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SmilyIt was a very fine Sunday and I found myself at a Coffee Day, at Bharath Mall in Mangalore. Writers often take a stroll and even go for long walks to find their inspiration or work out how they are going to write a story. And I was doing just that on that pleasant day.

At the Coffee shop, while I eagerly awaited my favorite Cappuccino, my eyes wandered around. Young girls in attractive attire always attract my attention, and I think that is natural. This time I spotted a very classical looking lady with a boy, who must have been her boyfriend, and I was unconsciously looking at her without a blink in my eyes. Perhaps the very innocence in her face attracted me like a magnet. She was, have no doubts, very gorgeous. But she was very young and it was just the beauty that I took pleasure in looking at. Honestly, there wasn’t anything else. As I smiled I found that she was giving me stares which were certainly not pleasant ones. And just a few minutes later – her boy friend suddenly got up and started walking towards me. ‘Oh my god… Am I in trouble?’ I thought to myself, as he started coming my way.

‘Mister, what’s the matter? Why are you smiling at my babe? Don’t you have one?’ asked that lad. I smiled at him innocently. ‘Why the hell are you smiling now?’ he asked me while rolling up his sleeves. The language was blunt and it attracted almost everyone’s attention … and that was indeed embarrassing me. ‘Why don’t you speak? Are you dumb now?’ he questioned me yet again. ‘God, am I dead?’ I thought again. Thankfully… a former colleague of mine came into the coffee shop and greeted me with utmost respect ‘Hello Sir!’ adding further ‘how are you doing? Long time no see.’ ‘Do you know this guy?’ my potential antagonist asked my friend Ritesh. ‘Oh yeah… he was my boss few years back.’ ‘You know he was smiling at my girlfriend?’ the Macho seemed enquiring with Ritesh. ‘Sale… Kyabe… Teri Girlfriend ko koi smile bhi nahi sakta kya?’ Counter questioned Ritesh in Hindi.

Somehow, in the end, thanks to my wit and Ritesh’s smartness a cease fire was called and I gave the boy a warm handshake with another good smile. ‘You look pretty good with your smile, in fact’ the lad said before we parted ways. ‘Thanks. But why don’t you keep smiling?’ I asked. ‘Babes don’t appreciate a smiling guy dude!’ ‘Oh… I see… that’s very interesting news for me.’ Before we parted ways the Macho, whose name was Kuldeep, introduced me to his gracious looking girlfriend. And even she was impressed with my smile. She was very kind while saying ‘You have a very good personality and your smile is an added feature.’ ‘Really, is that so? Then how come you complained about me to your Boyfriend’ I asked inquisitively.

‘Well… actually… I didn’t complain. I simply wanted to pass a comment.’ ‘Oh… my god… you almost killed me. Look at your man and his muscles… a poor man like me would have been in hospital by now.’ ‘I’m sorry sir’ she apologized ‘Don’t call me sir. Call me Mahesh’. ‘I might not be able to address you that way… you have a very respectable personality… you look like a father figure to me.’ ‘Is that so?’ I laughed saying that and after that we went our separate ways. I never got a chance to speak to them again but, yes, we always smiled every time we spotted each other. They might not know my name, neither do I know theirs, but certainly we know each other today. Thanks to that ‘Smile’.

Every time I find any interesting person, male or female, old or young, Indian or a foreigner, I always give them a smile. ‘Smile at the world and the world smiles back at you’ they say but that’s not true always when you come to Indians. It might go seriously wrong if you smile at a girl, especially when her boyfriend is with her – in Bangalore or Mangalore. I know this because lots of my young friends have told me about this. Things might be different if you have some gray hair on your head, but more or less, smiling at strangers might not a pleasant experience

Smile at an American and I bet he will never forget to ask in return ‘How are you?’ in his typical accent. A British might just say ‘Hello’ as I do. But most other Mangaloreans would certainly think ‘What has really gone wrong with this man?’ This attitude, the way I see it is not good. After all what’s wrong in smiling at each other? I just can’t understand it.

