Land of Smiles

I am just back from a week long holiday in Thailand and this was a perfectly timed holiday. There were a lot of things going on for me at the job, career, hobby, personal, family, health and spiritual front and I desperately wanted a break.

Thailand is also known as the land of smiles, not only because of its natural beauty and historical riches, but also because of the country's friendly people and fascinating culture. You can always smile - come what may! I was introduced to the concept right when I landed Bangkok and the idea kept on reinforcing itself over the journey.

Here is how the concept of always smiling was introduced - After a overnight delayed flight from Mumbai to Bangkok, with two infants, one wife and some cold and cough, I reached our next hurdle - Thailand immigration. After painstakingly filling the immigration form for all four of us (while Shikha managed kids) I was told that I had filled an outdated set of forms given to us by our travel agent. So it took me almost an hour to fill the forms and then I handed it over to the sweet girl who curiously asked me - "Why are you crying? Come on! You have come to Thailand!" And I just replied that it was the cold. But she reminded me with a wink - "Well! You can still smile."

I will remember that instant for that sentence hit home. No matter what happens, you can still smile and it costs nothing. Seems like people in Thailand have this ingrained in their culture. It's not that they don't feel pain or sorrow or get frustrated or angered, but the bottomline is - they still smile. In Fact they have different kind of smiles to address each situation. Here is a non-exhaustive list -

  • The smile of hopelessness. The situation is so bleak, you've got nothing better to do but offer a pathetic smile. Example: You've just been mugged, had your passport and money stolen, and your Embassy won't bother making a phone call on your behalf except at super expensive direct dial rates.
  • The polite smile. Example: You've just met four strangers who are sure to bore you to tears with stories about the size of corn ears, but you have to smile, shake their hands, and say it was great to meet them.
  • The nervous apologetic smile. Example: You took the responsibility of taking care of the kids and your baby had a fall from while sleeping when you were playing xbox. And she ended up narrating the whole incident to her mom.
  • The forced smile. Example: The corrupt and evil mayor of town wins the next major election. Your parents are good friends of this crook, so you have to attend his victory party to congratulate him.
  • The smile of diffusion. To get past embarrassing and awkward situations. Example: You've just been elected the new corrupt mayor of your town, and your 20-yr old daughter emerges drunken and nude at your congratulatory dinner to call you a crook.
  • The inappropriate hidden smile. You want to smile but it's inappropriate to do so. Example: Your cruel live-in mother-in-law just died, and your wife is in tears.  You feel like you got a new lease on life but you can't act glad about the news in front of her.
  • The victory smile. Example: You are spiderman and you just beat green goblin - hands down.
  • The admiration smile. Example: You are part of an evil terrorist cell and your leader has just suggested what everyone feels is a brilliant plan to blow up an entire country of innocent people.
  • The happy smile. The smile you expect to see on someone's face in light of good news. Example: You have just approached two dream women at a bar, boldly suggested a threesome, and they both agreed to it!
  • The evil smile. Example: You managed to sell your second hand car at twice the rate you bought it for. 
  • The attitude smile. When you have the attitude you're right and everyone else is wrong. Example: You knew Donald Trump will win the US elections and made the prediction weeks ago. Well, what are the odds?
  • The mocking smile. Example: You are imitating and enacting your wife not knowing that she is standing right behind you.
  • The sad smile. You're feeling tremendously sad but must cover it up. Example: India lost a cricket match to Australia and you are invited the victory dinner by the Australian team.
Isn't it a wonderful way to live? Having a smile for every occasion. This is one piece of culture that I would definitely like to borrow and instill in myself and people around me. For you know what - smiles are highly contagious.