What Would Make You Cry? A Betrayal? A Job Loss? Or Something Else?

While all her friends were expressing their options, or agreeing or disagreeing with each other, Yasha felt nothing. What would make her cry?

“Imagine a very sad scenario and cry.”

Yasha stared at her friend, and wondered why she was friends with her.

Labita put down her cup on the glass table and leaned slightly forward, “Imagine your husband cheated on you, and left you for another woman. Imagine you’re hurting. The betrayal….blah, blah, blah.”

Yasha blinked and sipped her black coffee. She didn’t bother imagining her husband leaving her for another woman because if she did, the only feeling she would have was of relief.

Her friends noticed the subtle smile on her thin, brown lips. Rakul smirked and Labita looked disappointed.

“Okay, fine, let’s try another one. Imagine you lost your job,” Labita said.

“Oh, that would be terrible! Not that I love my job, but I don’t want to lose it,” Yasha said, without missing a beat.

“So you don’t have a problem with Naman cheating on you?” Labita drawled.

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Yasha slurped the last bit of coffee at the bottom of her cup. She placed the cup on the table and met her friend’s eyes. “Well, I can’t control others’ actions.”

“Why do you want to see her cry?” Rakul asked. Unlike her friends, Rakul possessed a slim figure that women twenty years her junior were usually blessed with, thanks to avoiding sugary drinks and foods, and exercising regularly – something Yasha could never bring herself to do.

“Have you ever seen her cry? Because I haven’t!” Labita grumbled.

Yasha bit on her lower lip to keep her from smiling.

“So? Just because you haven’t seen her cry doesn’t mean that she doesn’t cry or hasn’t cried ever. But, why do you suddenly want to see her cry?”

“Because I have never seen her cry!” Labita said almost exasperatedly, “Think about it. We have known her for 33 years, and I haven’t seen her cry even once. Have you?”

Rakul shifted her whole attention to Yasha and studied her face. Yasha’s lips began to quiver and she looked away. She allowed herself to smile.

“Well, I can’t think of any such moment when she cried, but—

“Exactly! Me neither. Can you imagine not seeing your close friend cry even once? I have seen you cry so many times. Like when you had your first breakup, then second, then third, and when your mother was diagnosed with cancer, and one time you bowled your eyes out when your senior advocate reprimanded you, and when your father had a huge fight with your brother. You have seen me cry too.”

Yasha was slightly bored, but nevertheless, she enjoyed her friend’s company on Sundays and, therefore, remained seated in her plush chair in a posh cafe in the city.

“It’s fine,” Rakul said, seemingly uninterested in pursuing the topic.

“No, it’s not! It’s not healthy!”

“Well, she looks healthy to me.”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” Labita looked at Yasha, “Do you remember the last time you cried?”

To appease her friend, Yasha tried to remember the last time she cried.

“I almost cried when I couldn’t find my car’s keys last Thursday. We had a meeting in the office and I wanted to get there before others.”

Labita’s raised eyebrows suggested she wasn’t happy with her answer. “Any other times?”

Yasha wasn’t happy with Labita’s sudden curiosity in her cry-less life. She would have preferred to talk about her recent promotion or the second car that she bought. Instead they were talking about the less appealing aspects of her life. She glanced at Rakul hoping to catch her eyes and plead with her to change the subject, but in their friendship, Labita held the reign to their conversations. Rakul was taciturn and never initiated a conversation nor steered it in any direction.

“Yeah, two nights ago, my cook made pumpkin curry for dinner and I felt like crying. I hate pumpkin curry, and I have told her multiple times, but Naman loves it. I’m not complaining about her. She is a decent cook, but I wish she would stop bringing pumpkin into my house and preparing dishes out of it just because my husband loves it.”

“Wow! You ‘almost cried’ and ‘felt like crying’ over things not worth crying for. Have you ever cried for something worth crying for?” Labita asked.

The phone in Labita’s lap vibrated and she answered the call. Yasha and Rakul exchanged looks and smiled.

Yasha never cried for a human, that much she was sure of. When her mother died of pneumonia three years ago, she didn’t shed a tear. The only thing she associated with her mother was the feeling that she should be grateful for being adopted. Both her parents were in their forties, and she was five years old when they adopted her. She would never know if it was their choice or if they adopted her because they couldn’t conceive a child. While growing up, the question pestered her : Why did they adopt me? They don’t even like me! 