A Smile never cost anything. It enriches those who receive one without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash, and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. A smile can never be begged, borrowed or stolen, but it is of no earthy good to anyone until it’s given away. So if in your hurry you run across someone too weary to smile then leave one of yours. Trust me; no one needs a smile as much as he who has none to give. A smile is indeed very contagious. But there is a wonderful pleasure in being its carrier. After all, what does it costs you?

There’s a very sweet story which I always remember when I think of the word ‘Smile’. This story is about a little girl who walked to and from school daily. Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to the elementary school.

As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with thunder and lightning. The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school and she herself feared that the electrical storm might harm her child. Following the roar of thunder, lightening, like a flaming sword, would cut through the sky.

Full of concern, the mother quickly got into her car and drove along the route to her child’s school. As she did so, she saw her little girl walking along, but at each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up and smile. Another and another followed quickly and with each the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile. When the mother’s car drew up beside the child she lowered the window and called to her, ‘What are you doing? Why do you keep stopping?’ The child answered, ‘I am trying to look pretty. God keeps taking my picture.’

We don’t smile until we are happy. Do we? We have almost convinced ourselves that life will be better after we married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough and we’ll be more content when they are. After that, we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, or when we retire. The truth, as some wise person has said, is that there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when do you think would be the right time? Your life is always filled with challenges. It’s best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway. Happiness is the way. So we need to learn to treasure every moment that we have and treasure it more because you have shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with… and remember that time and tide waits for no one. There is no better time than right now to be happy. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. So work like you don’t need money, Love like you’ve never been hurt, and dance like no one’s watching.

There is one even more touching story about ‘Smile’ and that is this one: There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his backpack with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer, and he started his journey. When he had gone a few blocks from home, he met an old man. He was sitting in the park near the water just feeding the birds. The boy sat down next to him and opened his backpack. He was about to take a drink from his root beer, when he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him a Twinkie. The old man gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. His smile was so incredible that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer. Once again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word. As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was, and he got up to leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps; he turned around, and ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug. The old man gave him his biggest smile ever!

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of a joy on his face. She asked her son: “What did you do today that made you so happy?” The child replied: “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added: “You know what? He’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile the old man, who was also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son stunned by the look of peace on his face asked: “Dad, what did you do today that made you happy?” He replied: “I ate Twinkies in the park with God.” Before his son responded, he added: “You know he’s much younger than I had expected.”

Have you ever seen a child smiling? If not the next time you see a child give a very gentle smile and wait for some time. The child will probably simply return one back to you. When we were kids, if you can remember, we always smiled at others. Now that we are old why don’t we? Perhaps this is something that a man has to learn from a child. Even a child can understand the language of smiles. It is one thing which transcends all boundaries, language, religion, cast and creed. Smile to a person and smile with gentleness he/she will revert back. They have to. It is an emotional obligation.

As I wrote this article, I was having a Chat conversation with my friend Mukund Kamath. He owns Ideal Ice-cream, and he has something interesting to say: “People tend to think that if they smile, their social standards will come down. Hence they will not smile to a common man. It’s precisely the killer ego which is restraining us from contributing a good smile to society.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring all of which have the potential to make someone’s day a very special one, or may be even turn someone’s life around. And because we underestimate them, we continue to stay away from our modest happiness – a Smile. I can’t say accurately as to whether people in all other parts of the world are today deprived of happiness and smiles. But the case is true when it come to Mangalore and Bangalore. Why don’t we change? The next time you find a person, be it any one, give him a gentle and selfless smile only then would you know what you had been deprived of in life of till now.

My mentor and great friend, Adam Clapham, wants add: “My biology master at school told us that it is a fact that you use ten times as many muscles to frown as you do to smile.” before I conclude.

U Mahesh Prabhu | | August 30, 2007

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