During the interstellar drama of the Chandrayaan-II launch, an image that stood out was ISRO chief K Sivan choking up when its craft lost contact with the mother station. They were not tears of joy but of despair. Did the tears mean India’s pre-eminent space scientist is a wimp? The internet went ballistic for and against his tear ducts with support coming the most from urban women. Dutch researcher Professor Ad Vingerhoets found that women cry between 30 and 64 times a year, and men only between six and 17 times.
Indian culture is not big on machismo, unlike in Latin nations where bull fighting and cojones define male power—jallikattu being the exception. Stoicism in the face of adversity is our moral code. The Indian male only tears into things, he never tears up. Men who sob at the movies are emotion-shamed, even by their wives and girlfriends.
PDA (public demonstration of affection) is considered horrendous and against Indian culture by the moral police, which revels in vandalising shops selling Valentine’s Day cards. They also force cooing couples in parks to marry (though no data in such cases on dowry, another great Indian tradition, is forthcoming.)
The sexism of grief implies that women are weak and men are strong, especially in Asian and Islamic cultures. Pakistani terror handlers were recorded offering ‘bangles’ to their Kashmiri proteges who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stop selling apples. The takeaway is that women are inefficient. However, Indian mythology and history are not all chauvinistic. Satyavati wed Shantanu with the precondition that her son would be the king. Pre-Vedic belles were equal to men.
The Rani of Jhansi and Indira Gandhi were no jellyfish. The historical roots of the Indian male stereotype lies in the multiple invasions that have shaped Indian culture. Hindus and Sikhs persecuted by Muslim kings went to their death dry-eyed. Freedom fighters were phlegmatic in the face of British oppression. The Indian male cannot afford to be seen as milksops. But Sivan’s tears have been hailed by the metrosexuals. Surveys show women will not tolerate a partner who does not assume equal responsibility in household chores. Empathy is a big deal and millennial couples surf life on mutual understanding.
Scientists investigating male crybabies blame biology for blubber. Psychologist Georgia Ray discovered that men cry less because their levels of prolactin (a hormone found in emotional tears) are lower than in women. Forget it, testosterone is not politically correct. Even powerful men cry. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had tears in his eyes during his endorsement meeting. LK Advani is cool with breaking down in public; watching films such as Taare Zameen Par. Barack Obama got weepy after his second victory. Even our own BS Yeddyurappa bawls on TV. To hell with machismo in outer space. It’s ok, Sivan; have a good cry, boss.