In lighter vein - What's in a smile?
Comedy and my world are far apart. As a corollary if I were to state
that tragedy and my world are better bedfellows it could be misconstrued
as an attempt to court the sympathy of readers and hence I would not
elaborate on that aspect.
If comedy is distant from my life so are the pieces created on
electronic media to rake up peals of laughter among spectators. Anyway
it is a good motive especially since we are in the immediate aftermath
of blood baths and genocides and all the grisly doings on earth.
In fact about two years back I watched an episode on Chennai beach
that spotlighted a Laughter Session. Everybody attending the session was
expected to laugh non-stop for half an hour. Dividends include loss of
weight, reduction of ailments as high blood pressure and saying good-bye
Fat men just shook their chunks of flesh as they laughed rolling on
the sandy beaches, while women too frisked and fussed in six yards of
saree as they went on laughing non-stop. Catalyst for laughter? None.
Generating laughter itself was the catalyst.
Just off the record, this beach I noticed in several places carried a
billboard flaunting a superlative that it is the longest beach in the
world. Perhaps another laughter - raiser.
To come back to the comedy piece that I watched on TV just
accidentally I must say it was almost a nauseating piece. An adult
English class was in action with students drawn from all walks of life
and bubbling with an ebullience incredible in a third world country.
They overwhelm the master who is besieged by questions from his unruly
pupils and one query is how to quarrel in English. The harassed master
is asked to supply expressions that could be used in a verbal
free-for-all in English. "Go to hell", "Fly a kite", "Go and tell your
mother", are some of the phrases taught. Mild stuff when compared to
what is dished out on Pettah streets. Sorry. I forget that the street
brawls in Pettah are conducted in the native languages where the
choicest and most raw combat words are strewn about glibly as they use
their own mother's tongue coming so natural to them. This was an English
class, imported here by White Sahibs.
Ending the abominable business of teaching pupils how to deliver
scathing remarks on one's adversary in English the master launches on
the topic of Great Sayings. But he manages only one i.e. a smile costs
nothing, but it gains a lot. The saying or axiom or adage or whatever it
is, is repeated about 10 times. Rote learning of ancient times still
This set me thinking. Do people smile now? Very little. And most of
the smiles are "Bottled smiles". They are emitted with a purpose. I
intend to explain this further by an experience of mine.
I had just entered the portals of a huge supermarket. A girl flashed
past me giving me the most beautiful of smiles. How nice to have
strangers smiling like that, I thought as I ruminated on the paucity of
smiles going around. In fact no less a person than a Don once questioned
me about this paucity. Dr. Udugama, if I remember correct. He was once
my university tutor.
"How is that everyone these days just glares at you as if you have
just deprived them of all their earthly possessions?'
"Your comment is self-explanatory" I said, a sudden streak of
lightning flashing the dark tunnels of my mind".
Everybody is a competitor. get into a bus. Everyone looks at you as
if you have entered to grab the little space in the bus. Enter a shop
and the first one who sees you thinks, this woman is going to lead me in
the queue. She is my enemy. I must hurry up. Drive into a petrol station
and all others at the wheel would murder you with their eyes". The
enmity gets sealed at mere sight.
That brings me back to the supermarket complex and the girl who gave
me the most cheering of grins. Lovely girl, I thought. Wish I had a
daughter like her. So friendly and cheerful. But I was to see her again.
She had just disappeared to load herself. This time she emerged from a
corner like a pack - bull or one of our Thavalams that have been
trekking our highways for centuries. A torrent of words flowed from her,
outdoing the fury of Niagara Falls or diatribe emitted by politicians.
"Madam. Have a sample of these. These are our latest cheese products.
Buy one, three given free. And sample this hair oil. Fresh from the
groves of India and recommended by Irshis. It will make your hair grow
lustrously like a peacock's tail. Buy one and four given free".
Save me from the Mayura's plumage, I secretly intoned, just a few
more years to live. I have managed with my own mane these long years.
But the girl was not to be dismissed. Her tenacity was just
admirable. She had with her miniature coconut scrapers that could be
packed for pilgrimages, curry mixtures that would make your curries melt
in your mouth in red hot style and little rotating machines that would
slice green leaves to zero point.
And her smile, it just stayed on like that of the cat's in Alice in
Wonderland, for the benefit of all customers who kept crowding in. She
was capable of disturbing their routine purchases and making havoc of
their mental activities what with all the business prattle interspersed
by her bottled smiles.
But a world of bottled smiles is even better than a bottle of no
smiles. Do we have anything to smile about? Why not. Smile thinking of
all the positive things that have happened in your life which if they
were not orchestrated, may not explain your present stand in life.
Or even if you are disillusioned there and cannot locate anything
significant to smile about just gloat on the fact that we have just won
a bitter war and that the bloodthirsty fiends have already begun a new
life in the fiery bowels of the Aveechi hells. And just smile....
You can also just smile at the fact that you are alive and well and
able to read apparently useless pieces like this, overtly or covertly
disseminating messages, that the writer assumes to be useful.