DesPardes + PKonweb

Don’t Cry For Me, We’re Los Descamisados (the Shirtless Ones)

IRSHAD SALIM (Updated) — My 17-year-old assistant Shahbaz’s father brought me some freshly grinded gur (molasses) today –they were made in Sahiwal. I asked Nawaz (Shahbaz’s dad) how things were in his gaon (village) in Chiniot. “All roads were closed including the motorway”, he replied, as he made himself comfortable in the sofa in front of me and took a bite of the gur. Have u ever cried, I asked him. Yes, he said, “when I remember my parents and some other things”.

Six-footer Nawaz helps me with birds feeding also, a daily ritual we have under way since over three months now — after his and his boss’ initial NO. “Because birds s**t”, I was told. And then there was a day or two, until relent made good things happen.

These birds have been there since we captured their lands. Nawaz hesitantly nodded at first on my telling him so, and then agreed…keeps agreeing. Now he feeds them and placing water for them in a mini tumbler is his daily ritual.

I alternate, but he doesn’t like it I can tell.

We have several things in common. Crying is one of them, even though I’m almost half his size and posture. His net worth is also quite a bit more than mine including disposable income. He didn’t study.

He nods at me, and puffs his cigarette as I puff mine and we discuss “Gharib Awam” narrative, politics, Sharifs, Khan, et al. Smoking cigarette is a common denominator between us.

He’s a big boy.

Big boys don’t cry I was always told, but perhaps they should, experts say. Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. – Charles Dickens, 1861.

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Things are bad these days, and Nawaz agrees, but doesn’t complain. His disposable income hasn’t been dented as to make him a cry baby. Some of the wealthy ones I know, complain when some of them call to find out how I was doing in Islamabad. They don’t cry, as far as I can recall. We have forgotten how the seeds of emotional suppression were sown. Not crying is a pervading idea, specially in Western culture and its percolation in our desi society. I remember watching actor Nadeem, Rangeela, Tariq Aziz, and some others crying on the big and small silver screen. Those were the days. Not any more though.

That ‘big boys don’t cry’ is a social attitude which has been instilled into boys to hold back emotion in hope of ‘upholding’ the masculine image, says one of the Google searches. Social media is our silver screen now, and I have not seen pics or videos of any big boys crying as much.

According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, footballers who cried reported higher levels of self-esteem. They were less concerned about peer pressure and didn’t mind crying in front of their teammates.[2]

We have lost these heroes, role models, sportsmen, did we?

Multiple studies across cultures show that crying helps us bond with our families, loved ones and allies. The larger the contour of those whom we love and care for, the chances are our crying will ease our inner self, and allow for healing to take place. The planet itself is in a healing process. Those who cry belong to this planet also, no?

Whenever the word “cry” comes in my mind, I recall the “Don’t cry for me Argentina” song”. Eva Peron was revered by the lower economic classes, young and old.

Don’t cry for me Argentina please as I am one of the Gharib Awam. Don’t let Dapper Dans around you obstruct our connect”, says one of the many of Khan’s young supporters. We’re los descamisados (Spanish: “the shirtless ones”).

So is Shahbaz. He’s doing good though, helping me translate this piece in Urdu. He doesn’t have the angst and the anger his dad is carrying even though he is doing far better than some Gharib Awam I have met and talked to. They are the young, restless, educated ones with just enough disposable income to maintain self-esteem. They are the ones who don’t own a 5 or 10 marla and studied, lived with parents in rented abodes. They still do. Majority of the 5 or 10 Marla one’s I met, when asked why they didn’t study, responded with a “Bus Sir/ ji”. I cry for the both. They both are the Gharib Awam, and for different reasons.

The writer is Editor/Publisher of and business consultant analyst based in Islamabad. Email: [email protected] Tweet him at and at