“Is there going to be a show?”, a boy asked. People thronged, awaiting entertainment. The VAST members answered questioning pedestrians, hiding mounting irritation and pressure; half an hour and we were still hammering away, as Bhutanese are wont to, working till the umpteenth second before the big show, a show the Bhutanese had never seen. “Grand Mutual Smiles”, our invitation and we announced, a state of the art installation. People nodded, grinned or shook their head.
“There!”, a boy pointed at himself on the screen. His friends exclaimed. An old guy smiled into the camera, unblinking in spite of the glare of the two lights. He put his two hands together, one still holding his prayer beads, as he would at a temple and worded, “I am an old man”, a hello to his Austrian counterparts, who would smile at this weathered face. A group of kids had their busiest days of their lives. They would visit Piere’s installation and shout-sing into the mike, eyes glued to the patterns on the screen, set off by the sound generated. Taking their turns here, they would rush off to the main black room, where they would slither through the crowd to grin into the camera again!.
Old, young, toddlers, policemen, visitors, monks, entire families. Entertainment for all. That was the “Grand Mutual Smiles” project. For once, there was no dancing, no singing, no celebrity to draw a crowd. There were smiles aplenty. If you are reading this (and in Thimphu), be sure to walk to the clock tower and send a smile across the world.
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