All for a few sMILES

I just returned from the most perfect bike ride.

Wait. Before I type anything else, I want to let out a great “Haaaaaaaa!” (That’s a loud, dramatic, exuberant sigh of relief).
Boy does it feel good to write on my blog again!

Yes, so as I was saying, the most perfect ride.

Scooty Pep+ – Check
Evening time – Check
Homely streets of Malleswaram (No traffic signals) – Check
50 kmph – Check
Clouds and tiny, scattered drops of rain after a hot noon – Check
(The most cliched) Smell of rain – Check
Wearing shorts – Check
Sleeveless top and no jacket – Check
No helmet – Check
Let my hair out – Check
Happy because my hair is really short and I don’t have to tie it so it doesn’t get knotted – Check
Singing out loud, not caring about fellow riders – Check

Every single one of those aspects was equally important to make my ride perfect.

That ride ended within a kilometre. Just saying.
The happiest moments are indeed short lived.

It’s not like I’m unhappy when I generally ride. But I have to resort to doing things like this.

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This was the beginning of my week-long social experiment

I’m not sure whether I’m blogging about it because I did it, or whether I did it so I could blog about it. I’m confused about that these days. This social experiment started simply because I went to a stationery store for something, and happened to see a slate. I had almost forgotten that slates existed. Usually, little children would remind me of them, but now my niblings doodle on tablets, so they’ll never experience the magic of a slate – of being able to carve something so solid onto a black board and make it disappear with nothing but the swish of a wet sponge.

So I bought a slate and some calcium sticks and for a few days, just drew something and kept it at home.

One fine day, I mustered the courage to write something on it and put on my bike. So I said, “Don’t honk, ok? Please?”

I actually wrote that message after a lot of thought. Should it be “Don’t honk you a**hole!” or “Don’t honk. I’m not blind. I can see you coming.”? Finally, I decided to go about it nicely. It kind of worked. People didn’t honk. But i’m not sure if it was because they were so distracted by the fluorescent slate and forgot to honk, or if they actually paid heed to my words. Either way, it worked.

Throughout that week, a series of messages followed. I figured it was the most organic way to reach out to people and drive some sense into them (pun intended) .Well, I didn’t go about preaching things. I was just trying to keep the air around me positive. And it magically was! Messages like these don’t fail to make people smile. Be it the Oh what an attention seeker kind of mean smile or the What a silly girl  kind of skeptical smile or the genuine Awwwww so sweet kind of happy smile. In this case there is also local baays getting their cheap thrills going, “Machaa nodo! Eno bardiddare!” (Hey mate look! She’s got something written there!)

Here’s what the messages looked like.

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After the Earth cooled down

So when I had smileys like this, with such cheesy messages on them, it was really important that I keep my cool as well and not lose my temper on the streets and smile back at anyone who smiled at me. This was easy on the day it rained, because it was a pleasant ride. But when I put a message like the one below, it wasn’t so easy to be cheery.

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It was most people’s weekend, but not mine

I work on weekends. So I was mostly making other people happy reminding them that it was their weekend. Two bike riders caught up with my Scooty (ok fine, slowed down to stay alongside my Scooty), and asked me what special I had planned for the weekend.

Actually, people came up to me and spoke on every day that I had a message, not just this one. And they’d all come and speak right in the middle of a ride! They wouldn’t even wait for a signal. So I’d have to concentrate on riding and fail to give them a witty answer like, “Isn’t every weekend special?” or something. I just smiled, shrugged and said, “Nothing really.” That’s the mother of all boring replies.

But there was a large sector, that didn’t understand my English messages. They’d come up to me and ask me what’s written on the slate – Auto rickshaw drivers. This message below was for them.

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To cater to the kannada speaking folk. It says, “Ride carefully : )”

Well, people smiled at that. But it was a bad idea to put that message. People thought I’d written that because I didn’t know how to ride properly and I was advising them to be careful around me. Some man said, “Medam, you can put an L board instead.” So that was a face palm moment.

And then came the toughest challenge. To be happy on a Sunday. While on my way to work.

 

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That’s my dad posing. He liked the idea very much.

It was really hard to keep a smile on while going to work when everyone was probably riding to go to an elaborate brunch or something. But it had a good effect. I kept my smile on and smiling, I think, makes you feel genuinely happy. On the day I had this message, some aunty flicked her cell phone out of her bag and slyly clicked a photo of me, thinking I wasn’t looking at her from the rear view mirror. but it only made me happy. I hope she shows it to more people and they do what I did too.

I ran out of messages after a week and got tired of the pressure of having to smile all the time. And the watch man in my office building requested me to take it off, saying he was being harassed by passers-by who asked him about it when he knew nothing about it. Poor guy!

But it’s a great social experiment, to see how people around you react. And if I had the patience, I’d keep it on forever and start everyday with a clean slate.

I must be given an award for that pun.

Most recent of all, however, was voting day in Bangalore! April 17. I had to go to work. My dad, though,  made the best use of the slate. Look what he did. : )

Ram - vote message

 

He rallied around the city with it, as he went to drop and pick up my mum, who had gone for election duty.

So go spread some smiles.

Do what you can to be a good person.

Cheers!

 

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