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Mouth shouid open or shut when it should


We live on hopes and trusts . The belief that I will see the sunrise tomorrow gives me good sleep this night. The belief that my mouth will open again gives me courage to shut it after eating food or shouting at Ammalu . But for trust and belief , we will be living a life of fear and uncertainty.!

I used to teach a song to little Shasta, who is now with her maternal grandfather in Chennai

‘കാക്കെ, കാക്കെ, കൂടെവിടെ —-

‘KAkkae kAkkae koodevidae?! The same song I was teaching Ananu, 15 years ago

Imagine my agony if I can’t close my mouth to say ‘kae‘ after ‘Ka’ !

Imagine my agony if I can’t close my mouth to say ‘lu’ after ‘Amma ‘ while romancing with Ammalu.. you know what will be the consequence.?

She will yell : ‘even now Amma! Amma , Amma, always Amma!
Go to your Amma; she will bottle feed you’

Is this the age for me to be bottle-fed?

God is great ! After ‘kA’ I can say ‘kae ‘ !
Not a small matter! After ‘Amma’, I can say ‘lu’. Not a small matter!

You’re not unconvinced ?

Read this story :

Anantha Jyothi, my Habsiguda home. Sometime last year before my leaving for USA.

Soon after getting up from the bed, I open the main door to look at the rising Sun and pray ‘jayathu, jayathu Soorya ‘, as usual.

There stands in the opposite gate an angel wearing a Kerala sari, apparently the new tenant . I stand awe struck, my mouth wide opened at her charm , without noticing the fat man with a harsh look, obviously her husband, beside her. I try to shut my mouth realising that it is ungentlemanly to stay long in that position but alas, my mouth refuses to close!

‘Don’t turn your face,’ warns my intellect,’ Ammalu is watching you from the hall’

I become nervous as I can’t either stand at my door, mouth opened , like a ‘cheenganni’ or alligator when a newly married couple was watching from their house front, right opposite ; nor could I turn and face Ammalu!

Ammalu commands ‘get a salt packet, please’

‘Why salt in the morning ? Are you going to add salt instead of sugar in my morning coffee?, I wanted to ask her but my mouth refuses to move ! That was the first time in life I learned the fact that mouth has to close and open to perform its task and it can’t remain either opened or closed.

I walk down to the Kirana store, ignoring the surprised staring of the neighbors on both sides of the street at me, walking mouth wide opened, (like a cheenkanni.)

The agony was not over. To express my need to the shop owner, I had to open my mouth! My mouth was in the open state but I can’t say a word !

(Later, I learned that the husband of the damsel had used a Malayala mantravadam to keep my mouth motionless. Later , having learned from the neighbors that I’m a gentleman, he released the bondage using an antidote mantram)

We don’t bother to understand what a great system we are provided by God while sending us to this world ! Our mouth opens and closes; our eyes too, at our will ! Our hands and legs fold and unfold at our will! Our eyes move horizontally and vertically, our neck turns to our right and left, up and down. Our hand turns to scratch our back or leg moves to the front to kick a ball. These are great gifts by God and we won’t realize their importance till they protest.

Baghavan ! Keep my organs in tact, in working condition, well fabricated so that I can see what I like to , eat what I want to and close when I don’t want to see or eat or talk . Other than these, I have no activities in this world now !

Cartoon courtesy – my cousin Ramki Kumar, the popular wedding cartoonist of Chennai,

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Giving a small push


Wearing a gold colour silk Kurtha ( courtesy Megh) and a silk uthareeyam , I went to attend a Kutcheri, music concert, in the Secunderabad Keyes High School open air theater sometime ago..

The authorities offered me a seat in the front, respecting my age and presuming that either I’m a musician or a cloth shop owner willing to sponsor a day’s program, going by my silk clothes, kadukkans, kumkum pottu, ornamental walk stick etc

Within a few minutes after the program started , an young lady seated next , told me something which I couldn’t follow. She, then, wrote on the back of her entrance pass:

“Thampuran ! thAlam thetti’
-my Lord, your beats are wrong!
That is the general meaning. The concealed meaning is something is going wrong. Nothing can go wrong with me . So, I took the general meaning.

My hear aids, due to severe head shakes to show others that I was enjoying music, got loosened from their seats , scattered somewhere! I was not therefore hearing the music but didn’t want to show others I wasn’t. Hence my wrong Tharalam or beats .

