Holy Smoke for the liberated
I started smoking at the tender age of twenty-one. And initially, like any other smoker who has just been initiated, I could not have cared less about the people around me who may or may not have found the proximity of a burning cigarette a pleasant experience. Gradually this disdain changed, however, into something more concrete as callous insensitivity gave way to a rebellious outlook.
It started with the Government deciding that smoking in public places and public transports was not to be allowed any more. Why not? Because tobacco causes cancer, apparently. Because out of some three thousand smokers tested by doctors, 261 had cancer while out of another group of three thousand (non-smokers this time), only 147 had cancer. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge and/or respect for statistics (or even common sense) will decide not to waste time by laughing at such “research”. But the Indian government had thought otherwise (not very surprising since there not a single educated person in the entire ministry).
Anyway, this post is not about this law. It is not even about why I oppose it (the more than 200% rise in oral cancer rates in California since the ban on public smoking is certainly not a good argument). I am simply going to narrate what happened to me a few months ago:
I was walking down the street with my younger brother, who is 16, to a shop about a quarter of an hour away from our home. On the way, a red Suzuki vehicle stops by my side. The person who shows his face once the tinted glass slides down is a middle-aged man from the southern parts of India who resides across the street. When he saw a burning cigarette in my hand, he — as is the nature of benevolent humans who are too weak to improve themselves — decided to instruct me on propriety, moral conduct, and probably a few other things under the sun. Let me refer to him as uncle as I attempt to reproduce the relevant parts of the conversation.
Uncle: Since when have you started smoking Ritwik?
Ritwik: I started this about two years ago.
Uncle: But you should not smoke. It is not good for your health.
Ritwik: Uncle, I am a regular practitioner of hatha yoga. Whatever harm this tiny cigarette can do, is nullified by five minutes of yoga. The old yogis who roam around naked in the biting cold of the Himalayan winter are living proof of this. They smoke a lot more than tobacco, and still remain healthier than anybody I have known in my urban life.
Uncle: They are people of God. Don’t compare yourself with them. (my thoughts: “are you calling me Satan’s son?”) What will your parents say when they find out?
Ritwik: Nothing. Because they cannot find out. Because I told them the day I started smoking — I don’t hide anything from them.
Uncle: (he’s quite angry by now . . . his stoic face has swollen up a little, and his volume has risen a bit) Well, to be honest, you can go ahead and ruin your health. But when your brother is next to you, you should not. When you smoke in public, you are putting the people around you at risk. I don’t know how you manage to calmly smoke in front of a little boy like your brother.
Without waiting for my reply, he drove off. Till the time I could see his car, it would have puffed out more smoke than my two years of smoking could have done.
I write this down in the blog because this incident made me realize that some habits or ways of living are easy targets, and people, in order to provide an illusion of moral fibre, pick on them. Those very same people live in a way that is far more harmful to others around them.
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life perspective morality habits smoking anti-smoking lifestyle