The first time

“Good morning, Sir!” I say with a smile.

“Good morning, Madam!” I say with another smile.

Between all the trained words that my lips utter and all the smiles that my face wears, a few thoughts remind me of their presence in my mind.

I think about my family which is a mess. My father is on his deathbed. My mother sits by his bed and wipes her tears with the torn end of her sari. My brother has completed his schooling and we will be needing money for his higher education.

I think about how I can support my family. I have already been working overtime. I will have to look for more job opportunities.

I think about the dreams I had about my future. I still have them, and I intend to fulfil them. I want to earn well and to live well.

The door opens, breaking my thought process.

A few persons enter.

I bow, smile and say, “Good morning, Sir!”

Five people pass me by and I get no response from them; not even a nod. I don’t expect anything, either.

For the Sirs and Madams entering through the office gate, I am just an office guard.

I guess they consider me inanimate. I get paid to bow. I get paid to smile. I get paid to wish. It doesn’t matter if my back hurts after all the bowing or if my cheeks hurt after all the smiling.

The last one to pass me by is a young woman, probably in her mid-twenties.

I do what I am trained to do.

I bow, smile and say, “Good morning, Madam!”

I straighten up, turning to go to my desk. But a chirpy voice makes me question reality.

“Good morning, Bhaiya!” the girl says with a smile.

I look at her with the smile that a poor kid has when someone offers him a balloon.

She smiles and enters the office, and I return to my desk.

It takes me some time to process that my presence was acknowledged and my wish was reciprocated.

For the first time, I feel animate.

For the first time, I feel more like a human being and less like an office guard.

For the first time, I wear a smile on my face all day long, without even wanting to get paid for it.

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