Skip to main content

Smile!

I remember years ago, in Dublin,  when I was a receptionist, I had to give a caller to my office bad news.  Like the fact that the boss wasn't in the office at the moment when the poor woman had travelled halfway across town to meet him.  She could wait, I suggested. Or go out and do a bit of work somewhere else in the area and drop in again later.  Her answer really shook me.

"You could at least smile when you're saying that," she said.

"The cheek of her," I sniffed indignantly, when she'd left.  "Telling me to smile.  How dare she!"

I was rather immature in those days.  I hadn't quite copped on to the fact that a receptionist (which is what I was in that office, among other things) is a professional meeter and greeter.  That means smiling at people.  Even when you don't feel like it.

Okay, so my Walkman was broke and needed costly repairs.   Okay, so I'd finished my last packet of cigarettes before payday.  Okay, so my (then) boyfriend (Yash) hadn't written to me for (at least) six months.  This was the time of our long separation prior to  our marriage.  None of that mattered.  My job was to smile.  I had to just keep smiling and get on with it.  The last straw was when Mr. Singh, a senior office colleague, commented on my sullen expression, which would probably have stopped a clock in its tracks.

"Miss Maria," he said (well, he was an Indian.  Of the old school, you can say), "please do your job with the smiling face.  Always."  He was one of these people who always used the definite article when an indefinite one would do perfectly well.  "The smiling face" indeed.  I started to smile.

"That's better.  Keep it up," he said.  I laughed out loud after that.

If I ever wanted a quick fix smile, I only had to talk to this fellow.  He was a tall, princely gentleman from the Punjab in north India.  He was very smart and always wore his suit with perfectly matching turbans.  One day, Mary, our office cleaning lady had an accident, hurt her back and was unable to come to work that day.  Mr. Singh was very sorry to hear this.

"Hello Mary!  How is your backside?" he asked, when Mary came in the next day.  That remark raised quite a few smiles, if not a few outright laughs, in our office.  He meant her injured back of course.  Poor thing, he had no idea that "backside" meant a somewhat lower region of the body in our part of the world.  I mean, technically, Mr. Singh's English was perfect, but every language has its little quirks, doesn't it?

I can only imagine the smile-inducing mistakes that I'd make if I attempted to speak in Punjabi.  That was Mr. Singh's mother tongue, of course.

This is my weekly post for the Loose Blogger Consortium. We are a group of bloggers from different parts of the world with diverse views and styles of writing, and we post simultaneously (well, we try to) on a weekly basis on a given topic.  Our members  are, in no particular order,  Anu,  Maria,   Magpie, Will Knott,   Nema, Noor, JoePaulAkankshaDelirious, Padmini, AshokConrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, and Rummuser.  This topic 'Smile' was chosen by Grannymar.



Comments

  1. Many a colloquial expression, can lead to confusion or laughter depending on the audience. I hope you explained to Mr. Singh, the reason for the laughter, in order to save him further embarrassment.

    The tale did make me smile!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would probably smile every time I saw Mr. Singh, simply because of the memory of "the backside". :D

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Grannymar - to tell you the truth, I was way too embarrassed to tell him. There was another fellow in the office that time who was a lot less formal and he used to keep saying 'hanky panky' all the time when something looked strange at work. You should have seen the look on his face when we (me and the other girls) told him what it meant in our understanding.

    @delirious - yes, that's exactly what happened.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Poor Mr. Singh. I think all of us who have attempted a second language have had our moments of embarrassmemt. So keep that smiling face of yours in action all the time. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  5. The use of Back-Side for the rear of any thing is very common in all parts of India because in all Indian languages back and rear are used together to indicate the rear; like peechay key tharaf. I used to work for a British company and this one particular expression gave raise to much merriment to the expats as well as those of the privileged English speaking snobs. Those memories made me smile too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So right! We forget to smile when talking to people, especially if the news is good, light or just'news'. A grave face always carries doom and gloom with it, doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hee hee.
    Reminded me of working in Poland, when the self-styled Vice Boss (deputy boss) used to give directions by referring to the backside of the bishop's palace.
    But from the Poles' point of view, apparently the way English people pronounce the words "sure" sounds like penis in Polish. I was perfectly acceptable though with my Irish accent.
    This revelation emerged during a discussion on different English-speaking accents after a group of older women suddenly got up and walked out. You see - English people, you can't take them anywhere.

    ReplyDelete
  8. :-)

    But were you smiling when you wrote this article for your blog?

    ReplyDelete
  9. This was a smile-evoking post. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Brilliant! I could almost visualise the whole incidence =D

    Not sure if you know but all Mr. Singhs are rather famous for their practical humour they tend to be a protagonist in...of course unknowingly.

    I know of one Mr. Singh who took his car to the garage as the key wouldn't work, only to realise he was trying to use his house key all day long. Embarrassing? Ask this to any Mr. Singhs you may see in your neighbourhood

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting me. Please let me know you were here

Popular posts from this blog

Global Peace - Is It Possible? LBC Post

I can't believe it's Friday already and time for another LBC post.  The Loose Blogger's Consortium (LBC) is a blogging group consisting of about half a dozen of us who blog together every Friday on the same topic.  We are indebted to Ramana (aka blogger Rummuser) for this week's topic.  Instead of just giving a straightforward topic like anyone else would, he posed a question instead.  Is global peace possible? he asked.  I decided to answer his question in a Tweet sized sentence.



Is global peace possible?  Of course it is. If everyone gets in harmony with each other.   But will it happen?  How on earth would I know?


As we say in Ireland (well, as they used to say when I lived there two decades ago), that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thanks to All-Free-Download for the photo.  Thanks to Lettercount for their character counting facilities.  And thanks to my LBC group for being there every Friday in blogging solidarity.

April Fool (LBC Post)

One morning, when I went to school in 1977, or was it 1978, when I was a first or second year student in the Irish secondary school system (which is 7th or 8th Class in India) I noticed something very odd indeed. It was a notice pinned to the notice board. It read as follows:

THE INTER HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST

'The Inter' or the Intermediate Certificate Examination as it was known then, now the Junior Certificate Examination, was a pretty crucial examination. It's called the 'Class Ten Board Examination' in India and the High School Certificate elsewhere.

I knew something was wrong, but couldn't quite figure it out. The notice sparked a minor frenzy. When the date was revealed to be April the 1st, everything made sense.

It's strange how the 1st April can take some people by surprise.

I haven't noticed anything unusual this year. Except that today, I have a rather horrible toothache. But I'll have to go get it sorted.

April Fool jokes are…

Good Intentions

I had great intentions for this week.  I'd write a thousand words every day, review six books, get my Loose Bloggers Consortium (LBC) post up well in advance.  And did I?  No, no, no.  I wrote about two hundred words per day and have been trying to read and review two books and still not finished reading.  My target of 19,000 words until today by now is around 15,000 on my 100kWords in 100 Days Challenge.  It seems I'm just not cutting the mustard.

I have the intentions.  I just don't seem to have the mojo to carry out the things I want to do. So many intentions, not enough time.  I've not been sleeping well lately.  Probably very tired.

So - my intention now is to try to get more sleep.  Then carry out the original intentions.That' what I intend to do.  As of now.  Meanwhile, my post is up one day late.

I had to go out to the bank this morning to get some pending work finished.  I clicked the above picture en route.  It seems that after a three week winter, we're…