There were nearly a thousand people attending the concert, many fully involved in the music . How to search for my two small instruments in that crowd ? I would be a nuisance if I start search, but there was no other way, as I can’t hear without the aids . Moreover , Vuday my son in law paid 1000/2000$s and I was told equally good quality is not available in India. The light was dim, my eye sight poor and my knees non cooperative . Not an easy job to bend down my head and body and crawl in between the rows of chairs occupied by men, women and children . Audience will object, musicians too . Young women might ignore me as an innocent old man but old women? No . They will never approve any one especially an old man touching even their cloth by accident and in the process if my hand happened to touch anywhere in their body even feet, that will be the end of Hastha nakshatram, Kanya rAsi jAthaya—

And moreover what a big man I’m ! what is my status in the society ! What is my prestige ! And how costly are the things I wear! Lucknow silk Kurtha , diamond kadukkens, pure gold neck chain and rings etc ! And me to crawl before the audience or under them ?

Never, never SP !

My neck started paining by too many shakes snd more over, the smell of decoction kApoi and hot vada, from the make shift restaurant in the premises, had started spreading in the air

I left for home.

Declaring in high pitch, ‘ Ammalu, kutcheri was pramadam! You missed a golden opportunity ‘, I entered my house.

Ammalu as usual against my bluffs , was cool and non-caring.

I was unhappy seeing her neglect.
‘You did really miss ‘ I repeated.

She looked deep into my eyes first, then smiled and said ;

‘What I missed was the amazing scene of your crawling in the little space on the floor between two rows of men, women and children, at times placing your hand on their laps resulting their screaming at you; I missed the scene of the baghavathar staring at you and the mridangist and violinist using force while handling the instruments to express their anger.’,

As if that insult was not enough , she added , ‘ you shouldn’t have bent your head before a woman to do thoppukaranam for searching the hear aids kneeling under her chair !’

I was silent for a minute, slowly raised my head with the proud of a gentleman husband told her ;

‘ Ammalu, can you ever imagine my head bowing down before a woman other than you, in this world ?’

My question instantly lifted her ego sky high and she brought the hear aid box from inside , kept those on the small table and advised ‘Now on, never forget to wear these while going out’

It is very easy to handle women if you know how to give a small push to their ego .

Cartoon courtesy.

My cousin Ramki Kumar, the popular wedding cartoonist of Chennai

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Short poems

I long for the sun when it rains ; I long for the rains when it shines.

Whether  it shines or rains, I long for you, my moon light !


Why did you touch me, if you don’t want to hug me ?

Not to you, not to you, Death.


‘Oh, what a relief my most loving hubby! You are miles and miles away.’

‘What a pity, my most adored honey!

No ‘freight -to-pay’ courier service from here to send my heart, packed in a marble paper, to you’

‘That is OK, my Charm!. Let that non-vibrant product be safe where it is.’

‘The problem my precious gem, is that, it has become vibrant, the moment I left you’


The opposite forces, churned the ocean inside me,

Excellent output-

Divine damsels, diamonds, pearls ,

fresh fruits, fragrant flowers,

Many more. 

Everyone jumped into to share and went away with the loots!  

Then comes the venom, the ferocious dragon 

Of death and disaster, 

None present to stop the spread of the avalalanche

Of death and disaster

To explain its ferocity, have I no word.

Like a lightning from the dark, black clouds,

Neelakanta, you dropped in 

And in  a gulp, swallowed the poison,

I’m still looking for the reason! 

The Devas didn’t worry, nor the Yakshas,

Kinnaras, Gandharvas .

One woman, from the hills

Flashed in , pressed your neck

And stopped the movement down

Of the deadly poison! 

I worship that Shibhani

Who gave us back our Shiba 


A single flower can make a festival, 

A single word a poem, 

A single glance can create hope

A single woman many lives! 





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Sundarakandam is sundaram. Page 3

While treading the tedious, tormenting forests, following her husband’s steps, and even subsequently, the horrible incidents of her last day in the Palace would have been haunting Sita.

But, in captivity under the simsupa tree in the the Asoka grove of Ravana, her nightmare might have been the day of kidnapping by the demon king and her misjudgment of Lakshmana’s character and the rebukes, she showered on him.

