SAY ‘CHEESE’! SMILE PLEASE

It’s not funny!

Woman's Era - - Contents - Vijay Pant

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.

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