He placed the cigarette between his lips. But before doing that, he made it sure that he is in a secluded corner, still out of fear his eyes rolled here and there.
Come on! Whispered his friend, you are the only one the gang left. Do it, come on.
He lighted up the match. But he couldn’t garner any strength to ignite his fag. What if anyone saw him? What if his stink get caught in home?
Ouch! The heat seared his finger. He scratched the second one.
Hurry up! We have the Chlor-mint. No one will get to know anything. Just ignite this shit. Look how many times I have done this. Have anyone came to know about this?
With a trembling hand, he placed the fire on the tip. Seconds later it burned.
He was gasping for breath, his face has turned red. His eyes almost blood shot. He just came to know how it would feel in the gas chamber. The history lesson his teacher taught today. How can grown up inhale this shit. He wanted to throw it away; instead he gave it to his friend.
He smoked it smoothly; he must be an expert, he wondered. He is thirsty now.
Water vendor was standing nearby, rupees one for four glasses, he drank two rinsed with two. No trace should remain.
“Only this much!” remarked his friend, who was having his chlor-mint now. He wondered how he can be so unperturbed.
A blue colored Maruti went past them unnoticed.
They take their buses to their homes.
He ran straight into bathroom, ignoring the calls of his mother to have the water first. He rinsed and rinsed again; he took a bath. He had his lunch quickly and retired to his room.
He studied whole evening. But he can still smell the odor. He only went down to have some tea. He came back into the room again.
It was 9 PM, dinner time, time for the family.
He went down for the dinner. But not before convincing himself that the odor existed. He took his chair in the dining table
How was your day? His father asked.
It was fine, he replied.
Anything new, he asked again.
Hell! Do I smell, does he know it? Oh no just his normal course of question; Nothing new, he replied.
Are you sure, he replied again.
Now what on earth is he getting at? Have he seen me? No, not possible, secluded corner anyway. Yes dad, he replied.
Alright, he returned.
His palms were sweating, Did he knew it? Did he smell it? Or has he seen me? Not possible, more than hours now. How can be it?
Son, eat your food, why are your playing with it.
Oh! I am sorry.
He finished his dinner and went to terrace to get some fresh air. It has being a terrifying day for him, he was feeling like criminal. Does his dad know it? Has he seen him smoking? If he has, then what will happen? Will he be beaten up? Or thrown out of the house? What should he do now? Jump for the terrace? Yes, it is the best option. Or is it? It will certainly be painful, people will forget. But what after he recovers? No, again. Has he told the mom and entire family? Or will he disclose it in the front of the entire family in his presence? Will he humiliate him? Or will it be my birthday gift? His mind wandered through the strings of seamless thoughts.
Care for one?
What? He replied, turning back, he was stone cold.
What? Cigarette? I do it to you every time, his father replied.
N..no, I don’t smoke, he stammered.
Not if I don’t know, his father replied looking straight into his eyes.
He knew it, he has seen me; he felt like crying. Please don’t tell anyone, please, I beg you, I won’t do it again, I swear. He begged, clasping his hands he felt on his knee. Desperation was evident in his face.
His father smiled. Get up, now, he said. No I won’t. Holding his arms, he made him stand up.
I was there, only you failed to notice, rotten luck of yours, he replied.
What is he saying? He thought.
His father continued. I took up smoking when I was of your age. Your grandfather only figured it out when I got my first job. He can’t do anything then. I was smart. And most importantly I didn’t get caught. The entire incident has lesson for you.
That I should never smoke, he replied.
No, no it is not like that, now just listen. Our life hinges on the choices we made, choices which can be good or bad, depend upon perception. But whatever it might be, the choice should be our alone, and ultimately nobody should have any say in it. Because, once you give in to others you become his slave, you become paralyzed. You can’t take you decisions then. Then everyone has a say on you, and at one time you get frustrated, to such extent that you complain you don’t have any control over your life, nobody listens to you. But it is your own making, your own choice, a choice where you let others have a say over your affairs.
He was listening, trying to grasp each and every word.
You do something it’s your choice; you must have a reason for it. But don’t make ridiculous promises that you won’t do a thing because someone said you so. You are an educated person, you can easily deduce the reasoning behind any act, and one need not be Einstein for that. Smoking is bad, we all know, but the decision is upon you. It is your life. Was making a first try your decision? If it was, then I am proud of you and if it isn’t, it is just a suggestion, don’t do it. Take your own decision. One day you will be maintaining a family, and then what will you do. Look out for friends, holding poll for daily household decisions. But ultimately it is your life. I don’t mind to see to smoke or drink, but all I want is that decision should entirely be yours. And secondly, you know the history of Greece, Athens and Sparta to be precise.
Yes, I do, he replied.
For Spartans, stealing was not bad, but getting caught was. So whenever your ass gets blown up somewhere, make sure you don’t get caught. Because even if you know you didn’t do it, you will be blamed for it.
He was trembling now, but he was able to grasp the words his father said.
Now let’s get some sleep.
Putting his hand around his hands around his shoulder, he guided his son to his room.
© Tarun Mitra