Infectious Smiles

My inspiration for writing this post came from a very simple feeling, which I am sure all of us would have fallen victim to more than once. This is not the first time I felt this way, nor would I wish for it to be the last. 🙂  But it was just the experience and its effects which got me thinking and I decided to pen down my thoughts.

                I was travelling from Delhi to Bangalore on board a train. For those who might not be aware, it takes 3 days (two nights) to reach Bangalore from Delhi, so it’s a long journey, which I enjoy and plan to make the most of. It is easier, convenient and faster to travel by airplane, but I rather look forward to a train journey because, you are stuck in a compartment for days at a stretch, without any external influences and places to go – this gives me time to think and read, two of my favorite past-times. Many of my thoughts, “revelations”, and blog posts have occurred during train journeys. Of course, Indian trains are not as very quiet and comfortable as the ones abroad, but even in the hustle-bustle of talking co-passengers, hawkers, vendors and yelling (read crying) kids, I find them quite relaxing and “peaceful”. Now that I come to think of it, one reason why train journeys allow me to spend time contemplating and reading instead of wasting time in trivial things may be due to the lack of network coverage on my phone (so no watsapp, no games, etc.) and the lack of charging ports for my laptop (we do have charging ports of trains now, but always, there are more chargers than charging points – heck, I have even seen people boarding a train with their chargers in hand, which they plug in before even settling down – weird :P). So the external world’s distractions are cut down, allowing me to concentrate on “more important things in life”.

                But I digress, so coming back to this particular journey, it was my second day and as always, I had managed to avoid talking to my co-passengers, in order to avoid empty conversations and to get some time alone with my book. I was engrossed in my book, and there was this family seated right in-front of me, mom, dad, a son and a daughter. They were playing cards – which is the undisputed leader of past-times in train journeys, in India. The girl was around 9 and the boy would have been around 15. However much one wishes to concentrate, the continuous jibes and one-liners which are associated with Indian card games, ought to grab ones attention from time to time. So this one hand, when it was the girl’s turn, she flicked a card off the deck, being very sneaky and trying to hide her illegal move, however – no surprise – everyone saw her. What happened next was pleasantly surprising; everyone started smiling looking right at her. The girl was nervous, when the game stopped, but the smiles made her comfortable and soon there was a smirk on her face as well.

                What happened next is what motivated me to write this article. I had a smile on my face as well. Mind you, the details that I described above were made known to me after everything had happened.  When I looked up, the game was paused and everyone was smiling looking at the girl who was blushing and smiling as well. It was just the smiles which made me smile. I felt happiness for no reason, without knowing what was happening, there was no time for me to control it, before I knew it, my lips had parted and I was grinning looking at the family. I realized that it may appear as eavesdropping on their conversation and game, not that they would have minded, but my lips were already drawn into a smirk. At this point, the older son noticed me and smiled back at me, but strangely, I froze, not knowing what to do. I did not want to jeopardize the distance that I had created to give me time to read, as a smile can very easily lead to conversations. Their laughter lasted a few seconds, after which they got back to their game and I was left alone, as desired, owing to my cold behavior.

                This incident struck me and ignited quite a few thought chains in my mind. It is often said that laughter is contagious, and definitely, this wasn’t the first time I experienced it, but since I had time to recollect my thoughts, this was the time when I analysed the experience.

                Smiling strangers often get smiles in return – and polite behavior. A laughing crowd makes make one feel light and relaxed even if one does not know the reason of the laughter. Why does this happen? I mean, one may be engrossed in deep thinking, worrying about something, be angry or experiencing any other feeling, but a smile or a laugh, definitely raises the spirits; and before you know it, one’s smiling back.

                People often hold back their smiles consciously in unknown situations or amongst strangers, heck, I would have done it tens of times. I have often despised myself after not having returned smiles (but I am a shy person ;)). My reasons vary from trying to avoid a conversation, social insecurity to trying to escape a random introduction or conversation. Someone one said, “A smile returned, is a signal to ‘come linger’”, however, I, for one, feel that a smile begets a smile. Overcome your social insecurity, have the courage to politely excuse yourself, if you do not like the conversation that follows, but a smile should always be returned. After all, it is from strangers that we learn things we wouldn’t know otherwise.

God bless that family.


Fiimaan Illaah


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