At some point when I was growing up, "girls don't cry" started sounding cool and people liked to share that sentiment with little girls in an attempt to make it seem that they weren't any different from the boys who didn't cry anyway. Soon after that, Madhuri Dixit partnered with Vinil Mathew and Vogue India in a beautiful campaign which starts off with the idea of "boys don't cry" and ends with a rather powerful message.
Suddenly, crying started to look cool for boys. But we were all mistaken because, in the end, it was us girls who thought that boys who cried were cool. Most boys themselves (and their families) found it hard to break out their chains.
Take Shane for example. In the six years that I have known him and the two years that I have been married to him, I have never even once seen him cry. I have asked him a couple of times if he has any memories from his childhood and adolescence when he felt emotionally hurt and just cried it out. His answer has always been no and I know that he's not lying because even if he did cry, chances are that he's been successful in blocking out that memory. He was raised in that generation of boys who did not cry.
But raised in the same generation was our guest for this week, Nishant Joshi, who is currently in the process of writing his new book - The Tears of Nishant Joshi. I encourage you all to preorder this book solely because there's a chapter dedicated to the Desi Outsiders based on the tears we almost made him shed on our podcast when we brought up many things from his past that he had carefully buried over the years. He asked us if anyone had cried on our show before and Meenal said matter-of-factly, "Well, there's always a first time for everything".
Number of fucks given = ZERO.
Now, when you listen to this episode, you might feel like we don't care about Nishant's tears or as if the story of his misery is borderline hilarious to us. But that is simply because Nishant is a close personal friend of ours and we know that all those tears led to a very happy ending. He's been my friend for almost as long as Meenal has and he's been Meenal's friend for as long as she has been studying medicine. Which is forever considering all the grays in her hair and the smell of vapo-rub in her armpits.
Nishant studied at her university as her senior and currently practices medicine in London. But the reason we spoke to him was not out of interest in his medical career but because we wanted to know all about the brand AltCricket that he had created after writing his first book - The Alternative Cricket Almanack - while he was still a medical student. Yep, you read that right. How many books did you write while studying English Lit, ANKITA?
Anyway, as always, we went into this conversation with our nosy research and asked him out of nowhere why he left Imperial College London after his first year of medicine and ended up in the Czech Republic, taking a total of eight years to graduate. When we wrote this question down, neither Meenal nor I thought much of it. We thought he might answer it in five minutes and just get on with the rest of the interview. But during our Skype call, when we saw his expression the second he heard that question, we knew that we had picked up a toothpick and poked right into the healing crust of a deep, deep wound in Nishant's chest.
He was clearly taken aback so he stumbled a bit, playfully accused me of a "harsh way of questioning", and admitted to never having spoken about this topic in years in an attempt to bury the events that led to his emotional breakdown.
And then, one by one, he started recounting a tale that starts way back in 1972 when his father immigrated to the UK from Uganda as a refugee. After seeing a documentary about the school Prince Charles went to, Nishant's dad worked day and night to save up enough to send his own little prince to that very same private school. What this man envisioned for his son was, in Nishant's words, a total transformation "from refugee to royalty".
You'll have to listen to the episode for the whole story but what really stood out to me was how this 29-year-old man never held back from admitting the various emotional breakdowns he has had in his journey to get to where he is today. You'll be surprised by the number of times he openly says the words "I broke into tears" and the honesty with which he speaks about his depression, the following resentment towards the people who ignored his condition, and the repressed anger towards those who consciously tried to break his spirits at the age of eighteen. He actually names them and openly challenges them to sit down with him over coffee and go over the reasons why they thought it was okay to emotionally scar a child like that.
I could personally relate to that bit and it got me thinking about the scores of people out there who think that just because someone is young and forced to listen to them, they can get away with treating kids like dirt for the immediate high of feeling superior. I wonder if they even realize the magnitude of they do. I mean, what would happen if all of us who were ever treated that way were to come out and name these people the way Nishant just did? Where would they go hide their faces?
I want to send this episode to anyone who may have said or done something to affect a child's self-esteem at a young age and say, "Look! This is what you are capable of doing to children. And this is why they will never forget or forgive you for the things you said when they were young, vulnerable, and impressionable".
I also want to send this to every teenager and young adult out there who might have grown up in a pressure cooker, only to give in and implode at the first sign of failure without even understanding the concept of the bigger picture.
I can't thank Nishant enough for opening up in all honesty about so many crucial facets of growing up. This wasn't at all how Meenal and I thought this interview would go but I guess the best conversations are those that aren't planned. There is so much to take away from Nishant's story and this is just Part 1. I wish each of us took some time to revisit those buried incidents and suppressed emotions to learn a lesson or two from our own lives.