Dense smoke; White puffs rising and mingling into the air, becoming one with it, amalgamating themselves to look as pure as the air itself, our rather, making it all impure. Instinct tells me that I am being watched – I look around and spot a boy in an auto-rickshaw staring at this man in his forties, smoking a cigarette in his SUV – staring at me; Stuck in the never ending traffic jam, staring straight in front, looking at nothing. What goes through my mind? Why am I unintentionally piercing it all with my sight? Or am I piercing anything at all? And all at once, my mind leaps from this air of nothingness into this boy’s thought. What is he thinking? Is it about me? His face dons an expression of disgust while never fidgeting his stare. I can see it all through the rare view mirror of my car; I can almost hear him ask out loud, “Why do idiots like you smoke? Why throw yourself into that abyss that ends only at death? Why?” I can feel him almost gasping with frustration and contempt.
“Why smoke?” he asks me, I want to ask back, “Why do you live kiddo?”
I take in a deep, strong puff. It almost burns my lungs, I am about to cough, but I gain balance as I have against all atrocities of life. I can instantly shape a metaphor. What is this life but a burning cigarette? There are countless entities who smoke, all of that smoke disappearing into the air, transforming the blanket of air into a blanket of smoke, converting the atmosphere to the kapnosphere; just the same way the sighs given out in disgust by people like me mingle into that huge pool that accommodates the disgust of the entire world. We sigh at all times, sometimes at failures in academics, at other times at a colleague’s promotion and having ourselves left out, sometimes in disgust with the disrespect that our kids show us, or sometimes just at the squalid condition of our neighbourhood. It’s a continuous process, just as smoking is.
We are aware of the carcinogens that enter us with smoke, the Carbon Monoxide that burns everything as soon as it finds a way in, yet we smoke just as we continue to live despite the continuous blows that life throws at us in the face. We the humans live in a continuum of failures, aware of all the damage every passing second is entitling us to. We acknowledge the fact that one cannot come out of life alive, yet we let it do all the damage it can. We are a mob of those who surrender, who are well versed with this art – surrender with a valid excuse. Isn’t the same true for cigarette? We surrender to the cancer with the excuse of the short lived pleasure that it provides.
It burns and burns, burns till all we are left with is the butt, and we try to extract the last iota of smoke that might be left, we hold on to it till the end just as we do with life. Each and every passing moment symbolizes the end that we are slowly but consistently approaching, but does one abhor anything more than the end, anything more than death?
The smoke has been rising, and instead of entering my lungs, I think it has entered my mind, reaching out to every neuron, burning every nerve ending, blocking all thought, blocking it all. Things begin to blur, no more can I pierce the space with my stare, nor am I able to see the boy in the rare view mirror, no wait, I see a smirk on his face, and then the smirk subsides. I can hear some loud sounds, people are honking. But I have imitated the smoke.
The cigarette has reached its end.