Author: Dr. Sharmila Adhikary, Akashvani Drama Section Artist in Hindi/Urdu, 21+ years, English Lecturer, 27+ years in Mumbai
In my growing years, Dad was a regular smoker, I noted. A better quality brand and costlier than others was his favorite cigarette between his lips, which was a norm to be seen in the house. In those days, the harm that smoking could do, was not as common knowledge as it is today. In fact it was even, to an extent, a style statement for some. We sisters were all for Dad smoking- it made him that special. If he ever ran short of a packet, he would ask us to run to the shop for one, and we would oblige him without complaining. This happened even in the midst of our hide-and-seek game with friends in the evening.
Our man was not limited, however, to cigarettes. Chooroots, cigars, bidis and even roll-on tobacco within bits of paper, were all in his lot. His friends, including foreigners who were heads of institutions in the town, gifted him with imported cigars. One such friend was Father Proust, Principal of St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi. I would note, a single cigar would come in a tin case by itself. I remember curiously watching my Dad clean his pipe that he had brought with himself on his way back from abroad. He had a bunch of cleaning scoops of all sizes, to help him at it. To add to that an age-old hookah was discovered in our ancestral home, during one of our visits there. That hookah fascinated him the most, we observed. It was called, colloqually “gud-guda”, as the tobacco smoke came filtered through water making a sound of the bubbles, and hence the name. However, it needed constant live charcoal at the top which my elder sister refilled now and then.
Smoking like a chimney was going on thus, when all of a sudden, the moment of enlightenment dawned on him. He decided to give up smoking once and for all!! This was something unimaginable. When I asked him why, he said, they had no effect on him anymore-so much so that, he would light up in spite of having one already between his lips! He further went on to say that it was an added expenditure, which could be done away with; what with his growing children and their mounting expenses he felt.
A new year resolution to stop smoking was taken up. Now no more fagging, he decided. After a few days he was irritable and snappy. He was given to short temper as such and my mother noticed this. She attributed his present dissatisfaction to his giving up of smoking. Giving him a packet of cigarettes, she suggested it was better that he smoked as he would be in a better frame of mind. Woe alas! Resolutions are made to be broken, I thought with a sigh. Smoking was resumed with a bang.
The months went by and the year end came and went. Winters were severe where we stayed and we would crowd in the kitchen for dinner as it was warm and cozy there. One night after dinner Dad asked us if we noted any change in him. Unable to guess we looked at him askance when he revealed he had not smoked at all, for the last few days, that new year. It was January and more than a week had gone by. It took us a while for the news to sink in. This time he was serious. Remember the song “mushkil nahi hai kuch bhi agar thaan lijiye”.
This time round it went on for a few months. One afternoon, he came home with a cigarette pack in his hand. Now now, what was this?! When we asked he explained, that just by chance he had found a packet lying on the ground and just picked it up. He was not going to smoke after all. There were moments with his friends when he had to decline when someone offered him a cig. He kept up his promise and never ever smoked again. His strong determination was worthy of praise. We all watched this with surprise and admiration. Life is like a cigarette- begins with a flash and ends in ash. Dad’s smoking also ended and he finally became a non-smoker for the rest of his life.
He had a long and happy life till he left us at the ripe age of 90+ a few years back.