A smile goes a mile

When words are hard to come by, a smile can work wonders. A smile not only instantly warms an existing friendship or relationship but also establishes a connection between strangers separated by the boundaries of culture and language. Even the most reticent person can help himself by beaming a warm smile around for this nonverbal expression holds immense positivity.

On my recent trip to Hong Kong, my daughter and I visited the wonderfully landscaped HongKong park which had, within its limited area, beautiful fountains, cascading waters leading to small ponds with bright coloured fish swimming merrily and quaint looking terrapins lying about immobile on little rocks. It also housed a miniature waterfall which had a walkthrough behind it, giving visitors an ethereal experience.

Apart from this, there was an aviary, too. As I sat looking at the birds there, a foreigner couple walked by with their energetic and curious five-something son. "Take pictures! Take pictures!" the child kept telling the father. Suddenly, he ran to a tree next to me and pointed excitedly at something to his parents. His father played the required role and exclaimed with wondrous excitement, "Ooooh my god, it's a squirrel!" The man then caught my eye and burst into laughter. I couldn't help but join him. He had perfectly playacted for his son and had shared that moment with me, a total stranger.

Another time, I was gathering flowers in a small steel flower basket for my daily prayer at my daughter's place in California, when I felt I was being observed. As I looked up, a man in overalls attending to a road repair work saw me and waved with a smile. I waved back cheerily, guessing that plucking flowers was no common occurrence and it may have intrigued him. As I look back on these stray episodes, I realise that one doesn't need a language to bond with people, if only for an instant.

On yet another occasion, as I travelled the east coast with my two lovely daughters, a Chinese lady on the same bus seemed to like us trio and kept repeating whenever she passed by us, "Mamma, daughters," flashing a big smile. She even got a picture clicked with us. She didn't know a single word of English, apart from "mamma and daughters," likewise, we didn't know a single word of Chinese. But as the tour guide commented, her emotions were in sync with ours.

A smile lights up the face and adds beauty to it. A plastic smile that fails to reach the eye may be wanting in its wholesomeness, but at least comforts the recipient that all is well. Just smile and laugh with a child and it will respond similarly even though there is no explicit joke. My grandson Kanishk, who is little-under-three, is an expert at this. He makes some funny gestures and starts laughing loudly inviting us to join his laughter club. The tautness in us sure loosens up after this session.

Let us spread some smiles around if at least to make the ambience a bit more cheerful. As Mother Teresa has said, "We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do."

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