Okamura-san’s Smile

I was a fledgling GIS engineer assigned in Makati for an engineering support project for a couple of months when I saw Okamura-san for the first time. We never talked, really. He was involved in another project. But the energy of the office was supercharged with the Japanese workers’ strong work ethic. They work really long hours and do their best to get things done. It’s one of those projects where I experienced working an entire 24-hour shift and begging off from attending a meeting the following morning for my sanity. It’s like that with them. It’s normal. Overtime is to be expected.

I credit the entire Japanese team of workers for being exceptionally hardworking. But I single out Okamura-san because he had a pleasant and light aura. He was unlike most of them. He was not intense or uptight or stern with people. He is one of those people who seems to light up a room. He constantly wears this pleasant smile on his face and even when they talk in a language I do not really understand, I felt like this person makes the world a much better place simply by his existence. Not the same can be said for most people. He looked like he was someone’s very reliable brother. I used to think that maybe if I had an older brother, I’d like for him to be like that. I did not see him in a romantic way, really, but it was more of deep respect with the pleasant calmness that he seems to emanate naturally. I envy him for having that gift, even.

Imagine my shock when days after the horrible Bangladesh torture and killings last Saturday, I saw his photo and his name in the list of victims reported by The New York Times. I imagine that their consultancy development team was just unwinding in that Dhaka cafe after an entire week of back-bending work. In the picture reporting his unfortunate demise, he was wearing that smile that I remember him wearing in real life a few years back. He was alive, breathing, smiling ever so nicely to people and just being his pleasant self. I cannot really imagine the life permanently snuffed out of him, and in the most brutal way.

In my head, I only continue to remember that smile and it eludes me how someone so pleasant can have such a brutal end in the hands of complete strangers who probably do not even know him. What has the world come to now? 

The most disturbing part of it was that it was not even a stereotypical terrorist killing. They were tortured and killed because they were non-Bengalis. There were 7 Japanese men and 9 Italian men in that cafe. The elitist killers decided to let go of the Bengali natives and assured them that they will only be killing foreigners that fateful night. I have friends who work in development projects like these and they get deployed in different areas. Now, it makes me shudder to think that they are not safe, that they may be potential targets like him.

Thank you for your smile, Okamura-san. It was nice to have seen you wear that smile. Despite this harrowing tragedy, I choose to remember you wearing that smile on your face and I pray that your soul finds eternal rest along with the other victims unjustly tortured and murdered for the most senseless of reasons.