I still can see your smile…

Remember the movie Kal Ho Na Ho? And Shah Rukh Khan trying to teach the ever-uptight Naina to smile? We know why Naina is always distraught, but WHY does SRK want her to smile?

Because he knows that smiling will bring her hope and good cheer. Sounds difficult to believe but true. Happiness gets us smiling, sure. The other way round works too. Smiling does feed into optimism; it elevates the mood and helps us see the lighter side of things.  When we smile, we feel positive, happier, in control.

So what is it about a smile?

A smile is magical…

Every time we smile, happy hormones rush through our blood and we relax, our mood lightens and our face brightens instantly… The impact on others is equally indelible.

Everyone likes being smiled at. A smile conveys warmth, openness, friendliness… and we feel rewarded. This is why we are naturally drawn to people who smile. And the reason why Madhuri Dixit, Julia Roberts and Jackie Chan are so popular. One glimpse of their wide, carefree smiles enslaves us immediately!

A smile is infectious…

A smile says: I like you. When the other person smiles, we smile. Unconsciously. Automatically.

It is human nature to want to return a smile. Indeed, it is difficult not to react positively to a smile. Smiling helps us make friends. And diffuses unpleasant situations. Remember the time you went to “have it out” with the neighbor? The neighbor opened the door and smiled… and you forgot all your harsh words! Research shows natural smilers are more likely to be promoted; they appear more confident and successful.

Try smiling at strangers as you walk down the road. I have often tried it, and it works: after the initial hesitation, almost all return the smile. When I smile, the world smiles back.

A smile spreads happiness…

We are all born with the ability to smile; even blind kids who have never seen a smile can smile.  Babies smile in the womb; after they are born, they continue to smile, especially in their sleep. Yet, somehow, as we make the transition from childhood to adulthood, we forget to smile as much as we used to. When you try to remember how many times you smiled today, you will be surprised how little you did! Was this because there was not a single moment of happiness or amusement during the entire day? If joy could not be the source of your smile, then, as Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, let your smile be the source of joy!

Smile and laugh more often. If you’re feeling down or notice that you’ve not smiled in a while, fake one. The brain does not know a fake smile from a real one; it still signals the stress to go away immediately. And the more often you fake a smile, the more likely it is that a smile will begin to come naturally.

A smile is forever…

We definitely need to smile more… It makes us realize that things are not all that bad. Everyone likes being smiled at. And the best part is, it never ever hurts to smile. My everlasting memory of my mom-in-law will be the welcoming smile she greets me with when I return from work.

Popular Cuban-American singer Gloria Estafan delightfully expresses it thus:

‘Cause when I close my eyes
I still can see your smile

It’s bright enough to light my life
Out of my darkest hour…

PS: A smile in corona times…

In corona times, when social distancing is the norm, can we really afford not to smile at the few people we do happen to meet? For instance, wouldn’t smiling help the sour-faced scowling couple I see in the park every morning? Wouldn’t it bring more joy into their life if they smiled? Should I, like Shah Rukh Khan, tell them to stand in front of the mirror and go eeeeeeeeeee…? Or should I simply smile at them every time I pass them? After all, a smile CAN be more contagious than coronavirus!

Just… Imagine!


“Papa, then what happened? What did the fairies say to Rajkumar? How did he swim in the river of pearls?” and my dad would add yet another twist to his enchanting tale of Rajkumar and the Wishing Ring until I fell asleep! Years later, my children would listen mesmerized as I spun yarns of Milaa, a boy-orphan from the past ages, and his accomplice, Milee the squirrel.

Why do we tell stories?

Tales of rags to riches, victory of good over evil, romance, adventure, comedy, tragedy and rebirth fascinate us as children and stay with us well beyond childhood. And they continue to captivate us as adults even when we know that they are unreal and unrealistic. How else can one explain the abject despair all over the world when the avenger heroes die in the movie Infinity War? And the impatient anticipation for the sequel?

Undoubtedly, no other species on earth can spin stories or tell them or understand them or learn from them like us! And why not? We have been doing so for a hundred thousand years!

When our hunter-gatherer forefathers first began linking sounds into sentences, the stability within the tribe increased dramatically. They could now talk to one other and share information and experiences; they could discuss dangers and threats and ward them off successfully; they could work in groups and cooperate effectively… Amazingly, they could now talk about things they had never seen, touched or smelled, and also people who did not exist at all!

They would let loose their imagination around fires in the evenings and create fabulous tales of winged horses, man-eating birds, many-headed serpents, forest sprites, belligerent giants, ferocious demons, weapons of thunder and lightning and all things conceivable! And this is how stories, legends and myths were created…

As humans spread over mountains, deserts and seas, they carried these stories with them; events were added, new characters introduced, and adventures invented as stories were told and retold down generations making them an integral part of every culture in the world.

So what is it about stories, anyway? Why are we so hooked to them?

Storytelling is what makes us human. Stories invoke imagery and engage our curiosity; they move our hearts and minds and allow our imagination to run wild with them.

