the sea! But, the sturdy rocks and rugged cliffs restrict them. And so, they crash! C…RRR…AAAA…SHHH! They lose all their strength and lie low – broken, forlorn and lost! The gorgeous gallopping waves lose their existence. They leave the rocks and the sand wet. But, there remains no trace of them. No trace whatsoever”, whispered Reeta audibly tracing her fingers in the air as if she was painting the whole event in the limitless canvas before her.

“That sure is an amazing level of thoughtfulness! I mean, I see the sea and the waves almost everyday that I’m here in my cottage. But my interest lies in birds, you see. I had never spared much thought for the waves. Are you a poetess? Usually poets see meaning in every occurrence”, said Rex sitting down (he had already got up with the intention of leaving after finishing his cup of tea when Reeta started off about the waves).

“Ha ha ha . . .  ha ha ha . . .”, Reeta broke off into a wild hysterical laughter. Much to the chagrin of Rex, she did not stop. She went on laughing as if she was insane, pounding her right fist on the table rhythmically. As the intensity of her laughter went on increasing, the furious pounding of her fists kept on gaining speed. Suddenly, she banged the table with a loud thump.

Before the bewildered Rex could utter a word, the cup which was in Reeta’s left hand cracked and fell onto the floor. The crashing of bone china broke Reeta’s ominous spell. She had momentarily remembered the happenings of the last two days as she saw the waves. And that had once again caused a flurry of emotions to upswell within her. The whirlpool of anger, hatred and self-pity within her had gushed out electrifying waves of current into all parts of her body. Her dainty fingers transmitted the current onto the empty tea cup as it crumbled under pressure and fell on the spotlessly clean floor.

Rex stood up with his mouth wide open . . . unable to utter a word.

Her spell now broken by the clanking sound of the broken cup, Reeta looked onto the floor and then at Rex apologetically. She closed her eyes shut for a few seconds, took a deep breath and sprang up from the chair on which she had been sitting for the last forty five minutes without a movement.

“I’m sorry. I’ll clean up. I’ll pay for the damage too”, she said without much emotion evident in her voice.

“You may clean up the mess, but you can’t pay for the damage”, muttered Rex slowly.

“Excuse me! What did you just say? I heard it clear enough. I CAN pay for the damage. Do you know who I am?”, said Reeta looking straight into Rex’s eyes.

“Never mind, lady. You won’t understand. I’ll drop you home as soon as you finish cleaning up the floor as you desire to. Meanwhile, let me catch up with the headlines of the day before heading out”, said Rex rolling her eyes, as he turned towards the television unsure of how to react further. He wanted to flee out of the cottage to spot some bird and unwind himself by observing its movements. The events from last evening till then were beginning to take their toll on his mind.

‘Minister Speaks’ – flashed the title of the programme which was just about to begin. The shrill confident voice of the journalist filled the small cottage room as the introductory prelude music came to an end, “Today we have addressing the press conference the yet-to-be-sworn-in Minister of Health and Family Welfare. We know that the health and families of the people of this nation are in safe hands, now. Although the swearing-in ceremony is still a day away, our Minister-designate has already embarked on fulfilling his election promises to the citizens. This is his first press conference after being allocated the portfolio. Let us hear what he has to say to the people. Over to our correspondent for Live updates of the press conference being addressed at the moment by Mr. Jay Kapoor.” It was a repeat telecast of the press conference that had happened earlier in the morning.

Reeta was almost done cleaning up the mess without paying any attention to the television programme, when the last word forced her hands to stop. As Jay Kapoor appeared on screen and started speaking, her vision blurred out and her head started spinning as she soundlessly fell down on the floor that she had just wiped clean.

Rex continued to watch the programme unaware of the happenings behind him.

I DON’T SHED TEARS BUT I CRY…

A lot has been spoken about men not being allowed to cry, gender bias related to it and many other things. I personally feel that even though there could be a social pressure on men for not shedding tears, it is more of a choice and poise of the man.

