Roll Sound, Camera, Action!
Slowly behind the camera the giant of a man and his tall frame emerges, erect and slim. A frail cigarette dangling on his lips. You look into his face and recognise him instantly, the enigmatic versatile genius, Satyajit Ray. Magical images of Pather Panchali (song of the road) and Apu trilogy shapes up in that cloudy smoke coming out from his cigarette.
We leave those beautiful memories behind and come to more recent times. Perhaps at one of the most happening Malls in Kolkata. A new Feluda movie had viralled on the theatres. Prodosh Chandra Mitra or our beloved Feluda, the charismatic private detective is in deep thoughts .Another iconic creation by the great man talked above .As the mystery slowly unfolds in his rich brain, he smokes his beloved Charminar. And after a series of Charminar done, the villain is undone, audience overwhelmed.
Bengal is the land of intellectuals. It always was. And when intellectuals are there, how can smokes be far. Creativity and intellectuality had been embodied magnificently in those slim paper rolls. Girls love you with that slim thing dangling from the end of your mouth. And slowly it had turned into a domestic fashion. Every second person you see on the road, at office, at restaurants, at bars does smoke –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 those angelic intellectuals. How united they all looked with their fags. Those dreamy television scenes! Looked as though my Hero was completely incomplete without it. I was too excited to start. 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 into glory. The glory of opaque clouds. I coughed, I cursed. But I continued.
Slowly as I entered my college-hood days, I felt deeply happy. For almost everyone was like minded. In one thing atleast.United in their choice of smoking. United in agreement that this was the unique solution to all our adolescent problems. From Neruda lovers to TeniDa lovers. From the canteen boy to electronics Engg first boy. From professors to latrine cleaners. Almost everyone. Except a few gym-goers and frantically athletic ones. We sidelined them, calling that body isn’t everything. You need to activate your drooping brain cells with that grey cloud. Girls appreciated. They felt it was manly. To smoke, I mean. We felt it was manly. To make them feel it, I mean. ‘Counter’ was the catchword. As Navy Cut-s through our still fresh lungs, we kept on enjoying. Movies magically portrayed them. The best of the brains were always shown smoking on the idiot box. 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 during Stone Age, was 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 few lungs disease, a few breathing problems, a few fallouts 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 .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 over. Roktim was detected with lung cancer, Sujit with severe gastritis problems. All credited to our beloved friend for long. Roktim left smoking but little life was left with him. Sujit still suffers from the prolonged drought of gastric ulcer. He had even left his favourite mutton Biriyani and now engages himself only in boiled vegetables. Still, we were unfazed. And also the world around us. We continued our dedicated devotion to our slim friend. Who went up in smoke with a kiss and fire.
Girls changed. I mean their vision about smoking. Now, as they softly tread into our lives as wives, the once manly thing became polluting. Corroding. Disturbing. Unhealthy. And thousand other dictums. We were surprised, how contradictory! Domestic skirmishes continued. Till some old fighters of the smoke gave up their lighters.
I tried many a times unsuccessfully to quit. Once and for all! It pains 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, the young minds are continuously attracted to the whims of the silent killer. Truly, it’s a silent killer. Since you never know that with each fag and each puff, it’s killing you day in and day out. Office pressures, exam pressures will always be there. And even with thousand fags you can’t use your grey cells more. Nicotine is better an insecticide than to make a permanent abode in your head. Movies will keep on continuing showing your favourite hero smoking on screen. Your favourite writer thinking deeply on his easy chair with a fag in his hand. Your favourite rock star emerging from the ethereal smoky clouds. Imitate their good habits, enjoy their brilliance, cultivate their creativity.
But do say farewell to fags!