Talking about sentimentality

Here is a nice essay on how sentimentality is frowned upon by writers, especially male writers, as well as literature critics. Men don’t cry, they say.

Does being sentimental mean giving in to your weak emotions? Does it mean crying? Does it mean effusively lamenting something or praising something, or admiring something in all naked profundity? What exactly is sentimentality?

There are many people who confuse simple thoughts with sentiments, as you often come across phrases like “my sentiments” or “oh don’t be so sentimental”. It is not like that. In terms of literature, it means not minding what language you use while expressing yourself. It means focusing on the message that you convey, rather than worrying about whether it is manly enough or womanly enough. It means exposing yourself to ridicule, sneering and judging. Sometimes it also means, annoying your core audience.

I read this essay with a tinge of self-analysis. Of late I have been expressing my political opinions unabashedly. I have noticed, I don’t often do that. I try to be, how to put it, as impartial as possible, as a distant observer and a commentator. I try to be analytical. Agreeing to disagree was my unexpressed motto – “Working together with our differences intact” reads the banner at the entrance of my alma mater. Philosophically I agree, but in the current political scenario, I don’t. That’s why, my writing appears a bit sharp, a bit opinionated, and to those who cannot get a grasp of it, even tottering on the terrains of communal bias. Yes, I have grown sentimental when it comes to my political opinions and inclinations, even if it means using abusive language sometimes (on my blog, after all, I don’t have an editor to breathe down my neck).

Lack of sentimentality, objectivity and “unbiased opinion”, as I have come to observe, have become the tools of political scoundrels and what Kanchan Gupta often calls, intellectual charlatans. In the guise of being objective, they simply try to confuse the readers. Not having strong political opinions, as far as it comes to our country, means sustaining the vote bank of the ruling Congress. People who are sentimental, less analytical, and less the so-called objective, are the ones cheering for alternatives like the BJP. So in that sense, we need more sentimentality in the country. Be sentimental. Feel outraged. Cry out loud (COL in the Internet language). This is how social and political changes manifest.

The above-mentioned essay ends aptly:

Critics, how I would love if you could clear the word “sentimental” from your minds. And readers, if you could let down your guard to feeling something. For writers: don’t hold back. Be weird, be sentimental, be melodramatic. Take the risk of being not-cool, not-hip. The risk of being laughed at by the in-crowd; they are on their way out, anyway. Tear out your guts and put them on the page, with scrupulous, faithful, unromantic honesty. And, all right, I’ll say it: with love.