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This pandemic has taken away something from me that worked to my advantage in the past. My signature smile. You bet I have one pasted on at all times. That is, except when I am frowning at sexist jokes and knitting my brows at people who laugh at them. Then there are the times lizards and chameleons make their foray into my life (sometimes rat snakes too!) without so much as by your leave and I transform to a run-for-your-life- scaredy cat. Apart from these times, I smile.

Now though I have to hide that smile -much appreciated, mind you!- behind a surgical mask and let my eyes do their bit, and I am not really sure they are up to the task all by themselves without the rest of the face aiding them. Why do I think so? Ahh.. when I look at all the other masked people I cannot really tell whether they are smiling , so how will they know that I am? Point, right? Anyway, there goes what I am known for, my smile, snatched away cruelly by Covid 19, disadvantaging me.

I think I have already written elsewhere, how a friend had asked me to accompany her while she took her car out on her first solo drive. Having an experienced driver by her side would boost her confidence, she felt. Ever the helpful person that I am, I obliged. We drove hither and thither… I mean we went to the vegetable shop, and then to the petrol pump to fill up the tank of her brand new Alto. On the way back out of the blue, she said, ‘Mrs. Mohan, you can, and at the very least, easily win a seat to the city council.”

I was mystified. Where did that come from? Me and getting elected? I hadn’t expressed any desire to stand for office of any sort. Fat chance anyway about getting elected. People in the public eye need nerve and endurance of a different sort. I doubt I had/ have the qualities. So I looked at my friend perplexed. What did she mean? What had given her the impression that I was appropriate candidate material? She had her answer ready. “Wherever we went today, people were smiling and talking to you!”

Eh? Who, when, where? I hadn’t met anyone on the way. What was she talking about? Did she mean the brothers who owned the vegetable shop? The old man who took my order? Or the guy at the petrol pump? But they were people I met on a weekly basis, naturally we exchanged smiles and a few words. My friend had more to say. “I have been noticing, you seem to know a whole lot of people, enough numbers to get you the required number of votes for you in case you stood for election.” I remember doubling up with laughter hearing her. But I understood what she meant. I have a ready smile for everyone, I don’t treat those who assist me in daily life as faceless entities.

Coming back to the present pandemic times, I have to hide that self same smile behind a stupid (not so stupid when you think of what will happen without it!) mask. I cannot convey the cheer I feel, the cheer that never ever failed to get me a smile in return from friends and strangers alike in the past. Like I said, there is only so much the crinkling eyes can do, overworked as they are trying to convey a myriad of emotions without the support of the rest of the face. It is like making a whole show with just one actor and no supporting cast. I can’t wait to see the last of Covid 19. Yeah, I know, me and everyone else too.

© Shail Mohan 2020

Announcement: Due to some reasons beyond my control (That sounds really grand, does it not? I meant the net failed me, haha), I wasn’t able to post this yesterday. Today’s post will be up later on as usual.