By Anuja Gupta:
It starts as a sign of defiance or peer pressure. In college I realized being a girl in India came with a rule card quite different from that of boys. Such social bias created an intrinsic disgust in me, urging me to embrace an utter defiance of stereotypes. Instead of protesting through street-demonstrations or seeking emancipation through the power of the pen – I took the easiest way out – I took to smoking.
My friendship with the bud did not grow overnight. At first, it was a bold statement I was making at college or often just an accessory my friends and I preferred to keep handy during our long chats about feminism, communism and anarchy. It made perfect intellectual sense in those days – the corridors of an intellectual Kolkata college are incomplete without a few cigarette buds strewn around.
But in those early days, the bud and I were not too close. It was a forcefully acquired taste. Yet, as time passed I subconsciously explained to myself that this was the sole symbol of my freedom from stereotypes. At other times I assured myself that I was not dependent on the tobacco. I reasoned with myself that cancer was far from touching me (one of those empty assurances we give to ourselves when we do something that we know is wrong, like drinking and driving, or drugs)! Slowly and steadily, the bud and I became inseparable.
A Promise Broken Repeatedly
I tried to quit many times on my parents’ request. You cannot possibly expect a smile on your parents’ faces when they learn about your smoking. I know their insistence has nothing to do with me being a girl and everything to do with my health. To my surprise I managed to quit each time – but I failed to stay off smoking for more than two months.
Each time I quit, there was a vacuum at certain times of the day. While I fought it for a while, beyond a time I sought excuses like – it’s my friend’s birthday, my neighbor’s dog died last night, my tests begin on Monday, and invariably returned to my friend for solace/joy/worry – out of desperation. I reached a point where I decided that the idea of quitting was meaningless because I would find the motivation only when I truly wanted to give it up – I reasoned that “now is not the time”.
My affair with the bud soon became an obsessive one. As I grew older, I realized that I was smoking more than any of my friends – gender notwithstanding.
A Run To Remember
They say great realizations come from the smallest experiences – Very true.
I realized some months back, that I had put on some extra weight. Now, it was not the first time that something like this had happened – so I quickly decided that the easiest way out was a good jog and a quick work out. Thankfully losing weight was always a really fast process for me.
However, my enhanced smoking made it more and more difficult for me to regain my lost stamina. Climbing a long flight of stairs without panting and feeling breathless, had become impossible for me. Thus, it was hardly surprising when 15 minutes in to the jog I felt my breath ceasing and my throat choking.
Slowly but surely my body gave up and I could barely go on after the first 20 minutes. Towards the end of the jog I could feel myself glancing at my watch more and jogging less. I kept reassuring myself: “Another 30 seconds….think of the time when you will have your stamina back…if you don’t go on for another minute you will never be fit again…”
Quitting Is Difficult
I thought that I would be so disgusted at my lack of stamina that I would never smoke again. However, the process of quitting is hardly that easy. I am still trying to muster up the will and courage to quit the bud. It touches and affects our lives in different ways – yet, in the long run it is never a true friend. I don’t know if smoking really kills but I do know that it slows us down too fast for us to even realize. My struggle to quit continues and often I lose the battle and then decide to try harder with renewed vigor. Hopefully I will succeed soon.