SAY ‘CHEESE’! SMILE PLEASE
It’s not funny!
That’s him!” they would exclaim, with not more than a casual glance, while pointing at me in the group photograph. Now, I do not have a very striking personality or a photogenic face which would stand out in a crowd. So, what is it which would make people, even nodding acquaintances, find me out amidst hordes of cheerful, smiling faces? Well, I would be the odd one out. Actually, when the photographer would shout, “Say cheese”, with everyone grinning from ear to ear, I would continue to have a poker face, looking sternly at the lens, as if daring the lensman to make me fall in line. So, you see, you need not even know me to pick me out, whether in real life or in snaps. My strict demeanour would give me away.
Early in my childhood years when the first signs of indiscipline appeared in my top row incisors, my parents forcibly took me to a dentist where, giving me all the more scare, were people half sprawled on the hydraulic dental chairs, with their mouths wide open in varying degrees of distress and pain. Of course, I was too young to then come to the conclusion that ‘Death’ may be called the great leveller, but in ‘Life’ perhaps there can be no better leveller than the orthodontist’s chamber, with the doctor and his team peering and working at their patients’ gaping caverns.
The polite and friendly dentist, after impressing my parents with some complex medical terms, suggested a simple brace for me. Cosmetic and aesthetic dentistry were quite unheard of then. Having no option, I agreed, though unwillingly, as the thought of being ridiculed by my friends came to me. The dental brace was made and worn. But fate had some other designs in store. A month or two later the wire broke. Consequently, the front elevation stayed merrily where it was.
Always open to suggestions on the ways to improve my face value, I remember my first lessons in oral hygiene. During my school days a well-known dentist of the area visited our school and addressed the morning assembly. He demonstrated to us the right manner to brush our teeth, stressing the importance of sparkling teeth for an irresistible smile. I took his lessons to heart, despite being acutely aware of my protruding incisors. Next morning I brushed my teeth both clockwise and anticlockwise in slow mo, not paying any heed to the ticking of the clock. I followed it with gargles umpteen times, exactly as he had
Having no option, I agreed, though unwillingly, as the thought of being ridiculed by my friends came to me. The dental brace was made and worn. But fate had some other designs in store. Find me out amidst hordes of cheerful, smiling faces? Well, I would be the odd one out. Actually, when the photographer would shout, “Say cheese.”
wanted. Finally, when I emerged from the washroom, I felt momentarily confident to dazzle the world with my ‘whites’. Unfortunately, the world had moved on, leaving me behind. I missed my school bus.
Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I have now grown up into a stern looking man. At the most, one can get the faintest of a smile from me, even when the occasion demands loud, uninhibited laughter. Sometimes, the suppressed smile would appear like a smirk, offending others. Instead of understanding my predicament, people think that I give myself airs. There are others who label me as morose, dull, uninteresting, party-pooper and what not.
On the flip side, my unwillingness to smile has contributed to my being called a ‘no nonsense’ teacher by my students and helped me in controlling even the most rowdy ones. However, to be honest, I also want to smile and be the proud possessor of a ‘pleasing visage’.
Of course, I know about the technological advancements now and smile-enhancing techniques, but then I’ve just completed explaining to my students Ogden Nash’s poem, “This is going to hurt just a little bit”. Consequently, my childhood fears have again been stirred.
So, by the time I gather courage and get a ‘cultivated’ smile, you readers please bear with me, if I do not effortlessly burst into a smile at your jokes. It, definitely, does not mean that I don’t enjoy them.
For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.