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Many might be tempted to think his tears are a tactic in the larger scheme of softening down his “hardliner” image. The man himself reckons they are an embarrassment he’d rather not display, at least to the public eye. But somehow, L K Advani, would be prime minister, just can’t shake off his lachrymal lapses, the last just a couple of days ago when businesswoman Swati Piramal read out a couplet at Assocham’s annual meet in New Delhi.

But it’s fair to say that this latest outburst had nothing to do with the image makeover Advani is desperately seeking in order to make his candidacy for the top executive job more acceptable.

The man who once sought to fashion himself as Sardar “Iron Man” Patel Mark II is a serial crier of established vintage. He had told The Telegraph in an interview as far back as 1991: “Tears come to my eyes so readily that I often feel embarrassed about this weakness of mine…”







A brief history of Advani’s crying (The Public Episodes):

– During a speech to felicitate Atal Behari Vajpayee’s accession to prime ministership at Parliament Annexe in 1996;
– On being told by a reporter in 1998 that since he became union home minister, he was being missed at the BJP headquarters;
– Watching his daughter Pratibha refer to him as a soft man with an unfair “hardliner” tag on live television;
– While watching Aamir Khan’s “Taare Zameen Par”, several times, we are told. And several times while watching several other movies that he is a huge fan of.

Medics would tell you that as you get older, most people tend to suffer what’s known as the dry-eye syndrome which is, essentially, a shortfall in the supply oftears. With Advani, 81, that’s clearly not the case. The older he gets the more he seems to have of tears.

Physiologists might have an explanation. A predisposition to frequent shedding of tears triggered by emotions could be attributed to an overactive sympathetic nervous system, the aspect of human brain physiology that mediates response to stress or joy. “An overactive sympathetic nervous system can cause outbursts of emotions — from stress and from intense joy,” said Ramesh Bhat, the head of physiology at the Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore. “An overactive sympathetic nervous system could have genetic basis.”

Although several animals produce tears, scientists believe it is only in humans that emotions can activate the tear glands. Physiologists have classified tears into three classes — basal tears that lubricate the eye, reflex tears that are caused by irritant chemicals such as tear gas or even onions, and emotional tears.
A number of studies suggest that emotional weeping through tears is healthy. Medical scientists say emotional tears observed across human cultures represent a protective mechanism to counter effects of stress. “It is an important outlet to relieve stress,” Bhat said.

Such tears may be stimulated by stress, and emotional experiences. (For Advani earlier this week, it may have been a couplet). One study in Japan found that the emotion-laden movie Kramer vs Kramer led 44 out of 60 participants to tears.
In other situations, scientists have observed dramatic physiological responses from even music. In one experiment, researchers at the Institute of Music Physiology and Hanover University in Germany found that a specific score from Mozart stimulated goose bumps and shivers in 7 out of 38 volunteers.

In Advani, tears get jerked by many and more of the abovementioned causes. As he told The Telegraph all those years back: “Any intense emotion, whether joy or sorrow, immediately moistens my eyes. Even a moving piece of dialogue in a film, or for that matter, fulsome praise showered on the BJP by an outsiders, or news of some outstanding achievement by a near and dear one brings tears to my eyes.”
Ayodhya and its aftermath and Gujarat 2002 evidently don’t qualify.