I have always wondered how people live through their lives without smiling. I think we all have come across someone or the other who doesn’t smile. While some might think they look cool, I personally love people who smile genuinely. Smiles on faces gives us a reason to believe that the world isn’t such a bad place, don’t they? In a world where depression seems like a common term and where there are more horrible news the second you glance on the newspaper, we need smiles. We do.
Please smile. Just a bit. Let your cheeks feel warm from your smile. Smoothen that frown. Breath. I know everything seems like a roller coaster, I know, I really do. But still, smile just once. I promise you you’ll feel so much better.
Recently, a few of my friends from college taunted me that I told only happy stories, so that got me thinking…so here I am, recounting a personal experience for the very first time in my entire 21 years of life. Here we go..
When I was in school, I used to a take a bus to and from the school. My school was an all girls convent school and despite what some movies show, it was the most amazing place with so many different colours of personalities and I’ve learned so much more than just academics from there.
During those days too, I was a happy kid but due to some personal issues I hadn’t been able to attend classes for about 6 months. All my friends, relatives had shown their true colours. It wasn’t their fault either. We all get so busy in our lives, maybe it seemed irrelevant to be waiting for a person they weren’t sure would return. Maybe that really was the case, because I didn’t get a single call or message during my absence. And we’re talking about really close ‘I’ll die for you’ kinda friends!
Anyways,when I returned, the school seemed changed. The teachers and students were overly kind at first but after a while, I started feeling lonely. My friends had welcomed me back as if I hadn’t even left. I suppose I should have been happy about it, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t find a single genuine smile in that sea of strangers.
There is a common habit of groups to shove all fault towards someone who is not present at the time. I felt rumours coming up about my absence. I also notices a great many number of friends who acted like they didn’t even recognize me…. My self-confidence, my whole world felt crumbling at that time. I started getting anxious fast. I started hiding myself from any kind of notice. I started getting nervous at making eye contact.
I had lost a lot of studies that year and was desperately trying to pick up the messed up pieces of my school life. I remember crying in my room, silently and trying not to let my parents know.
I was strong-willed, I always hated to show my pain or sadness or any of what I was going through that time of my life…..so no one ever knew. I spent the time in school in my usual bubbly cheerful self in front of my friends, I tried to at least. I couldn’t trust them enough…not then, not now. even though we all scattered off to different parts of india for college, I still am very connected to them. I’m really fond of them but they never come to my mind during tough times. I suppose, subconsciously, I lost the belief that anyone would ever be there for me except for my parents and my sister.
A few months after I joined school again, I got on the bus to take me to school and sat down in the last row as usual. Usually my bus stop was the first stop, and the next stop was the one where most students got in. This day, I suppose the bus had arrived a bit before time and so we were sitting waiting for the students to come.
I noticed a woman, standing with her two kids, on the bus stop. Seeing the uniform on one of the kids, I knew they was from a different school. The kids must have been just 7 to 10 years old. Anyways, it was the woman who caught my attention.
She looked tired. Her kids were playing with each other and she seemed to be watching them. But I could tell, her mind was’t really here. Her eyes looked unfocused a bit. Dark circles lined underneath her eyes, making it seem she hadn’t slept for quite a few nights.
I started imagining what might be troubling her. Maybe she had lots of works to be done, or maybe she had a fight with her husband, or maybe someone was sick at her home and she had to take care of them at night. There could have been so many possibilities but I didn’t get time to think them all because she suddenly met my eyes…
She looked surprised at me looking at her and because I was in such deep thoughts, I had noticed her looking back at me a bit too late.
Embarrassed at being caught, I averted my eyes and fumbled with my tunic belt a bit, my mind itching to look again at that woman once more.
The bus started moving in a while. When it turned from a T point, I somehow gathered enough courage to look towards where that woman was standing. A white school van had come to a rest there and the woman was helping her kids enter the van. Hoping that she’d get rest after she goes home, I carried on with my day.
The next day, by the time the bus had reached the next bus stop near the t point, I had forgotten about the embarrassing incident of the day before. Something depressing had happened that morning and I wasn’t in the perfect mood but just as we all hide our true feelings in our expressions, I did too. I greeted my friends who had entered the bus and had then again went back to looking out the window.
My eyes were distant, my mind reliving all the bittersweet memories I was going through that time. Sighing and trying to hold my anxiousness of living through another day, i could feel my eyes stinging. When the bus started its engine, I woke up from my thoughts and finally looked, actually looked out the window. My eyes felt moist and I rubbed my eyes, pretending that it was itching.
The bus had started moving slowly when I saw that woman again. Her kids were looking excitedly down the road waiting for their van to come, whereas she…she was looking at me. Her eyes shone with concern for a bit.
Then she smiled.
A simple smile. The kind that reached her tired eyes. The kind that held understanding. A friendliness.
I don’t know why she smiled for a random stranger, aka me. I suppose she saw my watery eyes and felt sympathy…maybe. Whatever be he reason, it felt like magic! I almost forgot to smile back that day and I’m not even sure she saw me smiling back at her since the bus had started gaining speed.
The day felt better.Everyone seemed friendlier.My heart felt so much lighter.I felt a million times happier!!
And all that just because of a single smile!
The next day I was excited to see that woman again and I did! Her eyes were tired as usual but when she smiled, she looked so much carefree. I smiled in return happily.
It continued the next day…..and the next….and the next …and so on.
My day started with smiling genuinely and I felt so energetic and happy the whole day! Just because of a smile! I started becoming more experimental about this. I started smiling more. 90% of the time, I did get smiles in return and each smile just made my heart warm.
My situations in my personal life didn’t change throughout the rest of my school life. On the last day of school, I waved at her and smiled… she smiled back, the same tired smile that emphasized the lines around her eyes.
The only thing we were connected through was a smile.
I never saw her after that…. I didn’t know her name, I didn’t know anything about her. I sometimes feel grateful to her for teaching me the importance of a smile in one’s life and I can’t help wondering if she missed my presence on that yellow school bus to whom she used to smile daily for 2 years…. I really hope she is happy, wherever she is, however she is. She probably doesn’t even remember me by this time….but her smiles gave me strength to go on and I’d forever br grateful to her for making me life as awesome as it is now.
I had written away some lines from an article I read sometime in my diary because it reminded me of that wonderful woman, but unfortunately I don’t remember the author..
“A smile costs nothing but gives so much. It takes a moment but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad , and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone, until it is given away.”