Slowly from behind the camera, the giant of a man and his tall, slim frame emerges. A cigarette dangling close to his lips. You recognise him instantly.. the enigmatic versatile genius, Satyajit Ray. Magical images of Pather Panchali and Apu trilogy shapes up in that cloud of smoke.
Or take a new Feluda movie with Prodosh Chandra Mitra or our beloved Feluda. Yes, the charismatic private detective in deep thoughts. Another iconic creation by the great man spoken of earlier .As the mystery slowly unfolds in his rich brain, he smokes his beloved Charminar. And after a few Charminars are done, the villain is undone, the audience overwhelmed.
Can smoking these slim paper rolls and intellect be confused for each other? Do girls really love you for that cigarette dangling from the end of your mouth? Every second person you see on the road, at office, at restaurants, at bars smokes –even if he or she is distantly related to creativity. Emaciated people, obese people, rich people, poor people, CPM, Trinamool have one thing in common- they all smoke here, in Bengal.
I don’t exactly remember when I joined the smoking club. Perhaps, quite young. Perhaps, quite attracted by the smoking intellectuals. So excited was I to start that I gladly condemned my father who had been a non-smoker all throughout his life. An exception doesn’t make a rule, I told myself. And then I smoked to glory. The glory of nicotine clouds. I coughed, I cursed. But I continued.
As I entered my college days, I felt deeply happy. For almost everyone was like-minded. In one thing atleast.United in their choice to smoke. United in agreement that this was the unique solution to all our adolescent problems. From Neruda lovers to Teni Da lovers. From the canteen boy to the aspiring electronic engineer. From professors to sweepers. Almost everyone. Except a few gym-goers and frantically athletic ones. We sidelined them, saying that the body isn’t everything. You need to activate your drooping brain cells with that grey cloud. Girls appreciated us. They felt it was manly. To smoke, I mean. We felt it was manly. The movies conveyed so. Television portrayed so. Slowly, the rule became an addiction. And addiction became necessity. Till things started falling out of place.
I, who once had won a medal in 600- metre race was now panting like a dog after running less than 50 metre. My friends were not far behind. So, I felt whatever happens, happens to all. A lung disease, a few breathing problems, a few fall-outs here and there. Hardly noticeable though, because by now almost every noticeable person smoked. I read it somewhere, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’. We were not killed by God’s grace by now . So we were definitely stronger. We believed that we are intellectuals. Creative human beings. Who smoked. But hardly created anything. Surprisingly, our beloved Anup Da who sold country liquor also thought the same. That he was a creative person, while sending rings of smoke in the air. We trusted him.
But slowly as years passed by and we ripened, our reverie looked painfully past its prime. Roktim was diagnosed with lung cancer, Sujit with severe gastritis. All credit to our beloved friend of long. Roktim left smoking but it was already too late. Sujit still suffers from the prolonged agony of gastric ulcer. He has even given up his favourite mutton Biriyani and now allows himself only boiled vegetables. Still, we were unfazed. We continued with our devotion to our slim friend.
But the girls changed. I mean their ideas about smoking. Now, as they softly treaded into our lives as wives, the once manly habit became polluting. Corroding. Disturbing. Unhealthy. And thousand other negative things. We were surprised, how contradictory! Domestic skirmishes continued. Till some old fighters gave up their lighters.
I tried many a times unsuccessfully to quit. Once and for all! And today it pains me to see that even with the growing consciousness about cancer and other tobacco related diseases, every second or third person you meet during your day, still smokes. And what’s more painful is that the young minds are continuously attracted to the glamour of the silent killer. Truly, it’s a silent killer. Since you never know that each puff is killing you day in and day out. Office pressures, exam pressures will always be there. And even with thousand fags you can’t activate your grey cells or energise your life. Movies will keep on showing your favourite heroes smoking on screen. Your favourite writer thinking deeply in his easy chair with a cigarette in his hand. Your favourite rock star emerging from the ethereal smoky clouds. SO, imitate the good in your heroes, enjoy their brilliance, cultivate their creativity but without the deadly prop. Say farewell to addiction. Because once the smoke curtain parts, it is usually curtain time.
Saptarshi Basu is a gold medallist in mechanical engineering and has worked in the IT industry for the last eight years. However, writing has always been his first love, his passion. His debut novel-Love (Logic) and the God’s Algorithm is now a national best seller in Infibeam, a premier online store. His second novel, Autumn In My Heartwas published by Vitasta Publishing with Times Group in November’11. He maintains a blog http://saptak-firsttry.blogspot.in/ and writes screenplays for movies and columns for some online magazines.