This post is also published on Huffington Post, India
I must be one of the rare ones who does not have a love affair with my smartphone when I travel alone. I enjoy watching people around me, absorbing their tiny idiosyncrasies, watching the world pass by. This opportunity only comes when I travel alone. Most other times with family, I am on high alert, making sure that the kids are not running off here and there or killing each other off.
Therefore, it was no different when I went for a short vacation to Mumbai recently. I did have a John Grisham with me to keep me company during the flight. Yes, I still carry a paperback! But for most of the time, I just observed people. The morning was beautiful and foggy. Large wispy clouds overwhelmed the sky and did not allow sun to peep in even at 10 am. There was a light drizzle, and the weather was slightly chilly. The airport was crowded, but the flight was on time. After battling a long queue for the check-in, which was mostly insignificant except for a toddler who made life miserable for his mother. The father was ahead in the line while the poor mother tried to keep track of two very young kids. The boy was extraordinarily bratty, taking off in different directions. The mom was harassed but really could not do much except for yelling and issuing meaningless threats to the kid who did not seem to care.
Sometimes, I wonder why we bother issuing threats to our children. They know and we know that none of that is going to be acted upon anyway. Of course, those who don’t have children often feel that the parent is doing nothing to stop a yelling, cranky kid. But the reality is that kids take advantage of public situations to misbehave, and apart from losing or maintaining cool, there is precious little that a parent can do. Feeling sorry for her, I gave the harassed woman a gentle smile, which she did not notice. Anyhow, as I sank into a chair with my newspaper, book and sandwich, I saw just a smattering of people around me.
In the quiet of the morning, there were some muted sounds as if someone was crying softly. As I looked around me, I saw her. She was seated a couple of rows to my right and muffled sounds were coming from her. I felt a bit alarmed wondering if she was in some trouble. I could see her bent face and saw her body shudder occasionally. Yes, she was crying. I looked around and saw no one with her.
I wondered what had happened. It is not very often that you see people crying alone and in public in this manner. Personally, I find tears unnerving and helpless. If it is someone close to me, I want to hug them and make their misery go away. If the second part is not in my hands then I just hold them or their hands and convey my sentiments wordlessly especially with adults. I did not know her. I don’t know what was troubling her. I got up, went, and sat next to her. She seemed to be in her late 20s. I did not say anything. I did not want to intrude. I just offered her a tissue, which she graciously accepted. She was on to hiccups now and the tears had ceased.
After a couple of minutes, I got up and moved away hoping that whatever hell she was going through would sort out on its own in some way. I moved on to read the morning newspaper. She melted away some time later. I did wonder who she was and what was bothering her.
I was also instantly transported back to my journey to the US after my wedding, a decade and a half ago. I was leaving with my new husband, and my sister had come to see me off at the airport. The way both of us bawled was nothing I had experienced in my life till then. I am a private person and hardly ever cry in public. Even after bidding goodbye to her, I could not stop the tears. I kept crying through most of the flight as well. Just the thought of leaving my family behind was heartbreaking. My poor husband did not know how to console me. He kept calm while trying to support me wordlessly. Yes, tears they sometimes just are beyond our control.
The rest of the time at the airport was uneventful. The flight itself was crowded but comfortable. I was looking forward to meeting my recently born niece.
Do tears trouble you as well? How do you react when someone you don’t know at all or well cries in your presence?
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