Toothless smiles and a new year

That a smile is the most beautiful attire, the most charming accessory and the most memorable emotion is nothing new. But when it becomes a toothless one, it attains a whole new dimension. And you cannot help marvelling at how one twitch makes the world beautiful. Irrespective of where you are.

One of my weaknesses is that I get moved and feel that things are unfair for some people. I don’t feel sympathy as such but a fleeting anger and urge to make everything fair. Somewhere I know that I am wrong because they are probably not as sad as I think they are. When I find a little boy polishing shoes, I get very disturbed. It bothers me to no limits that he is unable to attend school and unable to take a nap. But somewhere deep down I do realize that sometimes he maybe happy with what he is doing. He may probably be attending night school. He probably has a nap on some days. Or he probably hates naps. And things may not be as bad as I think them to be. Yet something is amiss and I feel a vacuum. K always stops me from feeling this way saying that I probably do not have the entire picture to form an emotion yet.

The eldercare where K and I volunteer makes me realize this time and again. When I look at so many toothless smiles as we enter, some waving and some teasing us, while some don’t seem to remember us at all and yet smile unconditionally at us, I feel overwhelmed. I forget to look at that wheelchair or the nasogastric tube or the fact that all that the person can eat is bland porridge. Because somewhere I feel they have learnt to let go and be happy. Who am I to measure anything against a yardstick so subjective?

Everytime they look forward to volunteer visits and the activities planned and participate inspite of vacillating health conditions, I feel small. Did I not complain about my flu last week and how I couldn’t smell the rasam?

This time for Chinese New Year, along with a group, I was responsible for the decorations for the home. The mission was to get the eldercare look beautiful and make their wheelchairs and other aids look pretty as much as we can. So, our group was to facilitate making of simple decorations that suggest the beginning of a Chinese New Year. Gold fish, a red lantern, a ladybird, a kite  (this was for fun) and other little things.



 Pinterest and some Sunday time was enough to do this. Almost no effort right? But you should have seen the happy faces.


When I saw them smile, I felt as though everything was right with the world.

When I saw them help each other and make fun of each other, I realized how foolish I had been to feel that they missed their families all the time.

When I saw an elderly lady’s family members rejoice from far, I realized yet again that somewhere along, things change but love doesn’t end. And everyone has a reason.

When I saw some saying they cannot do it since they are too old for such activities, I saw the others push them along.

When I saw some not so enthusiastic about the activities, I saw that time changed it. As they watched others indulge themselves, they slowly but surely joined in.

95% of them spoke a language I did not know. But we lasted a couple of hours together. And what a hit it was! I held their fragile hands, I learnt a trick and most importantly, I saw them all smile.



I am writing this not to emphasize volunteering. Neither am I writing this to drive any point of an eldercare or similar setup. I am writing this because everytime I see a toothless smile on a wrinkled face, I feel reassured. I feel as though God is saying that everything is fine and will be fine. That I need to wait and not make any judgements. That I need to only be happy within and not let the external forces overwhelm me. That I don’t need to get teary-eyed only because I am presuming something. That happiness is all that matters. And you don’t need to strive too hard for it.

And that a smile rings in a new hope and a new year, every passing day.

P.S. Sorry, I cannot show the smiles. Just doesn’t seem right to post full photos.


  1. Destination Infinity · July 24, 2013

    As you go on, you might be hit with even stranger emotions – Like happiness and sadness being two sides of the same coin, for example.

    Destination Infinity

  2. greenboochi · July 24, 2013

    But I got still got teary eyed. I cant help it. When I see people do things (no matter big or small) that brings happiness in others, I cant help but be teary eyed. I am proud of you, Kismi. Not because you are volunteering, but because you are making a positive impact on people who are far far away, like me 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · July 24, 2013

      Teary eyed out of happiness is super fine 🙂 I almost always get teary eyed everytime anyone plays the national anthem. God! gets embarassing 😛

      Thanks GB. Everyd ay can be such an inspiration! 🙂

      • greenboochi · July 24, 2013

        Me too!! What a same pinch time 😀 I get goosebumps too, listening to our national anthem 🙂

  3. Arch · July 24, 2013

    What a wonderful post! You put it down so beautifully! I have always been that way.. feel bad and teary eyed on seeing old aged people working, children working, handicapped people commuting etc. But your post brought out a whole new perspective! Thank you for that! 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · July 24, 2013

      Thanks a lot Arch! 🙂
      People working at very ripe age makes me feel very strongly…. I am probably wrong because there is nothing wrong in earning your living and they are probably happy with it! Sometimes I wish they could relax and look at the passersby without the hazzle of carrying heavy trays and cleaning up places. Again it has nothing to do with dignity of labour. Here is to broadening perspectives! 🙂

  4. The Girl Next Door · July 24, 2013

    Beautiful post, Kismi! Touched me. A lot.