How do we define crying? Crying means expression of grief and pain with or without tears. So, is it that men never feel the pain or they never grieve? (Please don’t quote the filmy dialogue “Mard ko Dard nahi hota”). I have seen men in my life cry, like really cry with tears in their eyes. And no single person ever shamed them.

The first man I saw crying was my grandfather. He cried his heart out when his first daughter was going away with her newly wed husband to start a new chapter of their life. My father did the same when I got married, though in a lesser intensity. But he did cry!

I have seen my husband cry quite a few times in these 10 years. I have seen him grieving when my father in law passed away. He was crying so bad that his whole body was wobbling. I have seen him cry with me when I was in tremendous pain because of losing pregnancies before we had Aarnav. I have seen him cry when he saw me going through the medical turmoil that I had to just to conceive Aarnav. I have seen him cry when we made a wrong decision of chucking a job before having another one on hand and then later facing unemployment for a long time. Every time his crying was not accompanied by tears, but I could see he was crying within.

We have a tradition that someone from the family accompanies the new bride to her new home, makes sure she is comfortable in the new house and then return. I remember my maternal uncle had accompanied me to my new house. At the time of “Grihapravesh” I turned back one last time just to feel assured that he is around and yes, he was there, with a heart full of happiness and eyes full of tears that his little niece is stepping in to a whole new world and will be on her own.

In spite of the fan fare of this social pressure, do ask yourself if men don’t cry ever? I am sure you have seen men cry too and there is no big deal about it. Earlier generations many have set standards for shaming men for crying but hey, we can change that, can’t we? I tell my son not to cry. Yes, I do, but NOT because boys don’t cry but because instead a crying he must learn to tell what is bothering him and what can be done about it.

Next time you see a man or a boy cry, just let him be. Don’t think what society will name him. Don’t suggest him whether he should cry or not. Just let him be. Instead, try and identify many other men who cry within. Do something to shed their grief. Do something to make them comfortable.

EVERYONE HAS TEAR GLANDS AND SO DO MEN

This famous toothpaste ad pops up onto my children’s favourite channel frequently. It’s an ad where some boys are playing football and a girl comes in. One of the boy says- “Ladki hai, chot lagegi to rone lagegi” (She’s a girl, if she gets hurt, she will cry) . 

If any of those 7-10 year olds get hurt badly, they will cry for sure. What’s the point in giving a statement like it’s the birth right of every girl to cry! And making it air on the kids’ channels so that the gender fights begin from childhood only is just ridiculous. 

It’s a very common notion that is imbibed in most of the boys- “Mard ko dard nahi hota” (Men doesn’t feel the pain) or Men don’t cry. 

Why? Does the pain comes only to girls? 

Doesn’t every child cry the moment it is born?

Does the pain sees the gender first and then decides – “Ok,  it’s a girl, so let me hit her”? Ouch! 

If the God hasn’t reserved the crying part for the girls only at the time of birth, then why is it so that as the children grew, there are such statements in many homes- “Don’t cry like a girl” or “Boys are strong, they don’t cry”. 

Well, really? 

The answer is NO. Boys do cry and so do men. It’s just that as the boys grow up, they start hiding their emotions because of the social stigma and don’t shed tears, at least not in front of anyone! 

When you are a child, crying is easy. As soon as you grow older, you realise that crying is a big no-no, at least in front of anyone. Obviously, when an adult cries, something seriously is meant to be wrong, that’s what I felt as a kid. When our mom used to have wet eyes in a movie, my brother and I used to laugh! And now look at me- I cry during movies or watching my sons perform on stage or even when I am mad with anger, as I mentioned in “Let them fall”.

Men tend to get emotional which is perfectly normal. Otherwise the feelings will vent out in anger or abuse. So, tears are always better. 

