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Holy & unholy smiles

Ginsburg mentions two kinds of smiles — Duchenne and Pan American, writes Upala Sen.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2007 03:16 IST
Upala Sen

You look like a confused WMD," accused Best Friend. And without the asking chose to elaborate, "You know, a weapon of mass destruction." Really, and what was he? "Well," he cleared his throat, "in the given context Ma'am, I am afraid I am the Iraq equivalent."

And with that he erupted into unholy mirth.

I remained unsmiling.

On serendip.brynmawr.edu I read one Karen Ginsburg's blog on the smile. Ginsburg mentions two kinds of smiles — Duchenne and Pan American. The first is named after researcher Guillaume Duchenne, and apparently involves "the movement of the zygomaticus major muscle near the mouth, and the orbicularis oculi muscle near the eyes". It is produced as a result of genuine positive emotion. The latter involves "only the zygomaticus muscle, and is entirely voluntary" and used as a mark of politeness to mask true emotion.

When I was a child, my grandmother used to coax me into the one-hour sitting with the gaanermaster (music teacher) with the argument, 'Mon bhalo kore gaan. Boro hole bujhbe' (Songs make your heart smile. You will understand when you grow up.) Today, multiple strokes later she herself has a down-turned mouth which no Scott Fahlman will take
credit for. But mention song and she will smile and hum.

And it is not just zygomaticus major I presume.

I was searching for a lyric I missed when I came across Professor Hijbijbij's blogspot — hjibijbij.blogspot.com. The bit from Tagore I could recall went, 'Chaine hote boro/ Shudhu ei to bhalo legechilo alor nachon patai patai.' And this is how I like to think it transliterates: I do not want to touch the sky. The golden sundrops waltzing leaf to leaf is excuse enough to make me smile.

When I was in Bombay recently, I slipped out to the beach one evening. I was walking alone the beach thinking this and that when a gaggle of mehendiwaalis thronged me. "Waterproof. Deeeep colour." I nodded. I was in no mood. They must have read my silence, woman-to-woman, for left without further clamour. But not before one of them had put a little star on my right palm.

The excerpt on Hijbijbij's blogspot read, 'Durey jawar kheyal holey/Shoba-e moray ghirey thamai/Gaaner akash, shojne phuler hathchanitey daakey amai/Phura-e ne bhai khacher shudha/Nai je re tai durer khuda/Ei je eshob chotokhato/Pai ne eder kulkinara..' The gist of it: I cannot have enough of the little things and their unending magic. I have no appetite for what I cannot have.

The sun was setting on one side and the little star was rising on my palm. I couldn't help but smile — zygomaticus major plus orbicularis oculi.