‘How could Kaikeyi mother be so cruel to hand over the bark pieces for me to wear, she herself being a woman!’, Sita would have mused, for several days after leaving Ayodhya. ‘She cared neither for her heart-broken husband nor for the respected seniors like Sumantra and Sidhartha who pleaded with her to reconsider her arrogant and unjustified imposition to the king. She didn’t not care even for Raja Guru VasishtA’s advice.

‘There was not even a shade of change in her face,’ says the saint poet:

नैवसाक्षुभ्यते देवी न च स्म परिदूयते |

न चास्या मुखवर्णस्य विक्रिया लक्ष्यते तदा || २-३५-३७

naivasaakshubhyate devii na cha sma pariduuyate |

na chaasyaa mukhavarNasya vikriyaa lakshyate tadaa || 2-35-37

That queen Kaikeyi, however, was neither excited nor repented in her heart nor was any change observed in the colour of her face. 

Her mukhavarnam remained the same!

Once it was clear that the cruel woman would never change her imposition, the king orders to provide plenty of weapons, fighters and all materials required for a fearless and comfortable living in the forest for Rama, but even that was not agreeable to Kaikeyi.

aayudhaani cha mukhyaani naagaraaH shakaTaani cha |

anugachchhantu kaakutthsam vyaadhaashchaaraNyagocharaaH || 2-36-5

“Let important weapons, chiefs of police and vehicles, hunters knowing the secrets of forest accompany Rama(scion of Kakutsa)”

धान्य कोशः च यः कश्चित् धन कोशः च मामकः |

तौ रामम् अनुगच्चेताम् वसन्तम् निर्जने वने || २-३६-७

dhaanya koshaH ca yaH kashcit dhana koshaH ca maamakaH |

tau raamam anugacchetaam vasantam nirjane vane || 2-36-7

Let the granary and the treasury belonging to me be sent to Rama residing in the uninhabited forest.

No, even that was not acceptable to Kaikeyi.

How could Kaikeyi be so cruel ? We too wonder.

अथ चीराणि कैकेयी स्वयम् आहृत्य राघवम् |

उवाच परिधत्स्व इति जन ओघे निरपत्रपा || २-३७-६

‘Put these on,’ she told Rama to wear the bark pieces, she herself had brought shamelessly, to the gathering of men.

परिधत्स्व इति demanded Kaikeyi- ‘don these’

She, निरपत्रपा – shameless ( woman ).

Rama and Lakshmana wore the ascetic garb but Sita struggled with those when Rama helped her to wear them. 

What a treatment to the eldest daughter in law of the great Raghuvamsam! 

Sita’s leaving the palace was her decision but Kaikeyi endorsed and encouraged it. She also opposed the orders of the king to send men and materials for a comfortable living in the forest. It was a well planned strategy to keep Rama away from Ayodhya, along with his wife and most loving brother so that Bharatha’s throne is safe and secure.

A careful study of these two chapters will reveal that there was a concealed ambition in Kaikeyi’s mind to make her son the monarch by somehow sidelining Rama. Mandara became an ignition torch. Selfishness was in Kaikeyi’s blood .

For me, it looks that the palace coup was well planned in advance, in Kaikeyi’s mind.

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Rush to the sick mother

‘Gurudeva, my mother is seriously ill’

‘How old is she?’

‘Don’t know her exact age, but she will  certainly be older to me. I remember seeing her from my childhood.’

‘Intelligent boy! Hurry and take your mother’s blessings. You need it for your survival and future ‘

‘I’m going to loan the cooking skill, as wanted by my wife, before my mother kicks the bucket’

‘Your wise is not only intelligent but smart too.  The lockdown is not likely to end soon and you’ll have a skill in hand to survive and serve your wife’

‘Will my mother be angry, if I tell her the purpose?’

‘Never. In fact she will be too glad that you won’t starve, in her absence ‘

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What a lesson from my Master !

With ‘sambaram’ in hand
And Sangeetham in heart,
Bright Sun everywhere,
Kids playing around,

I was sitting in the veranda.
My children with families
Here, after many days
Festival in Baltimore home,

Though, all around Corona booms
Mind flies back to my old days
As it does often.
My old wound pains,

I turn to my Kartha.
‘It pains, my Lord!’
‘Time leaves nothing unleveled,
Gone your thorny weed,

What you have , is a cashew seed
In the Payasam, in your hand,
Bite it and walk on ‘
‘Sambaram in my hand

Not pudding, Lord !’
My Master smiles,
‘Remove the ‘kariapakku’ leaf
And enjoy the liquid!

