One day when I went shopping for groceries to a market with my mother, I came across an old man who was selling tomatoes. He wasn't the only vendor there selling tomatoes and his wares weren't the juiciest. But there was still something about him that made him stand out in a crowd of so many people shouting and bargaining.
He was an old man of about 60, blind in one eye and his head had tufts of short white hair. When he looked at me, he smiled like a small child; even though all his teeth, maybe except about five were broken, that was the heartiest smile I had seen in a long time. It was very odd because he only smiled at me and it looked as if he was calling me to his stall. I told my mother I was going to see some tomatoes and went to talk to the old man. He couldn't stop smiling and as I approached him I asked him what it was that made him so happy?
He told me that I reminded him of his daughter who he lost many years ago. He could never believe that she was gone and was always looking for her face in a sea of people entering and leaving the grocery market every day. And finally after 15 years, he said that he had found her.
He wasn't always a vegetable vendor. He owned a farm in a village a few hours away from the main city where he lived with his daughter and wife. His wife died during child birth and he was left all alone to raise his small daughter. He said he wasn't always so happy, especially after his wife died he was always angry. He was mostly angry at God for taking away his wife who he loved so dearly. Everyone in the village was scared of the man and no one ever approached him for anything. Everyone, except his daughter. You'd think he was very loving towards her for she was the living symbol of his love for his wife but that wasn't so. He had a very constrained relationship with her because he was so scared of getting hurt again if he lost her. But the girl never let this bother her. She loved her father and looked after him and his needs. The villagers always discussed how this girl would one day melt his heart and return his smile to him. That smile did come, but at a big cost.
One monsoon day it started raining very heavily and didn't stop for another four days, the old man told me. His daughter went out in the fields, against his permission to rescue all their farm animals. That was the third day of the heavy rain. Two days went by but the girl was nowhere to be found. Finally, some villager saw her lying by a field completely drenched and breathing her last. The entire village rushed to call her father from his house.
He was heartbroken and distraught seeing his 15-year-old daughter paying the price for wanting to save some animals. He asked her why she was leaving him, what was the meaning of all this, and that he should go in her place. But she only told him, in a very soft voice, that life wouldn't be as difficult for him for she was taking all his pain away and leaving him behind with a beautiful smile.
He said that he smiles at everyone because he truly believes that it can rid people of the world of all their ills and fill everyone's lives with happiness. And if his daughter left him in charge of caring for the world by only smiling at everyone, he would do that for many more years as he had been doing for the past 15 years.