Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Shrug


The United Nations would be well within its, rightful, concerns if it were to declare “Smile” an endangered entity.

If you ask me, high time it did.

It can lodge itself on the critically endangered list between Saola and Sumatran Elephant.

Unlike the wildlife, the poachers of this entity are hard to find, at times there are no poachers, it is as if the Smile is on a suicide mission.

For its promotions UN can use the, now made famous worldwide by Nolan, the “Why so serious” poster by The Joker!



I used to smile a lot when I was a kid.

I had seen others smile too, more frequently than I see today.

As a matter of fact, I smile less than I used to. The redeeming factor is I acknowledge it and I am working on it. This blog piece is to remind my readers to acknowledge the same and start acting on it.

It is not easy to smile while experiencing acute physical discomfort, like a root canal, a fall from the bike, a broken femur, burning your hand, to name a few.

It is not easy to smile in calamitous moments, like a death in the family, after having your pocket picked off its wallet, failing to make a cut in an important exam, when Chelsea is losing to Burnley, etc..

But how much of our life is covered by such events?

What stops us from smiling the rest of the times?

My son wears a scowl permanently nowadays. When I venture to ask him, his subsequent released frustrations and explosive emotions make me feel that he is being administered corporal punishment regularly in school, that all his teaching staff are morons, the administration of the school is in complete shambles, the IB body that runs the system worldwide are a bunch of nincompoops. He goes on to vent his anger on Trump, Hungary, Milos Zeman, Justin Bieber, Teresa May and few individuals from US of A that I am not familiar with.

Thank heavens for John Oliver as only he seems to make him smile, and at times even burst into a guffaw.

All this angst at this age seems relevant but should it come at the cost of a smile?

My wife stopped smiling about 17 years ago. She now reserves it for special occasions. We were lucky to have an excellent pediatrician, one Umesh Vaidya, who incidentally had a radiant smile on his face, all the time, who suggested a simple way to administer deworming medicine to our children. He used to say, deworm your kids twice a year, once on 15th August and once on 26th January. (for people who are not from India, these two days were easy to remember, they are the independence day and the republic day of India, easy to remember, state holidays) Something must have been lost in translation (his native language was Marathi, our Tamil, and we were often conversing in Hindi or English, both not our native tongues) as my wife is smiling now twice a year.

I am no exception. It is not that I am smiling as much as I should. As I mentioned earlier, I have come to acknowledge this as an ailment and I am working on it.

My daughter comes across as the better of the lot. She smiles more than we do. But she is not to be counted as one who does not have this problem. If we are in terminal stages of this ailment she is in an advanced stage. That’s all. The stage of rigor mortis that sets in when she explodes about perceived Big Brother attitude of governments and agencies are frightening stuff. Not only she manages to lose the capacity to smile for long durations, she manages to scare other others from smiling, lest that be considered as insensitive to the grave matter being discussed.

I, the eternal smart ass, always manage to slip in few “funny” remarks, I seriously think they are funny, which sets off the explosions further and she ends up calling me names.

I am not counting the plastic smiles that we reserve for outside the world.

We are all experts in that.

Plastic smiles are those when the lips smile and the eyes do not. They are not smiles. They are just social gestures. Like the shirt/blouse you wear, the tie/scarf around your neck or the trousers/skirts.

The faces I see in the office are not any different. They all look like how Atlas must have looked, straining with every muscle and sinew, trying to hold the world on his shoulders.


Ayn Rand asked in her seminal work – Atlas Shrugged - “If you look at Atlas, described as above, what would you tell him?”

The answer, when it is provided, is so diabolically simple.

“Shrug”

I tell all of them the same.

“Shrug, this is not the end of the world, move on” 

And the answer is the same. “It is easy to advise, wait till….”

It is as if they are seriously wishing that I, too, do not smile, or not get a reason to smile.

Sometimes when I am in my singing mood, I quote Beatles and tell them what Paul McCartney sang  “Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders”

In a quirky coincidence that is comical, my effort in rendering the song, I am a terrible singer and like all terrible singers, I always sing, usually removes the smiles on their faces.

They look startled and look on with bewilderment refusing to believe that human vocal chords are capable of producing such sounds.

The few categories/specific persons I mentioned in my narration are by no means to be seen as representative or exhaustive. They are just references to expand the concept.

Friends, family, strangers all fall into this situation.

I see few exceptions. And there could be a clue here to bring the smile back.
Children smile.

Grandparents smile. (not with their children but when they are with their grandchildren)

Certain books make you smile. (Time tested P. G. Wodehouse and the likes)

Certain films make you smile (Munnabhai, Chaplin, ….)

Alcohol makes everything hilarious!

There was a time when I was watching Munnabhai M.B.B.S. as a stressbuster.
It was almost like a therapy.

What I am doing nowadays to bring my smile back are the following.

Spend more time with children.

Spend more time with other people who smile.

Read.

Stay away from social media.

Watch comedy.

Consume alcohol with other friends who smile.

The last one is tricky. If I drink with a cribber, I come out more depressed than when I started. Because I am more depressed I end up drinking more. The cycle is vicious. It defeats the purpose and is bloody expensive.

If I drink too often with other people who smile, then I may be lulled into a misconception that alcohol is the answer to the vanished smile.

And the ever-present smile of an alcoholic has different names in society and in the medical lexicon and I may end up getting treated for a different ailment. In a clinic for rehabilitation, I am certain to lose my smile.

So if anyone is going to conveniently latch on only to alcohol in the above list, the blame shall go the right quarters. I am not responsible.

In closing, I am asking you to do what I have been trying to do, consciously, in recent times.

Smile.














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