Vignettes of Smiles

I went running yesterday evening. I take the same route every day. There is something of the routine that calms my mind. I don’t like running. Especially not after a grueling strength workout in the morning. I don’t like running and yet I run every day. I am not supposed to run with a bad knee. Yet, I run. I ask myself why, and there are no ready answers. Do I like the discomfort? The times when you feel you can’t put another foot forward? Do I like the sharp twisting pain that I feel in my knee when I turn around bends? Do I like my mind when it runs? When it ceaselessly keeps pace with my rhythm by turning thoughts over and over again? Of late, though, I have come to believe that running has offered me something that I had only noticed fleetingly in my life, but now for the first time in my life, I notice every day.

I am trying to lead a life of no-steady-income when one of the things I fear the most in life is asking someone for money or depending on another financially. I don’t like this part of my life. But like running, I get up every day and I push myself through it. Do I have the answers why? There is something called comfort, they say, and a zone that encircles this comfort. I was not bothered about comfort zones all my life. My zone was happiness. Its seeking, its elusiveness. Happiness was my metier. The one standard I sought to measure my life by. In happiness, I found comfort. If I could find happiness. I had visualized happiness as this giant basket of goodies, handed down by the Heavens, which contained all that I thought were constituents of happiness: Money, Security, Friendship, Love, Family, Career, Health, and Peace. I thought there is a finality to happiness. You get this basket, and you are done. I have never found that basket. But I have found the fruits in this basket at varied times in my life. I have had and still have money. Yes. It took every ounce of courage to write that because I thought to write that would be like inviting the proverbial “bad eye.” I have known the security of a job where I couldn’t and would never be considered to be fired. I have had the greatest friendship of my life and kissed it goodbye with tears in my eyes. I have known love and basked in its warmth. I have had a career that gives me the confidence to get back tomorrow and know that a job anywhere is for me to ask. I have been blessed with health over the past two years. And peace, I have met peace at times when the sun sets, and the beach lulls you with its waves, and at the top of mountains, and rarely, I have met peace as the companion in myself. But comfort zones, I wasn’t sure, I had found those. I had known discomfort, and like the razor to the blade to the fire, I had spurned it. Now, I am. I am leading the life of discomfort. Either I succeed spectacularly or fail spectacularly. There are no middle grounds to this path. And there are days when the trying seems hard. Like it was yesterday.

I am turning over headlines in my head for a marketing copy for a client as I run. I look down at the path I am running. It’s a mud road, and the sharp stones can twist your ankle if you land in the wrong way. I am so absorbed in that it is not until the end of the path that I look up. And there are two children there, staring at me in rapt attention. The girl must be about 12, and the boy maybe 7 or 8. It’s just three seconds. The girl is standing there, clutching in her hands sprigs of white and red bougainvillea. It’s incongruous this sight. Her tattered clothes. The field behind her. The clouds above her. And this bloom in her hands. But then, she smiles. Or I smile. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. We smile at each other. I found happiness just for that little moment, and that moment, it seemed worth it to get up and try every day.
Later, I stop by at the little shop that sells vegetables and fruits. As I keep aside a few mangoes and vegetables into the little plastic tray provided, I hear a loud thump outside. I turn and there is the owner of the shop, trying to hack a coconut. He is not skilled at it, and he is struggling. There is a woman standing next to him, suggesting that that the coconut is a tough one to crack because he hadn’t given her a good one. It’s friendly banter. Then she looks at me, while I am gazing at the coconut, still panting after my run, and smiles. We smile at each other. For the second time, I found another moment of happiness. I would remember the 9th of May for these two vignettes. How precious are we. How precious are the smiles we have. It made me want to get up and try again. Today. Again.

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