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It was a windy night when one of my friends learnt how to smoke.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  7 Feb 2021 5:00 AM GMT

Dr Dhrubajyoti Bora

(The writer can be reached at

It was a windy night when one of my friends learnt how to smoke. In those days of our H.S. we often used to go to the Telephone Exchange situated at Paan Bazaar to telephone at our respective landlines. We preferred the night time to walk down the desolated street to avoid the long queue of daytime. Besides, we had classes up to 4 pm, mainly the practical classes. But after the classes the whole world was ours. In the evening we enjoyed the Paan Baazar streets carefully forgetting about our homes. We knew, as night deepened after dinner, the right time to enjoy our freedom approached in a more sensible way. The seniors didn't suspect us if we went out of the hostel in groups as they too did the same thing because it was the time when the chances of getting the clear line was the most and they were certain about it.

Nevertheless, that was the time when the first year boys learnt some of the forbidden habits which couldn't have otherwise developed into full fledged ones before the constant scrutiny of the senior boys. And one of that was smoking among the first year boys. In the initial days, the seniors detested the idea that a first year boy could smoke in the hostel premise. But as the days used to roll by, that unseen facade of prohibition disappeared in such a way that if you would spot a group of boys exchanging a burning cigarette amongst them, it became really difficult to find out who was the first year boy and who was the senior one. The cigarettes brought them closer. But to wait till that period of time was unbearable for some of the enthusiastic first year boys, and those boys took the advantage of those particular nights to and from the Telephone Exchange to fulfil their long cherished desires, and tried to prove their worthiness as the grown up boys before the awful eyes of their friends.

On that particular night, five of us walked down the empty street to the Telephone Exchange. Hardly had we stepped a distance of a few hundred metres away from our hostel when our friend Raja lit up his cigarette. We saw his face glowing red when his cupped hands were protecting the flickering flame of the match stick against the blowing wind to allow sufficient time of contact with the tip of the cigarette being firmly pressed in his lips. When he was done, he threw the burnt match stick on to the street and started smoking like a hero. It was alluring. One of my friends, Prandeep, couldn't hold back the strong urge that he'd dreamt since long.

''Hey, give me one puff!''

''Ha- are you sure?''- Raja said him curtly.

''Yeah, give me the cigarette,''- now Prandeep was almost trying to snatch away the cigarette from Raja's lips.

''Hey, - wait, wait,''- Raja carefully placed the cigarette in Prandeep's lips. Then said, - ''Inhale!'' Pranddep inhaled like a novice and blew out a mouthful smoke at the sky. We noticed Prandeep's chest had puffed out a little instantly.

''Ha ha ha,''- Raja now roared in such a way that a few birds perching over the branches of a nearby tree flapped their wings hesitantly, nervously.

''No no my boy,''- Raja took the cigarette from Prandeep's hand and gave him a nice demonstration,-'' Inhale my boy, inhale. Deeply into your lungs.''

Prandeep obeyed as he had been guided. The very first movement of the smoke down his windpipe brought a few bouts of cough. Raja patted over his back to encourage, - "Inhale!''

But after three long pull of smoking, Prandeep surrendered. He saw a whole black world before his eyes.

''I'm feeling dizzy,''- he said.

''Don't worry, it happens to everybody on the first day.''

Raja tried to placate his worry as a mentor would do, but Prandeep didn't show any sign of recovery. Instead, he sat on the street, gazing down. We waited for sometime but Prandeep didn't show any sign of recovery. So, we had to abort the idea to go further. We carefully walked him back to the hostel and told his roommate that suddenly Prandeep had become dizzy for no apparent reason, and such type of incident had happened to him earlier also, and he would be fine after laying down a few minutes.

But after six months, that Prandeep became a known smoker in the hostel. Smoking no longer made him dizzy, but thrilled him.

After the HS first year final examination, Prandeep bought three cigarettes at Paltan Bazaar before embarking on the night super bound for his home town. There was none in his family but would condemn smoking, so he carefully hid them in his reading table's drawer after reaching home, in a hope that he could enjoy them when his family members would be away from home in any social events. After a fortnight, he got restless as nothing had happened as expected. So one night, when all the members were in deep sleep, he couldn't resist himself. He slipped out of the rear door of the house to the backyard and sat on a huge mango tree stump near the cowshed. He sat there in silence, recalled his days at the hostel, and thought to spend a little more time before lighting his cigarette.

In the meantime, his father came to his room to check on him. Prandeep didn't know his father always used to do that thing when he woke up at night to go the washroom. But not seeing his son at his room, he got nervous. He woke up his mother, Prandeep's three years junior brother, and they searched every nook and corner of the house, but couldn't find Prandeep.

Stricken by panic, they reached their neighbours. They too got puzzled. They searched the street that ran before their houses, but Prandeep was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, one neighbour said, -''Have you checked your backyard?''

Immediately the group of assembled people rushed to the backyard of Prandeep's house. Prandeep was just inhaling his cigarette with his closed satisfied face when three sharp beams of torchlight flashed on his face. Startled, he looked vaguely at the direction of the group. A clear sense of apprehension turned his face ashen. He was caught red handed. Needles to say what type of verbal abuses were showered upon him by his ashamed parents after that incident! But one neighbour, whom Prandeep had nicknamed as 'Topa Uncle' (bald uncle), came closer to him, patted on his shoulders, and said in a sympathetic tone, -''my boy, smoking is injurious to health. You topped your matriculation from our village for which the juniors look up to you, and now you've reached college, and you still don't know such a simple thing!''

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