For the young child, fairy tales simplify the world around him; they mould his values, beliefs and ethics early on in life and teach him how to relate with people, animals and things in the environment. And surprisingly, adults too use stories to make sense of their world… a world where billions of people pursue life within the limits of widely accepted norms. These stories guide us to live together, work together, and cooperate with each other…

Indeed, our unique ability to spin stories has made humans the most dominant, most powerful race on earth. Come to think of it, what are human rights? Religion? Money? Trade? Laws? Justice? Social norms? The Constitution? The company you work for? The United Nations? Capitalism? Democracy? Legends. These are all legends invented by us. They exist only in our imagination. And yet, because all of us believe in and accept them, we have been able to build cohesive and cooperative communities all across the globe.

Without these ‘stories,’ societies would quickly descend into chaos. No other species or for that matter, no other human species before Homo sapiens, has been able to achieve this ever!

We imagine, re-imagine, and then, re-re-imagine!

Our genius also allows us to re-imagine our own stories. And we can, and have, altered them from time to time… Faced with challenges – social, economic, political or environmental – mankind has collectively modified the narrative from time to time to create alternative imagined orders. Survival of the human race is undoubtedly attributed to the genius of our imagination and re-imagination!

In present times, in corona times, we humans are on the verge of changing the story yet again. The contagious epidemic spreading unabated and uncontrolled across the globe has altered our lives in the moment; uncertainty regarding its future course is likely to change, once again, our life forever…

And we, the indefatigable humans, are ready to meet the challenge head-on. No matter what comes our way in this incredible journey called Life, we will rewrite our story, we will refashion the future.

We have to: Just… IMAGINE!


A small beginning to change

Perhaps my biggest achievement during corona times has been developing the habit of walking regularly, something which I have always tried, with marginal success, to make a part of my life. And I must say, I enjoy it immensely. It has become a part of my daily routine and I hope to keep it this way… forever.

It all started as a chore, a chore born out of necessity: that of taking our golden retriever Richard for his morning walk. In a lockdown-no staff scenario, this chore landed on my list! And so, one early morning, Richard and I set off for the mandatory walk. To avoid stray dogs, we chose the tiny park about a 100 yards from our house. A park which no one visits, a park with the smallest track imaginable ~ 215 steps cover it in precisely 2 minutes! 10 rounds in 20 minutes – perfect! Quick and easy too! Both Richard and I would be back home soon!

Richard had different ideas though. Every pigeon, every squirrel, every butterfly he saw had him straining at the leash… finally, spying a cat in the distance, he took off across the grass… and since the park was empty, I let him be. While I walked, Richard amused himself exploring around, and at times, running at breakneck speed on the track.  The sight of him running towards me with unbridled joy, ears flying, tail swinging, hair glinting golden, filled me with deep joy… perhaps, these moments of gay abandon for Richard brought me back to the park the next day, and the next, and the next. And the 10 rounds became 15, then 20, and now, 50 days later, 25!

How many times in the past had I had to force myself to go for a walk?! I remember I would rationalize to myself: so what if I don’t go for a walk today? I will still be out of shape tomorrow… another time, I would begin on a burst of motivation, it would become a hassle soon and I would slide back into my on-off routine. Today, what began as a compulsion is a delightful, meaningful feature in my lockdown routine!

The joy of watching Richard enjoying himself, the spring in my step, the flush of achievement… these small satisfactions motivate me to rouse myself at 5:30 am and walk in the park for a straight 50 minutes, every day.

And this is how it is with habits. Small wins, most of the times unnoticed, multiply as we repeat them and accumulate into something much more over time… I realize that my earlier approach had been wrong: my entire focus had been on becoming leaner and fitter. The immediate small gains – energy boost, mood uplift – were ignored and the fact that even a 1 per cent gain is a gain in the right direction, unrecognized. I was in for the big win only!

And this is why I failed. I was focussed only on the result, forgetting the various processes, the various small steps, the various small improvements, that would lead to the result. Since the outside world only sees the powerful outcome, I had lost sight of the many actions that were required to precede the larger change. I forgot that it is the work done over a long period of time that becomes evident later, much later. All these years, I had been trying to change the wrong thing!

Today, I am a walker. Walking is an integral part of me, a part of my identity. It has become a habit for a lifetime (fingers crossed.)

Becoming a walker has renewed my belief in myself. Life is, after all, a series of commitments and accomplishments. I am now ready for the next habit: Making healthy food choices!

For me, from now on, it will always be: Lage Raho Munnabhai!

The Mirror on the Wall

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

When the wicked queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs asks this question of her mirror, who exactly is she addressing it to? Is the mirror a magical one? Is there a genie in the mirror? Or is she looking for answers within herself?

When I look into the mirror, I see myself. I see my face, my features, my figure… and then I look into my eyes, and I see… Myself. My true Self. The mirror reaches into the innermost recesses of my heart and tells me all that I really think and feel which, at times, may not bear a resemblance to the things I actually say and do in life.

