Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Smile Epidemic

Yesterday, I was travelling home from work in a bus and there was this old gentleman sitting infront of me. Initially I thought he was nothing but a meddling old man, because he made a few unsolicited comments to people sitting next to him about ticketless travellers and all that. Soon, he struck a conversation with a young guy next to him. I was, for some reason, drawn to the old man's antics and started listening to what he was saying. I could not follow the conversation for a while, what with all the din in a public transport bus. When I could finally pick up what he was saying, I heard the old man asking the young guy if he was educated. The young guy replied a little consciously, 'Yes, I'm a Graduate!'.

Then this old man fished out from his trouser pocket, a small transparent plastic pouch which is generally used to keep a pocket calendar. He started searching for something inside. There were lot of papers and soiled business cards inside along with pictures of some hindu gods.

I thought he was taking out his card to give to the young man, may be offering a job or something. After searching for sometime, he took out a small strip of paper with 2-3 lines printed on it in small font. I still thought it was a small business card, and was quite amused thinking that the old man was trying to impress the young one about his education or may be his business.

The young man looked at the strip for a while, and half-smiled. After reading it, to my surprise, he returned it to the old man, who promptly returned it to the pouch. I was watching all this closely, and was very curious what was going on, because by then, I realised it isn't a business card at all. The thought occurred to me for a moment that this might be one of those 'spread the message of Lord' campaigns of some christian missionary.

After this, the old man suddenly became disinterested in the whole affair and sat silent minding his own. The young guy waited for a while and asked, "Why did you show it to me?". The old man got so distracted in his thoughts by that time that the question had to be repeated twice before he understood it. Then he said, "Just like that!". Seeing that he was still unconvinced, the old man insisted that he did it for no reason. By this time, I got so curious, I thought I'll ask them what was going on and put an end to the suspense about what was there on the paper strip.

Then the old man said, 'I gave it to you so that you will read that joke and smile for a while. I keep such small printed jokes in my pocket all the time. When I see someone returning home tired, I try to relax them up a bit with these jokes.'

"A smile costs you nothing, but its value is immense", continued the old man as if he's reading out of a 'book of quotes'. "A smile is not only infectious, but is also healthy for your heart."

I thought this was almost like a page out of one of those motivational books! But it was not. This was all happening in front of me - live. There sat this old man, who was almost in the last phase of his life, but still concerned about making a small difference to atleast one stranger somehwere. He fishes out a joke card when he sees a tired face, and gives a reason for people to smile! One minute in a day, may be only once in a week or even once in a year. But the Old man does it as a matter of routine.

And I was ashamed for thinking I was alive!

(recovered with 1st Jul 07 date stamp)

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