Yes it has been a long time since I wrote a blog. Not that nothing happened to inspire a blog – just was too busy to transfer inspirations into blog. And now sitting at Glasgow airport a lady for no reason smiled at me! I smiled back and I recalled when in Vietnam in October I had been taken up by a strong feeling that we in Pakistan have forgotten to smile. Yes we laugh hysterically loudly at jokes, at comedy shows, at talk shows but the smile has disappeared.
In my childhood the PIA air-hostess would smile. People at receptions would smile. Shopkeepers school principals bank managers smiled. Where has the smile disappeared?
When in Vietnam I concluded smile is part of a culture. People in Vietnam have poor English. They communicate through smile. At a meeting with a colleague I ordered mango juice. My colleague had a sore throat. So she said if the juice could be at room temperature. I went along. When the juice came my colleague touched the glass and immediately withdrew her hand. When I touched the glass I realised it was boiling mango juice. So we called the girl and told her that we wanted at room temperature. She kept on smiling and so pleasing was the smile that I enjoyed having the boiling mango juice.
Is smile a cultural thing? If it is then was smiling part of our culture and no longer is.
I can only tell you of myself. I try my best to smile but get irritated at the slightest of upsetting of plans. My internet service provider disconnected my internet connection without any notice. I had paid my bills regularly. They could not tell me of a reason on the phone so went to the office and discovered that had a pending surcharge payment of Rs.50. They had forgotten to email before disconnecting. It had been pending for six months but I did go to pay the bill every month. No one told me of the surcharge. Instead of saying sorry they started looking for excuses. It upsets me when people do not accept responsibility.
The other day went to exchange a dress and am informed no policy of exchange but the receipt did not say so. The owner goes on we will put a notice now. This to me is taking advantage of consumer lack of knowledge of their rights or should I say absence of consumer rights. How can one smile in these circumstances? Maybe one can and maybe I should.
Instead of losing my sense of humour with the internet service provider customer service officer or my temper with the cloth shop manager, I should have politely with a smile tried to communicate my point. I lose my temper much more in Pakistan than I do outside Pakistan.
Not that there are no reasons to lose temper outside Pakistan but even when provoked I remain calm. At Heathrow airport recently I was called for a random security check. I went through it with a smile. In Vietnam the laundry people burnt my dress but I accepted it as a human mistake without a grumble.
I sometimes think when in Pakistan I come across a human error I feel it should not have been committed. I feel I need to help the person understand customer rights and respect them. I get taken up by this strong feeling that we need to respect humans we need to be perfect and in doing so forget to smile.
I do not know why others have forgotten to smile. Maybe they think nothing is there to smile but there is- a country a home and home is where heart is and heart is in Pakistan. Whenever I have come across Pakistanis outside Pakistan all they have carved for is Pakistan. There must be something in this country and to be honest what it is today is because of us.
But we must smile. Resilience is not partying shopping and working despite security challenges, it is living life patiently with a smile. If Vietnam can have a smile, can we not. Maybe their smile had given them the calmness, the patience, the persistence, the resilience to map a way out of tragedy and chaos. Maybe we just need to be like them – maybe if we start smiling – good fortune start smiling on us too!