Women ophthalmologists from across Aravind Eye Hospitals in Tamil Nadu are reminding people to wear their smiles as they did during pre-pandemic times
She came up with the idea of asking the staff, their families, and patients across the centres of AECS, what they missed the most during the pandemic. While many said they missed hugging family and friends, the bonhomie of going in to office, travelling, shopping and eating out, what topped the list was, “I miss a smile”.
With her sister-in-law, Dr. Shruthi Nishanth, Chennai-based paediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Gandhi pondered over how and why people had locked their smiles away behind coronavirus masks for over a year now. The duo decided to make a video that reminds people how a smile is one of the most crucial tools of communication and we should not forget to smile even though the mask has become a permanent accessory as part of COVID appropriate behaviour.
During lockdown 4.0, the duo requested eye doctors working with 14 AEH in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh to send video clips showing them with and without a smile and what difference it makes when the mask is on.
the importance of smile, screenshot of youtube video
Masks have perhaps made us smile less as most of us think that the smile will remain unseen behind it. “A smile begins at the lips but it can be seen in our eyes as it engages the oculi muscle: the eyes narrow and crinkle and the crow’s feet or laugh lines show,” says glaucoma consultant Dr. Manju R Pillai. “This is reassuring enough for the person whom we smile at,” she adds.
“Smiling has an effect on your emotional state. When I smile I find internal peace and it holds me through my hectic operation schedule during the day,” says Dr. Haripriya Aravind, Cataract chief at AEH-Chennai. “Also, our eyes are evolved to facilitate non-verbal communication; simple eye-contact enhances peoples’ well being too. During the severe pandemic wave, it was scary as patients could not see, feel or touch anybody and it was important to convey to them that we continue to care for them,” she says.
posters to tell patients they are cared for
Social contact is essential for living, and facial expression is the key to it. In the five minute video, 30 doctors have participated to highlight the emotions eyes convey. It helps to drive home the message of how momentary connections can be created by wearing a smile behind the mask; it generates energy and seals sentiments.
Vocalist Shakthisree Gopalan’s 2019 rendition of “Wake-up, it’s time to dream; Live but don’t forget to breathe,” syncs beautifully with the video which starts with people talking about what COVID-19 made them forego. It ends with smiling faces of doctors behind masks that define hope as the new language and eyes as our voice.
“The basic idea is to tell people that masks shouldn’t keep us from doing what we might normally do to acknowledge another person’s presence — a smile that always makes you feel better,” says Dr. Gandhi.
(The video can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=1jyK4xI042o)
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