Holy Smoke for the liberated

July 20, 2007 at 9:37 am 20 comments

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.

smoke.jpg . . . . . . . . . . _41158977_exhaust203.jpg

Entry filed under: anti-smoking, habits, humour, life, lifestyle, perspective. Tags: , .

To a tear drop First Meetings

20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. enreal  |  July 20, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    This article is so true, in part of life’s lessons, it explores another fine human freedom, the right to complain. For no other reason but what you said…

    “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.”

    Reply: If I walk down the street and I see three goons bullying a small kid, would I not want to stop them from doing so? In a similar fashion, I want to stop the big-wigs to stop picking on this habit of smoking. The kid may be a nasty prock, but s/he is still a kid! I am glad you liked my view in this article.

  • 2. S. Khan  |  July 20, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    Hah…. brilliant.

    Reply: Thank you! πŸ™‚

  • 3. tuttysan  |  July 21, 2007 at 5:46 am

    I am of a different view. I could care less who smokes and who doesn’t, as long as they’re not smoking next to me. The very smell of cigarettes seems to close my bronchial passage and make my body ready for breakdown, much like the smell of perfume.

    I do find it funny that you should mention the yogis who have all sorts of “bad habits”. I happen to know a California yogi who smokes pot and drinks beer like there’s no tomorrow. He also deprives himself of sleep way too much for my standards and I can attest that the guy looks and feels wonderfully.

    Reply: The allusion to yogis was not meant to be funny. I was absolutely serious when I said that they have what we commonly understand to be bad habits and yet they remain healthier by far. It was merely an illustration that these habits or lifestyles cannot be regarded as a reason for various diseases based on senseless statistics. You just agreed with me by saying that the yogi looks and feels wonderfully. πŸ™‚
    I understand that there many who will find the smell of cigarette smoke irritable. That is why I drew a parallel between that and automobile exhaust. I personally find the latter quite unpleasant. But, if I say something like “please don’t drive past me”, not as a matter of argument but quite meaningfully, people are going to laugh at me because automobiles is a lifestyle adopted by the majority. My point is this: exactly as the population of most countries cannot imagine life without automobiles because they have it as a natural habit, smokers cannot imagine not smoking because they are a similar habit. The only difference is that the former habit is so intrinsically accepted that we don’t even take such arguments seriously.

  • 4. harmonie22  |  July 21, 2007 at 6:46 am

    Love this post!
    Serious yet hilarious (the whole dialogue- it just sounds so familiar). I needed a good laugh I have been way too serious and knee deep in human tragedy lately and thoughts on how to change the world.

    Unfortunately, I am a smoker too. I want to quit (again) but keep telling myself ‘tomorrow.’ Really, it is an ugly nasty habit that I love. I quit for a few months last year and like an idiot went back. All it takes is just one cigarette.

    Health reasons and vanity aside (it ruins your skin- hey I’m a woman after all), when you stop smoking your sense of smell returns and you suddenly realize how much you stank like an ashtray to everyone else but yourself.

  • 5. harmonie22  |  July 21, 2007 at 6:49 am

    BTW what is hatha yoga? I know of kriya yoga but have not heard of this one before. Thanks.

    Reply: I have no idea what kriya yoga is . . . I follow yogic practices according to the old school, if I may call it so. There are several adjectives associated with the practice of yoga nowadays in the west and many people have proposed their own versions of this ancient science. Hatha Yoga is one type of yoga where it is believed that the individual soul (jeevaatmaa)can be united to the greater soul (paramaatmaa) purely through physical processes. The diligence of mind is supposed to come automatically out of the physical practices.

  • 6. Shyma  |  July 21, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Thanks for the brilliant post Ritwik. BTW i am a smoker too, but make it a point not to smoke when any non smoker is around and oh, i drive an ‘eco fiendly” car. Now why do i feel so much better about this after reading your post? πŸ™‚

    Reply: I guess you feel good because this post is applause to people like you who have an honesty about their sensitivity. It is not a mere pretense for you. I am glad you liked this Shyma!

  • 7. lunara  |  July 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Hi, thank you for your visit in my blog.. i enjoy your comment.. i really like your point of view…
    Thanks a lot.., i have a new painting if you like to see it..
    warm regards..

    Reply: Thank you for your kind comments Lunara. Your passion is painting and I, unfortunately, understand nothing about painting. I think I will be troubling you with senseless questions all the time . . . would you put up with that? πŸ˜›

  • 8. antisocialist  |  July 21, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    My friend, since you’re on the subject of smoking and statistics, I thought you may very well be interested in a rather sobering statistic I recently read: new studies confirm beyond the shadow of any doubt that, in general, heavy women have better sex than thin women. Apparently, the only drawback, according to the study, is that when heavy women finish having sex they like to roll over and smoke a ham.

    Listen, I finally posted something at the-antisocialist which might be of some interest to a noetic, poetic soul such as yourself: “The Waitress.” It’s my latest installment under the Americana files.

    Thank you for always keeping it relevant.

    Reply: Will be there in a jiffy for the waitress! πŸ™‚ By the way, the Firefox dictionary tells me that noetic should be poetic!

  • 9. antisocialist  |  July 21, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    P.S. I forgot to mention how much I like the title of this post.