That wasn’t true. They liked her because she was an obedient and studious child, but they didn’t care to pretend to love her. Neither her parents nor her grandparents. Her maternal grandparents and her parents were known for their philanthropy. They donated money to education, arts and other cultural pursuits. People admired them, looked up to them. They were generous, altruistic people who “gave money for good causes”. Look, they even adopted a child; she’s not even cute. They have a heart of gold!

Yasha never saw it that way. She knew that her parents’ charities were motivated by reasons far less noble.

She remembered reading Socialism for Millionaires in college. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw quipped that a rich man “does not really care whether his money does good or not, provided he finds his conscience eased and his social status improved by giving it away.” Soon after the lesson, there was a discussion in the class. One of the students, who got a scholarship to study at their prestigious college, expressed, “I believe that rich people are morally obligated to give back to society because no one becomes rich by themselves. Society bears certain costs to enable that wealth.” His opinions didn’t go down well with other wealthy students.

While one by one all her friends and classmates were expressing their options, or agreeing or disagreeing with each other, Yasha felt nothing. Her brain couldn’t conjure any opinion regarding the subject. She always felt like an outsider in her family. She never felt she belonged. She felt like an imposter.

“So, where was I?” Labita asked, giving her attention to her friends.

“You want to make her cry,” said Rakul, tilting her head towards Yasha.

Yasha chuckled.

“Yeah! Wouldn’t that be awesome? To see someone doing something they haven’t done before?” said Labita.

Both Rakul and Yasha grimaced.

“Has your husband cheated on you?” Rakul asked Labita.

Labita looked flabbergasted. “No!” She almost shouted.

“Do you want him to cheat on you?”

“Have you lost your mind?”

“Has your son bullied anyone?”

“No! You know Shaan, how can—

“Do you want him to bully anyone?”

“What the f—-

“Do you want your cook to burn down your kitchen while preparing your meal?”

Labita didn’t say anything.

“Darling, my point is that you don’t always want to see someone doing something they haven’t done before. I could go on and on with different examples, if you want,” Rakul explained.

While Labita sulked for not more than 1 minute, and immediately afterwards started bickering with Rakul, Yasha’s mind couldn’t stop asking, Have I ever cried for a human….. or even an animal?

The beetle! 

She wrestled about whether to order another cup of coffee. If you concentrate and filter out the traffic noise, you can make out the sound of Tytler’s leaf warbler, Yasha thought. Being a member of Vizag Bird Watchers Society, her paternal grandfather – whenever he was in an extremely good mood – used to take her to bird-watching destinations in Visakhapatnam. In such spots, she’d find people with binoculars and cameras strolling through the trees with their gaze turned upward hoping to snap the perfect shot. Those birding enthusiasts would look happy and content in the activity. Yasha never took interest in it. The activity required patience, persistence and waiting, and ‘waiting’ was not her forte. She often lost interest in things she had to wait for. But from those excursions, she learned one or two about local and migratory birds.

“I’ll have another cup of coffee,” Yasha said.

“Why don’t you have something to eat?” suggested Labita.

She wasn’t hungry, and blurted, “A beetle.” She stopped and looked at other customers seated around them, busy in their own world. Her hand lifted and touched her lips, prodded them while wondering whether to continue. “A few months ago, I don’t remember exactly when, I found a tiny beetle near my flower pots on the balcony. For five days, in the morning, before leaving for the office, I’d watch it scampering all over the leaves, sometimes in the freshly watered soil. On the sixth day, I found it on the floor near a pot. It didn’t move.”

Yasha could never even imagine saying such things to anybody, including her husband. Rakul and Labita looked at her without any expression.

“Did that make you sad?” wondered Labita aloud.

Yasha didn’t answer that. She didn’t need to. Though she wanted to shake her head, or say no, she couldn’t bring herself to do either of them. She turned her head, and found herself looking at a lone girl sitting on a wooden wall mounted bench against the glass wall with a book in her hand.

What is her story? Is she content in her life, or managing to get by? Has she cried over someone or something recently? 

“Did that make you cry?” Labita changed the question.

“You cried over a beetle,” stated Rakul without a hint of mockery in her voice.

Yasha smiled wryly.

Image source: sad woman by Dziggyfoto from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro

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