Only a smoker can feel
the joy of every passing day
I started smoking many years back, perhaps when I was only 15 years old, or even little younger than that. First taste of smoke for me was a black cigar taken from my grand fathers cigar box that he used to buy from the cigar shop on the left side of the entrance at the Kandy market.
I fainted after few puffs and had to be hidden on the other side of the abandoned cement tank near paddy fields for if I was found in that state it would have been a merciless thrashing by the mother because smoking would have been like culpable homicide without amounting to murder those days at my age.
I was feeling sick throughout the day and felt like on the verge of throwing out many a times but my stomach muscles were hardy enough those days to withstand the shuddering and trembling of the my abdomen attempting to throw out whatever offensive foreign matters that have been brought in by the cigar smoke.
Though it was a nightmare both day and night on the day of the introduction, I didn’t give up, I started smoking cigarettes, which are milder and more stylish with friends who also had the inclination. It was love at first taste I suppose and my gang in the school , about 6 of us, all smoked , probably it was the strongest bond other than regular western movies, James Hadley Chasee and occasional drinking sessions when parents of one member become absent for overnight at home.
I lived about two miles from Darmaraja and college stood between my house and the Kandy city, house on the East of the school, city on due west. I had a monthly season pass to travel in the school buss, a red color long buss , a Benz and drivers wearing a kaki short sleeved four pocket jacket over their regular shirts.
The fee for the season was 4.70 Rupees for the whole month. But what is relevant here is that I when bus stopped at the Buwalikada junction where I should have got down to climb about 300 feet elevation with the multitude of fellow students I continued in the bus until it reached city,another kilo meter through A 26 highway , which was not closed like these days.
My destination was the landing at the staircase of the central market where we, friends from our gang meet up and smoke a cigarette before walking back to the school. This behavior patterns went on until they formed habits and though we knew it is bad for health, there was a macho aspect to it partly because almost all of our heroes like James Bond, Gamin Fonseka, and many characters in movies smoked. Not only flamboyant movie personalities but leading scientist like Albert Einstein, writers like Mark Twain, politicians like John F Kennedy smoked too. I remember reading that President Kennedy ordered 1200 Cuban cigars before Bay of Pigs incident in 1962 because he was afraid that if world war lll erupts he wont have the access to Cuban cigars any longer. Its noteworthy that, a pipe used by Eisenstein is in display among the exhibits in Smithsonian institute museum and ironically is the most popular single exhibit in the museums entire modern physics collection.
And it was Mark Twain who said that quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world and he is certain because ha has done it more than thousand times. I went to Japura after school then to navy and like Mark twain said until the retirement from the navy I have quit smoking more than 100 times , longest spell being 30 days without a puff. All these years I have been smoking 7 to 20 cigarettes more or less , more in operational areas during the war because of the staying up in the nights and of course sheer tension. Once in 2005 when I quit smoking for nth time I even went to the extent of writing a small poem , a free verse, titled ‘I quit’ and Sunday times published it. I couldn’t fetch it from the internet but I remember writing that if all the cigarettes that I smoked are laid along the A2 road, it will be a one long cigarette from Colombo to Hambanthota, yes its true I calculated the averages and totaled the lengths.
I have tried all the new advances in the science of quitting smoking including electronic cigarettes , and many methods that appeared in many media but failed until exactly 15 months back. Then I tried Nicotine patches for one week , lo and behold ! I haven’t smoked a single cigarette for 15 months now . monetary benefits, at today’s rates, 15x35x465=250000 approximately, but this is peanuts compared to health benefits and time saved puffing away after tea after meals after meetings between meetings , after doing something and when I have nothing to do.
The real joy of having quit smoking, as I suggested at the beginning, actually comes every day in the morning as you wake up, without fail when you count how many days have lapsed since you have given up the habit. You don’t regret the days that has passed you making you one day older, but enjoy having stayed smoke free one day longer.