TODAY -

Smile and cry

By James Watson *



"Smile and the world smiles back at you,
Cry and you cry alone.
"

This was what I learnt from elders and teachers. I trusted them and believed in it firmly until that day. I was a staunch supporter and practitioner of this ideology.

Instead of greeting someone verbally, I would flash him/her my trademark smile. I would do the same whether the person's a complete stranger or a close friend. I threw smiles even at my teachers whenever and wherever I meet them.

And yes to be honest, I got in return a smile for every smile that I flashed at them. This did the world of good to strengthen my belief in the saying. All this came crashing down with one bad incident that happened one fateful day at school.

"Smile at your own peril and face the consequences."

I can still remember his exact words. "Smiling one must get it first," he said. How can he do this to me? It was him who threw a smile at me! And as a believer and propagator of the theory of a smile yielding another smile, I smiled back at him. And now, he says I must be punished!

The whole class went silent. He had sent the class monitor to get the 'cane'. And when he came back with the golden brown 3 feet long cane, the weak hearted boys and girls in the class fainted. I wasn't one of them.

"The whole class will be punished, if the culprit doesn't come up on his own," he threatened. No one stood up.

I was made to pay for that smile I flashed at him in return for the smile he gave me. Ten beatings I got. Five on my left! Five on my right!

My god! It felt as if my palms were on fire. A huge lump crawled up my throat. I felt my eyes getting flooded. I could feel the heat in my ears. My face was burning hot. He dismissed me and threw me back to my bench. I was so hurt. It wasn't because it was painful.

It was because he thrashed me in front of the whole class for no reason. I didn't do anything to deserve that. I couldn't concentrate in my studies the whole day. I didn't even know what he was teaching. It took days to get over with it.

It all began when a girl in the class complained to him about someone having written some silly letters in her notebook. "M+ T." That was all. Obviously, 'M' stood for her name, and 'T' for a boy's name in the class.

But what harm does that cause her? It didn't even fill a whole page. It covered a mere one line. Why did she have to make such a fuss about it? And look what she has done!

I found it quite silly, funny, and ridiculous when she complained about it to the teacher. I couldn't understand why she had to do it.

And here he was, threatening the whole class! I found that even more ridiculous. It was then that he looked at me and smiled at me. What do I do?

I thought I would smile back at him. In fact I didn't even think. I just looked at him and smiled back. And look what I have to pay for that! That smile certainly did cost me a lot.

I was incensed when I found that I was the only one to be caned. I was even more disgusted when I came to realize the logic behind the deed. He thought I was the one who committed that sin. What the hell! I still can't forget that class and the unjustifiable and unfair beating I got.

The girl came to me after the class and apologized. What's the use? After the beating I got, and without being at fault, I was so angry with her. This was the second time she molested my peaceful existence.

Earlier, she had broken my leg in a football match between boys and girls. I was on stretchers for 6 months. I had to miss school and my daily dose of football. And now, this beating. She got some enmity with me. Some old unsettled score, perhaps.

Now I think twice before smiling especially in a classroom. I don't want to be punished for nothing. Not that I would take the beatings silently. But that to be suspected of a crime is an insult to my integrity.

"Smile and some might smile back at you."




* James Watson, a pseudonym, contributes regularly to e-pao.net . The writer can be contacted at musingamong_cauliflower(at)yahoo(dot)com . This article was webcasted on November 13th, 2008

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