The leaf will go, but the smell’ll stand
What else do you want?’
What a great lesson on the Gurupoornima Day!
From my Father, Guru and Master!

The leaf will go but the smell’ll stand!
I will go but my fragrance will stay !

PS- Sambaram is butter milk further diluted and flavored with coriander leaves.

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Mother Day musings Two


I remember with reverence some good women, who loved and cared me like their own child. 

My mother’s eldest sister, our Periammai, stand on the top among those. 

Parukutty Periammai, was with our family throughout my childhood. We were six kids and she spent the best of her life, helping my mother to bring us up, though she had her own small family in Vaikkom . 

It was she who introduced me to Lord Vaikkathappan, with the famous devotional kids are taught to recite at dusk before the Sandhya deepam, lamp of worship:

നരനായിങ്ങനെ ജനിച്ചു ഭൂമിയിൽ 

നരകവാരിധി നടുവിൽ ഞാൻ 

നരകത്തിൽ നിന്ന് കര കേറ്റിടേണം 

തിരു വൈയ്ക്കം വാഴും ശിവ ശംഭോ! 

ശിവ ശംഭോ ശംഭോ ശിവ ശംഭോ ശംഭോ ! 

ശിവ ശംഭോ ശംഭോ ശിവ ശംഭോ ശംഭോ !

‘I’m born as a human in this world, which is nothing but a horrible sea of sufferings. Lift me up, from this hell, Vaikkathappa!’’

‘Hell, this world !!! How ??’, I used to wonder as a child, but when I grew up, knew the reason for her prayer out of dejection;  she had  lost ten babies in stillbirth or miscarriage and only the eleventh one survived who grew well, took care of her till her last breath. She had other reasons too to cry but was smiling often and laughing loudly.

“Vaikkathappan left behind a child to cremate my body and do my anthia kriyas! Why not I rejoice and enjoy life !’, was her reply for my query how she could be always happy despite many reverses in her life ? 

She took me to Kanchi when I was a child.  It was perhaps at the Chengalpet Jn, that two village women also waiting for the train like us, enquired Periammai how I was related to her . 

She replied ‘en payyan than’ ( he is my son). That woman turning her face whispered to her companion, 

‘thaayi karuppa irukka; payyan sevappa rasa vaattam irukku!!’

A charming son like a prince for a dark skinned


‘Her husband would have been handsome like a king,’ was the reply for that.

It was true. Her husband, Venkitachalam, was a six-footer, fair skinned , with a wide chest and long hands. He was a policeman, proud and short tempered .

The casual compliment of the village woman, on the Chengalpet Jn, however, got glued to my mind, stayed there for long and I believed that I was really ‘charming like a prince’.! That delusion was almost leading to a disaster when a heavenly intervention saved me. 

This was what happened. I met and interviewed many girls to select a life partner bid didn’t find a single princess among them to match the charm of the prince viz.myself! 

Time flew and my parents thought that I was destined to remain as a life long bachelor.

Periammai was so aggressively affectionate towards me that during one of my journeys towards Kerala, along with family, when I didn’t  halt at Madras,  she came to the Madras Railway station carrying a big mud vessel full of boiled and cooled waster! You know the length of the platforms  and how difficult task it would have been for a woman of 50/60, to tread the long crowded platform , carrying a mud pot filled with water! 

She stayed with me during my bachelor days at Hyderabad and became so popular among my friends that there was a big crowd to see her off at the Secunderabad Railway station 

some women with moist eyes and some men with sad face as if they were seeing off their own relative for a distant journey.  

I think it was her love and soothing words and helping attitude towards one and all, more than her conversation or story-telling skill or prescription of home remedies  that made her so popular and dear to all my friends in a short period of a couple of months. 

