Smiles need not be scarce, so there is no reason to ration them out. In a moment of epiphany, I resolved that I should overcome my hesitation and be more welcoming in the future — a future that is overdue.
By Nazarul Islam
Our apartment’s security guard, Alam, is unrelenting when it comes to the imposition of Covid-19 protocols on residents and visitors alike. Courtesy of his matronly watch over the dwellers, the lift has not carried its capacity for what now seems, ages. Alam has ensured that anyone using the lift follows the ‘one person at a time’ rule to the letter. The resulting isolation has provided welcome relief to reticent souls like me.
While riding the lift with neighbors during better times, I could not bring myself to smile even half-heartedly at them. The solitary ridership during these Covid days has lifted (no pun intended) a huge burden off my shoulders. But should something as natural as smiling at people feel like a burden in the first place? That is definitely some food for thought.
In the eponymous Shakespearean play, Hamlet’s dilemma is ‘To be or not to be’. I am faced with a more mundane question: ‘To smile or not to smile’. I have painted myself as the sole wrongdoer but (with due respect to my neighbors) may I say I enjoy ‘august’ company here? As neighbors, we (literally) rubbed shoulders in the lift but seldom betrayed even a hint of a smile.
We obviously bore no ill-will towards each other, yet, when it came to sporting a smile, we acted coy. The entire time that we were in the lift was mostly spent thumbing around one’s smartphone or emptily gazing at the whirring fan or the panel lighting up the floor numbers.
The forced sedentariness of Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for reflection. Looking back at my own bashfulness, my feelings are not without a tinge of regret. What made me so reserved? Smiles need not be scarce, so there is no reason to ration them out. In a moment of epiphany, I resolved that I should overcome my hesitation and be more welcoming in the future — a future that is overdue.
Seeing mask-less folks socializing with gay abandon is not uncommon now. But I for one would like to wait for better days so that I may confidently cast off my mask (pun intended) of restraint and grab every opportunity to smile at my neighbors in the block.
They are a motley group, speaking perhaps half a dozen vernaculars among them. I am sure they would smile back at me as I am a strong believer in the adage, ‘a smile begets a smile’. And, smile is indeed infectious….you catch it like a flu!
Also, didn’t George Carlin, the American comedian say, ‘Everyone smiles in the same language’?
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