Children Listen.

She summoned the 14 year old me to the school staff room. I knew this wasn’t good news as I nervously stood at the staff room’s entrance.

“You don’t deserve the opportunity to be in the school band. You know why? It is your smile. It is very snake-like, very sly. And what is there to constantly smile about? Only mad people do that, smile without a reason. Are you trying to impress the boys?

Do you know the repercussions of that smile? Draupadi once laughed when she shouldn’t have, at Duryodhana, in the Palace of Illusions and eventually a war ensued. That’s the implication of a woman’s unwanted and dangerous smile,” she said.

“I will never smile unnecessarily,” my confused self pleaded shedding copious tears as I continued to stand helplessly, my head hung in shame in a room surrounded by teachers, “All I want is to be a part of the band team.”

***

I worked hard.

I learned to suppress my laughter.

I became very conscious about her smile.

Initially, I stopped smiling often.

Eventually, I ceased to smile.

I tried to turn into the girl she wanted me to become.

But.

I never played in the school band.

She had emerged victorious, taking away from me what mattered the most at that time.

I lay in shambles, defeated.

I pledged to myself. That one day I would have my revenge. I would win and she would lose.

***

Nineteen years later,

“Are you even aware of how gorgeous you look when you throw a simple smile on your face? It almost lights up the room,” my cousin cheerfully said.

“That smile of yours, it is contagious, and makes it impossible for me to be angry with you,” my boyfriend grudgingly said.

“A custom-word ring for yourself? Peace? You can get the word ‘peace’, but how about ‘smile’ instead, it defines you more aptly,” my coworker casually said.

“Are we at risk? You aren’t yourself today, you’re not smiling. That worries me,” my Project Lead speculatively said.

“You have a beautiful smile, never lose that,” my friend lovingly said.

Just like that, after all these years, I let go, unconsciously.

Winning or losing didn’t matter anymore.

– Children listen. With their ears and etch on their minds.

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