“Why do you smoke even ?” My friends , colleagues and well wishers would ask prefixing my first name or Yaar or Sharma ji- my surname- depending on the level of proximity I enjoyed with them . And this happened umpteen of times leaving me fumbling for an answer. There was hardly any. The more suggestive was the word ‘even’ . My horse sense told me that being not given to other bad habits, smoking was completely incongruous, incompatible and out of sync with my personality.
Looking back, the first ever puff of cigarette I had out of fun was at the Ambala Railway Station , in 1976, while I was going to Dehradun to face the Services Selection board to enter the IAF. . I could not make it, as destiny had other things in store. I did not touch any cigarette for 2-3 years.Anyway, I had no answer to ‘Why’.I had not smoked throughout sixteen years of my student life and a bit beyond . Perhaps I was destined to be a smoker and caught this habit from my colleagues in the early years of my service.Days turning into months and months turning into years , it continued. . Much as I wanted to shed this bad habit , I did not succeed, even small bets and New Year resolutions coming to naught. Even the purchasing and going through a book on quitting smoking did not help.
I am a strong believer in destiny and was destined to leave this decades’ old habit. It so happened that a decade back,i.e. in February 2007, I had a bout of illness, as I tested positive for Hepatitis A- a painless but dreaded disease. Sapped of all energy, with a high level of bilirubin and resultantly with a pale skin ,I was bedridden for two months. In short, had a brush with death or you could say a close shave. This illness proved a blessing in disguise, as I was able to bid adieu to smoking , notwithstanding the fact that I gave sleepless nights to my wife , who had to slog it out for two long months single handed doing all chores ,big and small, for me besides attending to relatives, neighbours and colleagues who came to enquire after my health.
Benefits of quitting smoking are never too manifest though the damage it could cause may be too pronounced.
But yes, I have every reason to feel happy having done without it for a decade now.