My dad skips every “Vidai” function after marriages, just because he can’t see the bride and her relatives crying as he can’t control his tears. Though he couldn’t skip my ‘vidai’, he cried his heart out. And the person who made me cry during childhood, courtesy sibling rivalry, was weeping loudly when he hugged me as he bid me adieu after my marriage! 

Our society doesn’t lack stereotypes who believe that dolls are for girls and cars are for boys. One of the psychological column that I read mentioned that it’s important for the boys and girls to be introduced to every kind of toy, not being gender specific, as this improves their creative and problem- solving skills and develops empathy. I realized this when my elder son went to play at her cousin sisters house, where he found all sorts of dolls . He was amazed on seeing and holding Barbie dolls, their dresses and shoes. When he came back, I asked him if he liked playing with the dolls, I will get him one, but he refused and wanted a kitchen set instead. 

I bought him a kitchen set and obviously faced statements like- ‘why did you get him a girl toy‘, etc. Trust me, he enjoyed playing with it so much and now my younger one also likes to play with it. I got them a miniature pressure cooker and they now want me to add more cookware to their kitchen. In real life, they watch how their father helps me in the household work and so they also eagerly lend me a helping hand in drying the laundry, unloading the dishwasher or even dusting. My elder one loves to prepare tea (under my guidance) and younger one rolls a Chapati when he wants to. My younger son has a ‘Masha’ doll from his favorite show Masha and the Bear and both of them fight over aeroplanes, lego blocks, cars and plush toys too. 

The other day my sons and my husband were playing in-house cricket when suddenly the game had to be paused as the latter had to attend a call and said- “Play with mummy now.”

 “But, she doesn’t know how to play Cricket,”  my son said confidently.

And what makes you think so?” I asked. 

Because girls don’t play cricket“, he said. 

My husband laughed and said, “They do and our country’s women’s cricket team is a strong one.”

Really! Then why don’t you play mumma?” My son asked. 

Because I don’t like it too much. I hardly played cricket when I was young. I preferred skating though and learnt that on my own. No game or sport is specifically either for boys or girls,  just like colours. My favourite colour is blue which doesn’t mean that I am a boy.” I replied in a hope to make my sons unconventional.

MEN ARE HUMANS TOO

A day such as International Men’s Day makes us stop on our steps and give a deep thought to men. Women do need that extra bit of attention because all the world over, be it in developed or developing nations, they are the oppressed lot – in different but many ways. However, men are calling out too – their voices being doused by the stereotypes and mutilated by the rigid societal frameworks that have defined gender roles.

The theme for International Men’s Day 2019 – ‘Making a difference for men and boys’ made me think whether any difference is needed for men and boys, and if so how can we (men and women) contribute towards it. Some stereotypes definitely need to be revisited to be modified.

#Men are supposed to be strong

What does ‘strong’ mean exactly? Well, in the context of men, ‘strong’ means physically, emotionally, financially and socially strong. A man who is well-built, is able to steel his emotions, has good source of finances and has social contacts to get things done, is considered to be a manly man. By this definition, a man who is thin and frail or displays his emotions or is unemployed or is more of a social recluse, lacks what it takes to be a man. Are we expecting superheroes out of men?

Few years back, a boy of fourteen was walked into my Counselling room in the school where I was working. He was contemplating suicide and had shared with a teacher with whom he was a bit free. It took me two and half hours to talk him out of his plans, while I was all the while praying for God to intervene. When I spoke to his parents a couple of days later, the mother panicked while the father laughed it off saying, ‘is this how a man should behave? He is my son. He should roar like a lion, and not resort to all this depression-anxiety-suicide drama.’ The father refused to mend his ways (he was part of the problem) or acknowledge that his son needed help. He never turned up for the parental Counselling sessions that I called them for (in fact I got to know that he was waiting for the boy to pass out of school so that he could confront me 🙂 ). The boy was aware that he needed help. And so, apart from regular sittings with me, he used his pocket money to consult psychiatrists for medications which were needed for extreme trigger situations. It has been five years since! I received an elaborate letter from him last week only to say it has been five years that he is alive, that he is part of an accepting peer group, is doing well in college studies, has been off medications for a long time now and is no longer prone to depressive spells and panic attacks.

