Over to you Sridevi Dutta.
When I was young, I saw my father smoking many cigarettes. Somehow whenever he smoked, he looked worried-Worried in an angry, frustrated sort of way. The image always disturbed me. I did not like ‘Angry Daddy’ or ‘worried Daddy’.
What was it they said about nicotine and tobacco? Nah I was too young to grasp all that. In fact I did not even know that when you smoked, the black smoke entered directly in your lungs and lined them with carbon.
It was just that I liked dad without a cigarette sticking from his mouth. It made him look less worried, less angry and in a way less fearful.
The cigarette boxes those days just carried “Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to Health.” I respect the movie theatres of today- so much information on both active and passive smoking.
I don’t know when my father gave up smoking. All of us rejoiced at home. So much so we forgot- that like energy, addiction also changes forms. From smoking, my father took to chewing tobacco. No amount of threats worked. Nor rants. Nor lectures. The promises to leave tobacco were as temporary as the smoke he had quit a few years back.
The other day, when I was going for an evening walk with my mother, I happened to see a young man enter the park with cigarette in his hand. The thick pungent smoke entered my nostrils. I spluttered and coughed. ‘Amma’, I told my mother so that the young man could hear, ‘Don’t you know smoking is strictly prohibited in public spaces?You could get an imprisonment’ My mom looked bewildered. But the young man heard. Hurriedly crushing the cigarette butt under his legs, he walked out.
Did I tell you that addiction runs in families? Along with my father’s joie de vivre and his abundant sense of laughter, I also acquired his addiction. I took to coffee like a whale takes to sea. I loved the taste of coffee on my lips. Under my tongue. Down my throat. Into my blood . So that by the end of day I would have guzzled atleast 10-15 cups.
I felt euphoric
I felt a sense of calm.
I felt a burst of energies.
I felt a quelling of senses.
I wanted to sleep.
I could not.
I wanted to dream
I could not
I felt weak
I felt lost
I felt confused
However much I loved my Dad , I did not want to swap addiction tales with him. One late afternoon, I opened the coffee container. The heady, thick aroma of coffee entered me. Once more I wanted to make a pact with it. Let it enter my nervous system. Tell me one cup was not going to create much of a difference. My hands trembled. Outside the shadows lengthened. J stirred in his crib. H was yet to return from office. All of a sudden I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Coffee had the power to make me feel whole again.
Yet some moments have the power to transform.
Holding the container, I ran to the garden. And before my mind could scream for one more cup. Before J would wake up. And before a thousand things could happen, I emptied the coffee powder and watched with fascination as the soil and coffee bonded. Like long lost friends.
I felt empty
As though I was both
The creator and victim of a giant tsunami.
‘Perhaps you were not addicted to it in a major way,’ says my father.
‘No!’ I almost scream.
‘Then you are stronger than you think,’ he says with pride in his eyes.
‘But when I can..why can’t you?’ with the logic of a six year- old-trapped- in- a- forty year old mind.
“Promise me ..’ I say
‘Promise..’ says Dad solemnly.
I feel a fleeting sense of happiness. I revel in the moment. I almost shout and then become quiet again.
This is the 10,000th time that dad made the promise. Just round the corner is the tobacco shop that sells it all. I hate that shop. I hate what it does to my Dad. I look the other way and tell myself I won’t ask him about his promise the next day. For now I want to revel in the comfort that his vow brought me yesterday.
©: Sridevi Datta
About the author
When she is not playing with words, she can be found managing her brats and the chaos around her. Find her on twitter @potuku.