Sometime around in 2009, my wonderful roommate and visionary introduced me to the world of smoking.
Of course, I was roughly aware of the concept of smoking by the time I was four years old. My father had recently returned from Austria, and I could hardly take my eyes off the sweet smelling blue-gold boxes of 555s that lay invitingly on the living room table.
“What sorcery is this?” I wondered, as the grownups drew long white candies from the beautifully crafted box and stuck them in their mouths. “Those traitors,” I fumed inside, clearly upset that they had kept such delights from a child. I watched, intrigued, as they proceeded to light them up, blowing out sweet, twirling puffs of smoke that rose gently to the ceiling and disappeared. “Must get me one of those!” I muttered, smarting at the blatant injustice.
A few minutes later, when the smoke had cleared and the grownups had left the room, I proceeded with the precision of a lemur, towards the box. “The greedy bastards,” I thought, “Devoured each and every one of them” as I shook the empty box desperately, praying that a candy would fall out. I had almost lost all hope, when I noticed the smouldering bit in the glistening glass tray. Without any further ado, I snatched my prize, leaned back on the couch and inhaled like a drowning man who had resurfaced for a life-affirming breath.
As I rolled about on the floor in inexpressible anguish, discharging smoke from my teary eyes, ears, mouth and nose like a furious little teapot, my parents walked into the room and their smiles quickly vanished.
Needless to say, the boxes disappeared for a long time after that.
Until about 2009, when the cigarettes reappeared in my life. I was in the sophomore year of college, having recently survived an onslaught that lasted seven months and three hundred slaps. I was finally, in the words of my seniors, “An exemplary adult.” My pocket money had recently seen an increment, the conversations with my family had shortened and my grades had taken a tumble. As such, there were going to be ramifications. My home closely began to resemble the Delhi airport, as the mandatory baggage checks doubled. I managed to slip between the fingers of my parents each time – mouth fresheners and concealed compartments in my bag doing the trick each time.
So there I was, enjoying a well-earned summer break – having barely made passing grade in Mathematics. The air was warm and very still, the clouds floated like tassels against the crimson of the setting sun. The green of our garden had given way to a pale yellow, and the trees slouched tiredly. The reluctant cows milled around aimlessly – their cracked, bent guardian hobbled behind them with his thin stick. I was soaking in this quaint view of my small town, when I became vaguely aware of the sweet aroma of cigarette smoke around me.
I turned around calmly to find my mother’s stoic face, drawing regal puffs and staring out into the sunset. Her persistence had finally paid dividends. I quickly went over all possible excuses and realised that it was immaterial to try and salvage the situation. We were both quiet, for a very long time. Eventually I muttered, “Easy there. Those things come at eight bucks a piece.”
Her passive aggressive brand of teaching me a lesson, had clearly backfired.
As I have grown older and wiser, I have begun exercising greater caution with my bag and its contents. Even though she still gravitates towards my bag like a firefly to fire, it’s highly unlikely she would take to the contents very kindly, now that my beautiful girlfriend and I have been together for over four years.
I couldn’t possibly tell though. She’s naturally gifted when it comes to pulling a poker face.
“I don’t have to tell you two. You are grown-ups now.”