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Tips for a happy mariage draft


I know that it is the husband and the wife, who have to chart out their programs and procedure for a happy marriage. Even in the earlier days, when the formal education was not wide spread, our womenfolk had the wisdom and common sense to set right things in a family, when the situations demanded. Moreover, mostly they lived in a combined family and even otherwise, suggestions and advises were forthcoming from the experienced elders, and those were welcomed and often accepted. External help was hardly sought. It is now, when the couple themselves  are better informed that they seek the help from an external agency, a paradox but a hard truth due to the complexity we managed to dump upon our lifestyle.
A tip now and then from friends and relatives might be of use to some, though I am not very sure on this aspect. Anyway, here are a few tips, collected and developed:
1. Always consult one another when making big decisions.
Both of you are equally interested in the welfare of the family and therefore, a supportive idea is bound to emerge from mutual consultation. And apart from that,  the feeling and satisfaction that ‘my opinion is sought’, strengthens the bond.
Are we not consulting our friends and colleagues? Then, why not life partners ?
‘What does she know?’ is a wrong approach. She or he might know something new or something you have forgotten.
2. Don’t compare your marriage with others’ – you don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors.
One person is never like another; one pair is never like another. We are human beings, not materials made by machines. So comparison has no meaning. You take into consideration your need, your capabilities, your resources, your demerits and then act.
Many parents have the habit of comparing their children’s performance in studies with their classmates.
“Did your son clear the IIT entrance?”. Many parents wanted to know when the results were out. When I told them, ‘no’, they were satisfied.
How can my son be like another in shape, intelligence, performance or in any respect?
‘Neighbor’s envy and owner’s pride” was a popular advertisement a few years ago.
3.Compromises are part of life. While traveling in a public transport, while driving your own car,  even while working in your own office or worshiping in a temple – at every place you have to be prepared for compromises.
In a family life, it is all the more required. Compromise is adjusting and not surrendering. You can compromise with your boss, with the man, animal or vehicle on the road but not with your spouse?
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What is a successful life ?


Maharaja Swathi Thirunal died at the young age of 33, but his achievement within that short span of life was amazing. 

His musical achievements were on par with that of the musical trinities.  He composed over 400 classical music compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani style. He learned many languages, encouraged musicians and other artists. 

He was a great ruler and administrator. He established a well-formulated code of laws, courts of justice, introduced English education, constructed an observatory, installed the first Government printing press, established the first manuscripts library in Trivandrum . 

There were many great men like him,  Adi 

Sankaracharya, Mathematician Ramanjam etc, who died young after great achievements. Other mortals can’t even dream of a small percentage of what the great men achieved. 

Their life was successful?  Yes, you will say. 

But, in a personal level, when a close relative of mine, extremely benevolent, extraordinary intelligent, died at the peak of his life and career, I DIDN’T feel that his life was successful. He grew right before my eyes. I was witness for his humanitarian activities, compassion for all living beings, but with all that, he died miserably.  

On what ground do I say his life was successful? Going by his brilliant academic or his career achievements or the palatial houses he built or the love and affection he showered on his family? 

For me and his mother, it would have been enough had he scored average marks in studies and lived with minimum facilities, but lived long. 

We would have, then called his life as successful. 

What is the purpose of living for a hundred years, without name and fame and without enjoying the pleasures of life, you may ask.

That creates another question what is enjoyment ? Are not passing exams creditably and holding coveted positions, causes for enjoyment? You may ask. 

Btw, one thing I want to tell you. I had no courage to meet, face to face, the mother of the boy mentioned above. After a long gap of more than a year, when I gathered courage and met her, I didn’t console her with the words:

‘His life was successful. So, don’t worry’

No I didn’t say that. 

As a coward, I took shelter under an oft quoted one word- Vidhi ( Fate ) 

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Mystic smiles


We have a beautiful central park in our Habsiguda colony, close to my house, perhaps the best in the Twin Cities. The senior members of the colony, mostly retired Professors, Scientists and others , all in the twilight of their life, all with some health problems or other, may be minor but get exaggerated while mentioning, all having good credit balance in their bank account, but still grumbling, assemble there in evenings. 

 I happened to be in their company, one evening. A lady was passing through wearing a colorful sari. Purely out of inquisitiveness and ignorance, I asked the person sitting next to me: ‘Eamandi, athu Dharmavarama, Kancheevarama?’

Is it Dharmavaram silk or Kancheepuram silk(she wears)?’

Anything wrong in that ? But, a person sitting at the end of the bench, shouted at me, 

‘Vaayai moodum. Athu antha varavum illai, intha varavum illai. Ennodu Varam, ennodu samsaram’.

Polite translation in short : ‘shut up your mouth! She is not DharmAvaram, not Kanchipuram. She is my boon, my wife. 

