Pic courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net

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?



52 Thoughts on “Travel and tears!

  1. We never know what’s going on in the lives of people, do we? You must be in an uncomfortable situation, not knowing wether to ask about her misery or just keep quiet.
    I remember crying at the airport when I was flying to Lucknow after my dads demise. I am sure onlookers were flabbergasted. But then I was so distraught that I didn’t care what people were thinking.

    • Yes, we never know. No, I actually did not want to ask at all. I didn’t know her and it would be intrusive to do so. Of course, I am sure that grief overwhelms us sometimes and then we hardly care what anyone thinks.
      Rachna recently posted…Travel and tears!My Profile

  2. when u see someone crying in public place it makes u curious to know y???? and whole day it makes you disturb thinking y she/he crying , depending upon the age lot of reasons comes in mind.
    Mahesh Semwal recently posted…The Hidden Places of Uttrakhand – CHAKRATA & LAKHAMANDAL (Day -3)My Profile

  3. Rachna, I so loved reading this post of yours. It meandered at an unhurried pace and made me nostalgic of the journeys taken and life I left behind.
    purbaray recently posted…What The Fog!My Profile

  4. I have not seen people crying but tears have welled up in my eyes many a times due to different reasons when I have traveled alone. When I travel alone, I usually look around taking in the scene and observe people and also I am lost in my own thoughts..
    Your non intrusive yet helpful gesture to the woman in the airport is very heartwarming and kind.. It perfectly shows the gem of the person that you are…

  5. Sometimes a small gesture is more helpful than lots of words… but now as we don’t know the cause of tears I am imagining a lot of things…

    A broken heart ?

    Missing parents / husband due to separation anxiety ?

    or something more that made her cry at the airport… ?
    Prasad Np recently posted…Book Review: Warrior by Olivier LafontMy Profile

  6. Such a sweet gesture. I would have sat where I was and pitied her and wished I could help but I think I would have hesitated before going to her. But so many times I myself have been helped by strangers while traveling. I have never cried while traveling alone but once while we were going onsite, the colleague with me was crying coz she was sure she will miss her family !
    Ruch recently posted…The Japanese and The Art of Using ChopsticksMy Profile

  7. Sometimes silence speaks a thousand words! a warm look can console a grieving soul….

  8. I also carry paperbacks Rachna πŸ™‚

    But about tears…hmm..I remember crying at the airport and all through a flight once when I was leaving S behind…… It’s true you can’t control the tears and no matter what you do the emotions take over you… But if I see someone crying I will not know what to do….I’ll want to help but not know what could I do that would ease someone’s pain
    nabanita recently posted…#MicroblogMondays: And it’s almost over…My Profile

  9. A very nice post Rachna. I like the way you observe people and detach yourself from the smart phone. And take it slow. And that’s the nice part of traveling. Train journeys are even more interesting due the variety of people who meet up with. Seeing somebody emotional and crying and that too someone sitting alone, is definitely disturbing because there’s so little one can do without intruding.
    Asha recently posted…An oil slick amidst the Hungry TideMy Profile

    • Thanks, Asha. I quite love doing that in buses and trains too though I don’t travel so often by them. Yes, I agree. There is so little that you can do for someone who is crying.

  10. I hate tears, I can’t see people crying. What you did was very sweet of you.
    Saru Singhal recently posted…Seek True Love, Not Just PleasureMy Profile

  11. I still read paperbacks and hard bound books.
    Not a huge fan of ebooks.. though I do read a forgettable romance once in a while on my Kindle app.

    I observe people when travelling alone too! even here, a trip to the downtown area is always fascinating… I had asked one guy if he was ok once – he was crying… gave him a tissue – he said he broke up with his girlfriend and was moving out of their apartment… I felt so bad for him…
    And the train is always filled with interesting people with interesting tidbits! πŸ˜€
    Pixie recently posted…A movie, a book and some shopping…My Profile

    • Wow! So you actually asked? I was wondering whether it was appropriate for a stranger to do so. Even I felt really bad. Good to know that you carry paperbacks too. I hardly see anyone else doing that these days.

  12. I very much enjoyed the flow of this post, Rachna. I could just picture the different scenarios unfolding before my eyes – the yelling child, the mother losing cool, your smile, the young woman in tears, your sitting next to her…there is a very real and soothing quality to the whole narrative.
    Beloo Mehra recently posted…The Questions of Why and WhenMy Profile

    • Thank you, Beloo. Sometimes real life incidents leave so much to ponder. I thought about her several times hoping that she would feel better. Also realizing that life just runs away sometimes leaving us hurting. Airports have so many stories unfolding; it is fascinating!

