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The Guard Who Knew How To Win Friends & Influence Others
Dale Carnegie must have appeared in Gopal bhaiyya's subconscious and told him about the art of smiling.
This one’s just about a darn smile.
A Story For You
Mumbai is a city of dreams and it’s filled with people from all across the country desperate to live just one of the those dreams. It’s fast-paced, it’s dynamic and time-wasting activities aren’t looked at twice. One glance at a busy street in Mumbai and you’ll notice that everyone’s in the race. Fame, money, recognition, respect, and many a times (with outrageous real estate prices), even a home. Everyone has a goal and if you’re not helping them achieve that goal, you’re just another face in the crowd.
However, that’s one side of the coin. I’ve lived in Mumbai for a while and I’ve seen the other side of the coin. Actually, just one person from the other side of the coin - Gopal bhaiyya (brother).
Gopal bhaiyya, as I respectfully called him, was the security guard of our living premises - a society called ‘Mantri Serene’. The reason he is vivid in my memory is because of something he never was - gloomy, dejected or even agitated. He greeted everyone with a smile and made sure they reciprocated the gesture. Only a fool wouldn’t. His smile was infectious!
The childlike excitement with which he quenched his thirst for knowledge was a delight to watch as bystander. Once, his son got him, what he called a ‘touch screen phone’ and it was the first time he lay his hands on one. He went berserk - downloading every social media app, surfing the net for the latest news and playing games on his off days. He learnt everything he could on that phone, such was his love for little things.
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And then there was me - the chaser of dreams who was stopping at nothing to get what he wanted. The rat race had made an overly emotional person, who conveniently chose to play victim, every chance he got. In retrospect, I would not want to sit with the old me because of how whiny that kid was. Overthinking had gotten the better of me. It took a lot time before that even subsided. ‘Why only me?’ was my mantra. I averaged 20-30 sighs of frustration and angst every hour, just thinking about assignments, preparations, exams, my own goals and where others had reached in their lives in Mumbai.
Gopal bhaiyya would often see me stressed as I walked in and out of the gate, and would display the customary smile every time we exchanged looks. It was yet another habit in my daily routine.
I still remember him saying those words out loud, “Harsh bhaiyya, smile!”
“Yes, yes bhaiyya, on it,” I gave in every time. It was more of a task than a genuine reciprocation. ‘He wouldn’t get my problems, there’s no point explaining it to him,’ I thought on the daily, sluggishly walking by.
Come to think of it, I had no problems at all. A reputed university, food on my plate thrice a day, a comfortable apartment and an even better bed. The immature child in me refused to acknowledge the privilege I had. It was easier for me to blame life than take responsibility at that point of time.
As I entered the premises one day, I saw Gopal bhaiyya mimicking and acting on his phone’s camera. He was on one of the apps, narrating dialogues of celebrities from famous movies, having a good laugh and not taking himself too seriously. I sat with him for a while and featured in a couple of videos as well. It was great fun!
“How are you so happy all the time, Gopal bhaiyya?” I questioned abruptly, but he wasn’t surprised at all.
“Look at this phone, it works without buttons! Can you see Harsh bhaiyya?” He ignored my question, at least that’s what I thought.
“I’m the first person you see when you enter,” he continued, “if I don’t make you smile, how will you enter your home happy? Bhaiyya, we all have our problems. It’s easier to get through those problems around happy people. We’re all running around, looking for something, thinking we will we achieve true happiness if we get it. But situations are easily diffused with a smile. I’ve got basic needs and I believe everyone did when man had nothing. All it takes right now, for my day to be made, is to be greeted by all of the residents who smile back at me.”
Gopal bhaiyya might not have read How To Win Friends and Influence Others and he wasn’t too old to have met Dale Carnegie either, but his philosophy is greater than this story.
Smiling can actually trick your brain into feeling happy!
“But it doesn’t end there. Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist in Los Angeles points to the science of psychoneuroimmunology (the study of how the brain is connected to the immune system), asserting that it has been shown “over and over again” that depression weakens your immune system, while happiness, on the other hand, has been shown to boost our body’s resistance.
What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity,” says Dr. Grossan. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”
Credits: NBC News
That conversation changed my opinion about Gopal bhaiyya. He went from being a happy-go-lucky man to a wise old oak. And it also changed my opinion about myself. It took one smile at a time to make my life better. No matter the magnanimity of the problem, a smile would diffuse the situation. It wouldn’t make it any easier, that’s for sure, but taking on a challenge with a smile was so much better than taking it on with sorrow.
We often judge people too quickly or think they’re too pretentious. What we forget is that we have no clue about what’s going on in their minds, or what problems they have looming over their restless souls. Everyone’s way of dealing with things is slightly different, and that’s okay. That’s what makes us human.
Next time you meet people though, try smiling.
A Story From You
I’ve been very fortunate to meet various kinds of people and reflect on the knowledge they’ve generously bestowed upon me over the years. No matter how big or small, these very lessons impacted my life significantly.
Do you remember a time when you diffused the situation just with a smile?
I’d love to hear about it! It’s been a great joy reading the responses from everyone but some are shy to comment on Substack. Well, we get it! So, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org till you feel more comfortable with the platform!
Bye bye now,