Would the boy have not been spared of all that he went through, had his father taken cognizance of his son’s need for help? A baby boy is not born strong. He is as tender and vulnerable as a baby girl is. If we stand by our boys and men during the times of their frailities, to lend them an understanding ear and a supportive shoulder, we can be agents of strength in their lives.

#Men don’t feel scared

Don’t toddler boys cling to their mothers when they perceive danger? Aren’t men supposed to be afraid of gun-weilding men or snakes or tigers or lions? They are humans after all! Just because they are men doesn’t mean that they are supposed to play with their lives. Men are portrayed as protectors and so have this attribute imposed on them. A man walking with a woman means, the woman is safe. Who says? So many rapes are committed while women are with men – either by killing off the man or by restraining him. And, the man ends up nursing a guilt all through life that he wasn’t able to help prevent the wrongdoing. Any person, man or woman would have such a guilt. But for men, the level of guilt is escalated by people just because they are ‘men’.

Men feel scared too. They need protection too.

A boy of seventeen rushed into my Counselling room one afternoon (while I was taking a session with another of his batchmates) saying that he had given it back to a bunch of bullies and they have threatened to ‘see him’ after school hours. He was very afraid to return home alone as those guys could go to any extreme to bash him up. I, then calmed him down and made certain arrangements for him to be accompanied home that day. The other boy with whom I was in the counselling session was observing all this. He said later, “Ma’am, is he a man? I really doubt it! He is as scared as a girl. How will he protect his girlfriend or wife in future? I know the guys he is talking about. I will talk to them. Tell him to go home without fear. But, also tell him to behave like a man and not be a sissy.”

Here was a macho boy-turning-to-be-a-man sitting before me who had been booked by the police for playing protector few days before by bashing up a guy who had looked at his girlfriend!! He had no regrets for what he had done. In his words, he was protecting his own dignity by protecting his girlfriend. And, he expected men to behave similarly without fear.

Men, it is alright if you are afraid of spiders, cockroaches and lizards. There’s nothing abnormal about it. You don’t have to be ashamed. It is alright to desire protection when you feel unsafe. Don’t be burdened by society’s pressure to play the protector all the time.

#Men better not express their emotions

This stereotype especially holds true for the sad emotions. Anger? It’s normal for men to be aggressive and angry – we hear. Happiness? A man can laugh out loud – no problem. But, the problem that society has is with the emotions that are considered grim. If a man is hurt, he better learn to be thick-skinned. If he is anxious, he better not wear his anxiety on his sleeves. If he is sad, he better not show his tears. Why not?

A young boy of eighteen in the final year of school had a broken relationship with a girl of his own class. Though he was crying out inside, he continued to portray his macho face for all. But, such emotions do need a vent and they often find one. So, what did this chap do? He spent hours at the gym till his body ached and his veins swelled up. He shared with me how angry and sad he was at the turn of events. But, he thought it best to take out his hurt and anger with gym equipments rather than on people around.

This is called ‘catharsis’ in psychological terms. Though it is considered to be a much-accepted way of giving a vent to one’s anger, sadness and frustration, it doesn’t help solve issues from the root. And when men internalize their emotions, they take to addictions – alcohol, smoking, sex, drugs, binge-eating or they go on a destructive spree or develop suicidal tendencies.

When God created humans to be emotional beings, he did not segregate certain emotions for men and certain others for women. Over centuries, stereotypes have crept into almost all civilizations of the world and have percolated down even to the present digital age. It’s time to encourage men to share their emotions and to seek help when needed.

Being learned men and women of this age, we need to let men be humans and not simply cage them under the brand ‘MEN’.