Smiles that bridge peoples, smiles that defuse tension

It was not the afternoon heat that slowed down the pint-sized girl as she headed for the Pragati Maidan Metro Station on Tuesday. Her bag, full of clothes, kept sliding down her right shoulder. With her volunteer uniform tucked in a paper bag in her left-hand, she soldiered along, cajoling the bag to stay in place.

On my way from the Main Press Centre to the headquarters of the Organising Committee in Connaught Place, I found myself offering to carry her bag. But of course, she resisted but gave in when I persisted. This student of economics cancelled her holiday at Moradabad home to answer the call of the Commonwealth Games, taking pride in her beloved India’s image.

There was not even a hint of a murmur as she explained how she wanted to complete the joining formalities at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium before heading to her Paying Guest accommodation in south Delhi. Despite being obvious weary because of the travel, she maintained a cheerful countenance and looked forward to joining her team among the army of 20,000 volunteers.

To be honest, the athletes’ relentless pursuit of excellence and the quiet efficiency of the technical officials’ take precedence over all else at sporting contests but I have no doubt that the cheerful spirit of the volunteer makes such massive organisational undertakings as the Commonwealth Games memorable and successful.

Come to think of it, I recall a volunteer at the opening ceremony who did not tire of telling those cramming the aisles on the terraces to vacate the place – and she did that smilingly, all the time. The manner in which she handled stress that evening was worthy of a champion. There was many who admired and applauded her efforts in making the lives of everyone around easier.

These are but two wonderful examples and it is a good wager that when you look around – at the Games Village or in your bus or at competition and training venues – you will find a volunteer or three within hailing distance. Their white and red uniform makes them stand out distinctly but come to think of it, their smiles are what separate them from everyone else.

They smile through all situations, happy and otherwise. They remain pleasant and ready to help despite long hours of service with just short breaks to refresh themselves. The word ‘no’ does not seem to exist in their lexicon as they almost always find a solution to any problems that you may have. And, miraculously, they do not seem to get provoked even by tense moments.

As the nameless but friendly volunteer continued her journey towards the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the final lines of John Milton’s sonnet on his blindness came rushing to my mind. Yes, indeed, they also serve who only stand and wait. And if you get the chance to strike a conversation with any of them, you will realise that they become friends.