Admittedly, the mirror is the most worthy object created by us humans. Perhaps this is why the Japanese regard it as the greatest symbol of power. Indeed, the mirror – signifying self-awareness and wisdom – along with the sword (symbolizing the power of weapons and valor) and the jewel (representing the power of money and benevolence) have traditionally formed the imperial regalia of Japan and are presented to the Emperor when he ascends the throne.

My mirror is my most faithful ally.

When I look in the mirror, a stillness begets me… time stops and I am face-to-face with myself… I peep into my sub-conscious and look deep into myself. The mirror unveils me completely… the positives I see empower me, give me courage, stabilize me; the shortcomings I see spur me on the path of correction.

Many a times, when I am tempted to fall in with others instead of trusting my inner voice, the mirror allows me to pause, reflect, and ask myself, “Does this make sense?” It becomes my conscience and allows me to introspect and examine my actions.

And when I am too harsh on myself, it consoles me, soothes me, and boosts my self-esteem. At times, it makes me feel so good, so special, that I, like Geet in Jab We Met, burst out happily with “Main apni favorite hoon!”

The mirror has seen it all. The happy me, the sad me. The strong me, the weakened me. The confident me, the uncertain me. The dutiful me, the rebellious me. And yet, it does not judge. Someone has beautifully remarked that the mirror is the ‘One who sees the dark within, yet judges not my ugly sin.’

To me, the mirror never lies. It is my passage in discovering the ultimate truth of “Who am I?”

Life in corona times

I don’t think I will ever forget these times ~ these corona times.

Forty days of lockdown. The hustle-bustle of past routine is long gone and life is lived in an all-family-at-home-no-help scenario. Each one of us has found his/her work corner in the house; chores get done at their own pace and convenience. Lunch has become an important meal of the day; a coffee break brings us briefly together; a sudden thunder shower sends us rushing to the windows; and… the doorbell ring startles us all! A new normal is definitely emerging…

Family dynamics are changing. Minding your own and respecting the others’ space has become key to maintain a congenial milieu at home.  Flare-ups are common, yet easily contained with mutual respect. In the evenings, one looks forward to Zoom meetings with parents, siblings, friends, co-workers over coffee and drinks! Virtual Ludo, chess and tambola with friends and friends of friends have made the nights livelier. A new regime of social interactions is verily happening…

The small talk AND big talk I have made with my immediate neighbours is more than our conversations over the last ten years! Now, we exchange corona news, recipes, exercise routines, gardening tips and whatnot across the boundary wall, even complaints about how much or how little family members are helping with the chores! I have made friends with people I meet on my short walk to the park ~ all from the distance of 5 feet! A new camaraderie is surely springing…

Everyone – just about everyone – is thinking, talking, cooking food. A blitzkrieg of recipes has appeared everywhere; professional and amateur chefs are helping us decide what to cook, how to cook. Family members have finally found their way to the kitchen to satisfy their yearnings and have discovered that cooking is actually fun and something to look forward to! A radical equation with food is decidedly forming…

Being up-to-date with latest technology has become the mantra of life… the way we eat, study, work, play, shop, care for our health, exercise, laugh, enjoy, use money, entertain ourselves, interact with others and connect with the outside world is all tech-driven! Older family members have taken on the challenge of using Whatsapp and FB! The fact that being tech savvy is key to survival is certainly dawning…

Craving for information from the outside world is intense. The newspaper is read from end-to-end; news updates are painstakingly followed; latest developments are eagerly reviewed; one has even returned to watching news on TV faithfully every evening… this connect with the world outside is the only reminder that life IS moving on even as we remain suspended in time. A greater dependence on information is pronouncedly developing…

Every morning, the streets are eerily empty as I walk to the park… I can see the lone guard at the far end, standing by the gate which is now kept shut at all times. The park is absolutely empty; the walking track hedged with hibiscus bushes on both sides stretches out in front of me… it feels surreal. I become intensely aware of nature around me… the earthy smell from last night’s rain; the lone butterfly flitting alongside me; the koel calling out incessantly from a treetop; tiny sunbirds with their beaks buried deep into the hibiscus blooms, a flock of parrots flying overhead; a kite swooping down on the grass… I am with myself, and myself alone. I am at peace. The realization that it takes very little to be happy and content is slowly dawning…

MY new normal is unquestionably evolving.


hi. i am meeta.

i am always talking to myself… do you too?

i love writing… writing frees me totally. it helps me explore my inner thoughts and express them in black and white… it simplifies life and its myriad aspects for me. it shows me the way ahead… it also liberates me in the truest sense… it is therapeutic… it gives me the a great sense of achievement… the ultimate happiness… writing is my ikigai. my reason for living. and I want to keep writing till the day I die.

i have created this blog to share my thoughts, my notions, my musings with you all… strangers out there in the vast wide space of the world wide web… perhaps i will make a few friends…