  13. I don’t like to cry. I used to cry when I was very young. And I don’t like people, that too, unknown people coming near us and consoling without knowing the reason why we were crying. Mostly I would feel it was just for gossipping. It was nice of you to just go near her, sit there a bit and come off. If she wanted a shoulder for crying, she would have talked to you.

    I like watching people anywhere, anytime!

    • True, Sandhya, about not intruding. I just cannot ask a stranger what is troubling them. I wouldn’t take it very kindly if the situation were to be reversed. It is kind of nice to watch people. Sometimes, it gives me a reality check when I see families being loud or intruding other’s space.

  14. Agree its quite uncomfortable when we won’t say some kind words to them but dunno how they will take it. Perhaps, at the moment, they need their space to let emotions flow. On another note, lucky you to be minus smart phone which makes travel and education.

    • I think it is better not to say something to a stranger who is obviously distraught. But, it is okay to show your empathy in some way. I do carry a smartphone but prefer to keep the wi-fi off to spend some carefree time. πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading, Vishal.

  15. It does disturb me that someone is crying, I would want to know and yet I know I cannot intrude. Nice that you could offer her a tissue and that you really cared.

  16. Touching indeed Rachna and I love the way you wrote it. I am also someone who gets emotional soon and often struggle to fight my tears in public.
    Ramya recently posted…Candy Land Themed Christmas DecorationMy Profile

  17. Well you are not the only one.I am the another one.

  18. Bhavana Rao on December 27, 2014 at 2:33 pm said:

    Nice post Rachna. I think I might have cried once or twice in public as then it was very hard for me to control my tears, anger and laughter all three emotions. Now, I am not controlling these emotions as I feel it is not healthy, one just need a back bone and a person/persons for support. Time has healed my sensitivity and my husband’s support has given me strength.
    That’s a very sweet thing you have done. I am not sure what I would have done though. I would probably would have done the same thing.
    as you say I too am not a smartphone person (though now I have bought one :-p). I too like to observe people. πŸ™‚

  19. You’re such a warm, wonderful person, Rachna. To offer a tissue to a total stranger is such a lovely gesture. I think my daughter is like that. She cannot stand to see anyone cry. I’m not sure how I’d react if I saw a stranger cry. With a friend, I offer hugs, support and love. But, I think I may change my approach with strangers now. Loved the post.
    Shailaja recently posted…Wishlist for 2015: A Mother’s HopeMy Profile

    • Thank you, Shailaja. It was none of my business, but my heart went out to her. I guess, tears affect me. Yes, the situation with strangers is often tricky. Thank you for your warm words.

  20. Yeah – people crying is so unnerving for me to more so when there are reasons to fear I might be the cause for it. Few years back there was this girl reporting to me – I gave her some lengthy advise regarding work and turned my back only to hear a sniffling sound. I turned and was horrified to see the girl her head down on the desk weeping away to glory. I immedeately called aside the other new girl sitting next to her and told her to do something to make that girl stop crying. She later told me her friend had some family issues and nothing to do with me or my advice. I was releived but somehow I just did not feel like talking to that girl ever again.
    The Fool recently posted…Telling Stories through GamesMy Profile

    • Oh, that must have been terrible for you. I can imagine your discomfort. In a professional setting, it is even more imperative that we maintain a calm exterior. During my Corporate days too I came across women who could cry so easily in office situations. That used to embarrass me a lot.

  21. To see someone crying is unnerving more so when one cannot help! That was a nice emotional post, Rachna!

  22. Me – I’d go all red (as red as I can) and tongue-tied πŸ™‚
    C. Suresh recently posted…The year that wasMy Profile

  23. I get quite perturbed when I see someone cry. Be it publicly or not. Of course, as you put it – if it is someone I know, I try to console them and do whatever I can to make them feel better. With strangers, it can get quite tricky. But nevertheless I do try to offer a helping hand when possible. I doubt most people would open up though.
    Sid recently posted…BrothersMy Profile

    • I agree with you. It is tricky when you approach a stranger who is crying. Just like you I offer a helping hand, but I doubt if most are open to it.

  24. I saw this on HuffPost India and just wanted to reach out. Because for a moment, I thought I was the girl. You see, a few months back I was crying openly at airport while waiting for a departure when a kind woman gave me a tissue. So I thank you for being sensitive for her privacy as well as her need for support.

    P.S. I can never travel without my paperback πŸ˜€

    • Wow, Prajakta. This is so amazing. Thank you for reaching out to me. And thank you for reiterating to me that a stranger would appreciate this gesture. Good to know that you like your paperbacks as well. πŸ™‚

  25. I don’t know what to do, either. It disturbs as to what is bothering the other person. There is nothing much you can do but always wish you could do something. You did the right thing with a right presence of mind. Good deed, even if it is a small one πŸ™‚ It counts.

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