Monday, 26 September 2011

That Cigarette

I’m not supposed to smoke anymore. Oh, yes, I know. I was never ever supposed to smoke. Smoking causes cancer, arterosclerosis, thrombosis. emphysema, Crohn’s disease, bad teeth and impotence.

But I , like so many of my fellow lovers of the common smoke, my fellow ten o’clockers,  have been able to ignore all those irritating warnings on pasteboard packets. After a point you’re able to switch off the lecturing of family members who may have never tasted that lovely sweet bitterness of a lungful of tobacco on top of a heavy thayir saadham.

I think I blame Biggles.  Adults in Enid Blyton books smoked pipes and cigarettes, but as adults in Enid Blyton books had lower IQs than Buster or Timmy or Loony or whatever the team pet was, their smoking never was very attractive. Biggles, Biggles was a different matter. A seventeen year old who would fly out across enemy lines in his Camel shooting down a brace of Boche and escape Richthofen for a bet? When he lit up, it was awesome. And underage!

The screw up is that feeling of something missing from your day.  That taste. The smell between index and middle.  The blissful feeling as you take your place on the morning throne – with newspaper in the other hand.

I was in the hospital ward with about sixty other angiogrammees. My loins had been shaved and several meters of wire had travelled up my femoral artery to take a dekko around my heart.  As I lay recovering, one of the doctors bandaged my legpits.  “Being a doctor is the worst thing in the world”, he said. My feeling at that point was that being a patient was the worst thing in the world, but I said nothing. “You see so many people come here with really bad heart disease because of those bloody cigarette companies. The game is rigged. The Government needs the money. The Cigarette companies need profits. And we end up spending more in healthcare than we  make in excise.” It’s a line he has used many times, said without vehemence. One of his patients had died yesterday.  He wasn’t happy about it.

It was unlikely that she was a smoker though.

Or maybe it was Sherlock Holmes who glammed the tobacco on? Come on, Watson was a Doctor. Who smoked “Ship’s”.  And Holmes smoked toe jam.  And Watson bhashaned him only about ruptured nasal septa and other 7% solution stuff.

Or was it the Foundation crew? Salvor Hardin with his Vegan (a book from the time the word meant “from the planet Vega” and not holier than though cultists doing what millions of folks considered a way of life for centuries) -  cigars in Jara Ford’s silver box? Merry and Pippin with their Longbottom Leaf from Southfarthing and the inferior Southlynch? Unlikely. While Hardin was cool, Vegan cigars sounded unappetizingly fungal. Merry and Pippin were kids, for Gods sake. And while Aragorn did smoke a long carved pipe and Gandalf would wipe the floor Bilbo’s  bottom smoke ringing, they never made it look cool.

I’ve got the twitchies now. I was on my feet and half way to the potti kadai down the street where the shopkeeper automatically takes out two packets of charms when he seems me approaching at a high mph. Had to turn back cursing lesions and blockages.

“Bond took out his black gunmetal cigarette box and his black oxidized Ronson lighter and put them on the desk beside him. He lit a cigarette, one of the Macedonian blend with the three gold rings around the butt that Morlands of Grosvenor street made for him…”

Aaaaaargh. I can’t take it anymore, and I haven’t even come to Wodehouse’s “The Man Who Gave Up Smoking”, Joseph Cotten’s masterly rings, Bogie in Rick’s Café with a bottle of booze and Dooley Wilson on the piano. Gatzing along to that orange light across the dock.