(Please note that my comment was not about the woman but about her sari and he had no business to ask me to keep quiet, though she was his wife ) 

I never expected the presence of a Tamil speaking  mama, there. He had landed in our colony, while I was away. 

‘I’m sorry, mama’, I said, ‘your boon is my boon too’, 

I replied with a smile. 

‘What!’, he got up from his seat, ‘tomorrow you’ll say, my wife is your wife, ngaa?’

‘Never will I,  Sir, never. Your wife is your wife and will be your wife always’

He was satisfied.

Kasturi Iyengar is his name. A nice man. We became friends. Next day, he took me to his house and introduced me to his wife:

‘He is the one who complemented your sari, yesterday, in our Harithavanam Park’

It was a wrong way to introduce an old man, to one’s wife, but I didn’t say a word. I was scared that his wife would stare at me in contempt or even ask me to quit. No, she didn’t. In fact, her face turned to a Deepavali night.

‘After leaving the college, no one has commented on my sari. Pl. come inside mama, please’, invited the kind lady. Her husband didn’t appreciate the warm welcome she offered, to a stranger. 

‘Komlam, actually he doesn’t deserve your appreciation as he didn’t appreciate your sari. He doesn’t even know the difference between silk and cotton. Yesterday, you were in fact wearing an ordinary cotton sari and he was enquiring what type of silk it was!’.  Ha, ha! 

He laughed. I thought laughing was OK, but why so loudly? 

I wanted to answer his laugh with a short explanation to the lady, lest she might think, I visit park only to comment on women’s wear. 

‘Whether it was a cotton or silk sari, madam, you looked gorgeous in that dress. You looked Fantastic! you looked amazing! It not the apparel but the person who donned it shone before my eyes and is shining before me, even know’

They lady was spellbound; her husband started shivering with anger.

‘Mama, you like laddu or Jangiri? I will prepare tomorrow, ’ You look like Regan (Lord Ranganatha) in standing pose’ 

I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. Could a woman be so kind to a stranger! Is she exaggerating my appearance or do I really look like Lord Ranganatha! 

‘Jangiri’, I replied in a soft tone. When I speak to women, usually, my voice turns mellifluous.

Mr. Kasturi leapt before me, like a predator before its prey.

‘You think my wife was a charakku master, chef, in hotel Saravanabhava?’, he fumed.

‘Laddu is easier for me to make, mama’, said Mrs.K .

‘Welcome. Whatever is convenient to you, Mami. Even a cup of coffee from your hands, with love, will be a boon for me’

‘OK, give him coffee with no sugar and pack him off’, her husband didn’t like her ultra hospitality to me. 

‘Mr. K, all sweets are same’, I replied in the tone of a philosopher and then turning to his wife added: ‘all women

 are women but your woman is a class by herself’.

Mrs. K’s face became the New York Central Park, in the Autumn . And Mr. K’s face was like Agni nakshatram summer days, in Palakkad.

I continued,

‘Mami, you are a sweet lady. You are a kind lady. Whatever you give me will be sweet, for me, as your words are sweet, your heart is sweet, your thoughts are sweet’

‘Let us fall at his feet and take his blessings’, Mami invited her hubby to join her. ‘He seems to be a blessed soul. Saraswathy Devi stays on his tongue. See his face. It is glowing’.

K. didn’t, probably, see any glow in my face.  Unwilling to stay there for another minute, he moved towards gate, from where Ammalu, was entering screaming at me, ‘where did you vanish good-for-nothing old man? I was searching for you in every corner of the park’

‘Mama, who is this woman abusing you?’, enquired anxiously the laddu lady.

‘All women abuse me madam. That is my Fate. You’re the only one who are kind to me’

K. Came back and wanted to kick me out and Ammalu wanted to punch my nose, but the sweet laddu lady smiled at me.

‘Don’t think she is smiling at you in sympathy, warned K. She is watching whether you’ll be bold, in the presence  of your wife, to praise her, as you were doing from the moment you entered’.

Hearing that Ammalu smiled. 

Seeing her smile, Mrs.K too smiled.

Who can decipher the width and depth of the smiles of women?

I sang:

I can fly up or dip deep

To learn the sky’s width and ocean’s depth.

But to know the secret of a woman’s smile

I should be born again and again

And ask about her wear 

(not when her hubby is near!)