Teenage tantrums weren’t taking me anywhere in the social circles no matter how much I tried to fit in with the crowd. It was like being the right piece in the wrong jigsaw puzzle. So one fine afternoon, after spending the entire morning in my JEE coaching class, I decided to do something which would instantly (I’d like to believe that) propel me into super-popularity.
I tucked my unused H.C. Verma and I.E. Irodov (I’d just bought these books for symbolic significance and to please my parents) under my perspiring armpits and walked along to a nearby shanty.
Which housed a man selling various Paan-Masala packs with obscure models on the cover, sweet-smelling imported (he claimed he “imported” from Benaras) betel leaves – the Paan and of course those clear, glass jars with sweet candies which could be found only there and in no FDI invested retail store.
However, those weren’t the things I wanted. There was something behind him that caught my eye- stacks of cigarette packs.
Yes, in my puerile understanding of life I realized that smoking would probably work well for me.
My First Smoke
However, I didn’t know the name of any cigarette brands, didn’t know how much it would cost and most of all I didn’t know how to.
But did I panic? Not even once.
As I stood there contemplating my next course of action, a man walked in front of me and asked for a “Goldflake”. I looked at the candy jars trying to understand which of the candies were golden in color.
Just then, the shop owner pulled out a cigarette and handed it to the man.
It was a defining moment. A sign.
I had to buy this golden-flaked cigarette as well (mainly because it was the only name I knew).
I walked up confidently, looked into the shopkeeper’s eyes (Eye of the Tiger remix by T-Pain and Lil Wayne playing in my head) cocked my head to one side (by now the shopkeeper had already started reaching for the candy jar. What a fool) and asked for a “Goldflake” as well.
He looked at me indecisively, shrugged, and pulled one out, and passed it to me.
I held it in my hand, reached for my wallet with the other, and not knowing how much this would cost (considering the name I had believed there’d be gold dust in it, just like Shehnaz Hussain beauty products) I handed one hundred rupees to him.
He looked at me strangely and paid me the balance. For a second I thought he’d just given me a hundred back in notes of the twenties and tens and coins, till I realized that he’d given me ninety-seven back.
Oh! How inexpensive it was, I felt so much better.
Inhale or Exhale?
Now came the difficult part of lighting the cigarette. Not wanting to burn my lips, I took it out of my mouth, examined which end would have to be lit, and decided that I’d take the risk.
I held it in one hand and lit it with the other. Yes, I was cool like that you see. I put it back in my mouth and this was it.
One moment I was good-for-nothing, unpopular with no friends, and after this one puff, I’d be the Queen Bee, the social butterfly, and other such popular animal euphemisms.
I inhaled with the cigarette between my lips, puffed up my mouth like a fish, and blew out the smoke.
No coughing, no burning, no nothing.
Yes! The smoke had never actually been inhaled because to me the whole point of smoking seemed to be to blow out large quantities of smoke like an aging Ambassador.
I repeated this till the cigarette was halfway over. However, there was a problem.
I had no idea about the need to tap the ash off the end of the cigarette. So there it was, hanging on, growing longer with every breath I took.
A strong gust of wind came along at the exact moment and blew most of the ash into my eyes. I was blinded and the Domino effect started.
With watering eyes, I somehow tried to throw away this horrible death stick (that’s what it suddenly seemed like) but couldn’t move away in time to prevent it from falling on my foot.
So there I was, semi-blinded with a mildly burnt foot, not feeling too “cool” anymore and the few people on bikes around the shop had all been looking at me (apparently) and I could feel most of their laughter directed towards the circus freak trying to smoke.
It was a sad realization (as I hopped back to my class, wiping my eyes and seeing a strange, watery world around me) that I’d probably have to live with myself.
This smoking fad just wasn’t for me.
Disappointed and dejected, I decided to live with my clean lungs and beautiful pink lips, with the understanding that I would probably give birth to a hale and hearty progeny, have healthy teeth and supple skin for the rest of my adequately long life.
Unfair, isn’t it?