  • 10. harmonie22  |  July 21, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    Amazing. Now I want to learn Hatha Yoga. Kriya yoga is a phrase I picked up from Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s book “Autobiography of a Yogi.” It’s a type of meditation practice that focuses on the inner eye to facilitate spiritual evolution. He attributes it to some verses in the Bhagavad Gita (I don’t have my books with me or else I would tell you where exactly).

    By the way, I think you have a beautiful culture and tradition. I’m a big fan of Vedic philosophy.

    Reply: Hey! I have the book Autobiography of a yogi. I should read it asap and lessen the burden of my ignorance a little bit. πŸ™‚

  • 11. Paul Knopfler  |  July 22, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Me thinks thou is full of nicotine. Smoke very good.Me smoke Marlboro and marijuana. Eat peyotl. Read Italo Svevo.

  • 12. Janice Thomson  |  July 22, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    When one learns to look beyond what a man is or what he is not he will have acquired wisdom and true freedom. Whether smoking is bad or not, each one will determine this in his/her own mind. You make a valid point in regards to exhaust fumes, and ‘uncle’ has forgotten to take the log out of his own eye before commenting on yours.

    Reply:forgotten to take the log out of his own eye before commenting on yours“. True. And I have found this so often, so frequently in my brief life of twenty-three years that it has begun to have a nauseating effect on me. I find that in most contemporary societies (I refuse to use the word modern), the ability that you speak of — to determine his/her own mind — cannot be exercised. Such freedom of thought and expression is no longer there.

  • 13. Magari  |  July 23, 2007 at 9:44 am

    Is it just me or is the consistency of hypocrisy amongst human kind a little boring as of late? No one can claim perfection for it only exists in the eye of the beholder. I just giggle on the inside :p Sometimes a little louder than some people probably wish, but oh well. At least im having fun.

    Loved the post. The title really drew me in. Im another smoker of various products and I have to say I can’t agree more.

    Reply: I am glad you liked it! Although I do believe that there exists an absolute idea of perfection, I also believe that I have not met a single person who honestly strives to attain it.

  • 14. Magari  |  July 23, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Right. I don’t disagree that the idea of perfection does not exist. I do believe however each individual sees and experiences it in their own way. This unique experience is independent of the word perfection and the generalized definition of what perfection is “supposed” to mean.

    “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

    Trash and treasure only exist in the mind of the observer after the individual has had the initial experience. All reality is filtered through our unique perception of the world.

  • 15. devilsworkshop  |  July 28, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Do you not think that “uncle” had a point?

    Reply: Yes, he had a point. I am not denying that. But I am also saying that while he insists on the bad influences of my habits on others (in this case, my brother), he wishes not to see the worse influence that his lifestyle has on others around him.


  • 16. devilsworkshop  |  August 4, 2007 at 7:07 am

    well…….u have a point too now. its even. πŸ˜€

    Reply: Hee hee πŸ™‚ yesh yesh it ish even!

  • 17. nixam  |  August 5, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    smoke man.. till u are dead smoking or doin yoga, whatever..
    but dont smoke in public…

    and dont give a great pic abt the california oral cancer… read the full view…

    the battle is lost really … in days to come it would be much easier being a gay(sad) than smoking in public…


    just get used to it…

    Reply: I know the battle is lost. I am simply angry at such an unfair affair. The news link that you sent me says that 73% of the population wants the ban . . . but 27% is a huge percentage to ignore. Don’t you think so? Getting used to it is not so easy. If I was on the winning side of this “battle”. You would have been the one getting used to it. Funny world, isn’t it?

  • 18. nixam  |  August 7, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    hmmm funny world… if u take a poll

    “would you like to kill your colleague??” you might get really crazy data.. πŸ˜›

    would you go by it??

    interestingly think about polls like

    “would you kill just one person?? if thats not gonna be counted as illegal :P”

    Reply: Let me write this not as an answer or retaliation to this comment, but as an overview of our conversation on this issue. From your reply to my comment on your blog, I understand that we both understand the other perspective. Morality is such a complex issue. One never knows where to draw the line between freedom and anarchy. Perhaps there is no single correct answer to this. Personally, I never smoke in crowded places or where older people are around (like in a park in the morning when the elderly are indulging in morning walks.), but I sort of started supporting the radical pro-smoking front as soon as so many countries across the world started banning the activity. It was, and still is, a reaction. I admitted that in the article itself.
    As I said just now, my stance is a reaction, not free thought.

  • 19. nixam  |  August 10, 2007 at 4:55 am

    well… regarding a shared area(public place), specifically a place built using public tax, i guess we can get to make decision by taking one single rule…

    “does an activity cause annoyance to another person? ban it”

    that way banning smoking in pubs is plan nonsense…

    personally i hate too much philosophy, at least when it comes to decision making.. because then u can NEVER arrive at a conclusion… a decision cannot ever satisfy everybody…

  • 20. exsmoker  |  October 1, 2007 at 3:25 am

    Hello All,

    I was reading around some of the posts here and I found interesting things that you guys talk about, I just made a blog about quitting smoking resources and ideas that you might want to check out.
    If someone is interested in this topic just go to; http://endthehabitnow.blogspot.com and let me know what you think. Your honest feedback would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.


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