    I have always heard people say they want to do something for other people in the world, who are not so fortunate. Most of them end up doing nothing, and that includes me. For some people, ‘something’ remains restricted to charity. Very few people I know have actually gone on to carve out time to really be with these people. This last set includes you.

    • kismitoffeebar · July 24, 2013

      Thanks TGND. You are being very kind…. I look forward to this. It teaches me so much, keeps me grounded and makes me insanely happy and tearful. Thank you so much for that faith 🙂

  5. Visha · July 24, 2013

    Happy New Year Toffee and K 😀 😀
    Sigh, you and I are so, so alike 🙂 🙂
    I believe acceptance is the first step towards happiness. That is why a wheelchair bound person( I loved that quote to bits) or for that matter any other person in the elder care have smiles 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · July 24, 2013

      Thanks Visha ! This was a few months back….. hadn’t shared for long. Next week, we are dancing for them 🙂

      Yes acceptance is vital and somewhere along we seem to put ourselves in others’ shoes far too often…. we can never be in anothers’ shoes right? That’s when we miss out seeing happiness sometimes.

      Yes. That quote. I can write one essay on it. Glad you noticed 🙂

  6. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie · July 24, 2013

    the simple answer is usually the best answer…you’re fantastic for accepting the smile for what it is…a smile!!! smiles and laughter can’t get better than that 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · July 25, 2013

      Hi ! 🙂

      Welcome here. Very happy to see you! Thanks 🙂 You are right. The simple one is probably the best of all!

      • Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie · July 25, 2013


  7. Sia · July 25, 2013

    Hey Toffee- What a touching post..Tears welled up in my eyes. You are an absolute sweetheart.. I can totally relate to what you say for I am so much like you. I feel very bad when I see small kids working, when the maid does so much work for meager amount of money. But as you say maybe they aren’t regretting and sulking as I think.
    That’s the way this world works. Everyone at every stage is happy in their own ways.. Just be happy that you have brought smiles to so many people’s faces.

    • kismitoffeebar · July 25, 2013

      Thank you! I udnerstand what you mean, every word.
      I feel blessed. It is a beautiful cycle of blessings. Hugs 🙂

  8. Sandhya Kumar · July 26, 2013

    Yes, this is a very touching post! Most of the elderly who are at home in their children’s places find it difficult to cope up with the next generation and vice versa. If the home for the elderly is of good quality people whom I know prefer that. They think that they don’t want to be a burden to their children. Even I and my husband think like that. I know that if people visit the elderly they would feel important and happy. It is nice of you and K to do that. You are seeing the genuine smiles.

    I had been thinking of doing some voluntary work like many people for many years now and am now becoming old…! Need some push always to do something.

    My eyes too well up when I hear our National anthem and I always stand up wherever I am. And now, Indin Idol junior. Tears start rolling down my face when I hear/see small children singing flawlessly!

    • kismitoffeebar · July 28, 2013

      Hi Sandhya! 🙂 Welcome here. Happy to see you!

      I understand what you mean. And I agree. That’s thing I guess. As long as it makes one happy and feel good, it really is okay! I guess we need to remove the coloured glasses and look at events.

      I hope voluntary work happens for you 🙂 Yes, music and kids – moves me so much too!

  9. pixie · July 26, 2013

    Aww! Such a beautiful post!! Hugs!!
    You made me smile and yes, Stay Blessed always Kismi! 🙂

  10. Zephyr · July 27, 2013

    Do you see why you were in my thoughts when I wrote the post on praying for detachment? You are so beautifully practising it. Else you will be overwhelmed and even rendered useless to those whom you are helping. Lovely post and lovely girl. And here is a big big hug from me for being such a sweetheart.

    • kismitoffeebar · July 28, 2013

      Thank you Zephyr. Thank you so much!
      Hugs right back. Big bear ones 🙂

  11. Ramya · July 28, 2013

    Kismi, Beautiful touching post..You have put down the points very clearly for people like me to to not to make judgements. I start going into the questioning mode and “why is life unfair” and many times teary-eyed looking at the young boy who runs errands at my neighbours place, or the old thatha who limps and carries flower basket in his head and shouts calling people to inform his arrival on the street or the young kid who plays with the heavily used hands-me down cycle..You have put it down very clearly, Kismi..Who am I to make a judgement that they are unhappy? All that matters as you said is happiness from within, for each individual..We can only wish that everyone stays happy from within, whatever the circumstances be..”Sarve Jana Sukhino Bavantu”

    • kismitoffeebar · July 29, 2013

      Hi Ramya! 🙂

      welcome 🙂 Thanks. Yeah, we seem to always weigh everyone against a preconceived notion and form an emotion. That isn’t right, no?

      ..”Sarve Jana Sukhino Bavantu” – You summed it beautifully! 🙂

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