Wednesday, 21 May, 2008

My Cigarette Story

Statutory Warning Heeded: The author is perfectly aware that cigarettes are injurious to health.

The first time I tried smoking was in college. I went to Presidency College, Kolkata—yes the cradle of Indian intellectualism as ‘they’ say. Ok, before plunging into my adventures with a cigg, I will have to talk a bit about intellectuals in Kolkata. Please, please bear with me.
It is not really easy being an intellectual. Intellectualism comes with its baggage and props, otherwise how do you prove that you are a true blue Presidency intellectual? In Bengali we call an intellectual an ‘antel’. I have a feeling that antel is a French word, but since I am severely retarded in French or any other foreign language for that matter my suspicion never got converted into concrete fact.
An antel has several characteristics—
1. He or she resides in Kolata, studies in Presi, JU, CU (there is a hierarchy here too—Presi antels are by far the superior or maybe this is my bias for my alma mater, one never knows with these things…but before stingy criticisms come JU is yet another alma mater of mine in my long rambling academic career);
2. An antel goes to Coffee House—the mecca of Kolkata intellectualism;
3. He/she carries a big jhola (cloth bag);
4. Books of Nitsche, Foucault, Marx, Lenin, Engels along with Sukanto’s poetry peeks out from the jhola or is clutched tightly in the hand;
5. A Charminar cigg hangs perennially hanging from the mouth;
6. A dose of grass and marijuana to achieve intellectual nirvana once in a while;
7. Che Guerava tee shirts or khadi kurtas with old torn Lee jeans are a must.
Now intellectual characteristics—
1. Bona fide Marxist/Communist at heart;
2. Member of CPI/CPIM/SFI etc
3. Expert on everything under the sun be it Plato’s guardianship or Kolkata Knight Riders;
4. An ardent poet—ranging from politics to love;
5. Protests on American President’s imperialistic policies by blocking the busy Kolkata roads.
The list goes on….

Anyways to get back to my story—two of my male friends once alleged that women in Presi act liberated only in canteen. Though they smoke within the confines of college canteen, they are hardly ever seen smoking in public. Though not a smoker I could not resist the challenge. Who said women cannot smoke in public? I am a woman and I can very well do that. So we have a ‘bet’ and all three of us go to the tiny shop situated between CU and Presi. I go buy a cigg, men flocking the shop parted ways automatically to let me into the male dominion. Now time to light the cigg. Now I had never ever before in my life done that so how am I to know how to do it? I smartly take the cigg and light a match and put two together. Nothing happens, I feel people giving me weird looks on the street and my two friends bending with laughter. After their mirth had subsided they told me where I was going wrong. By then we had moved from the shop and were in front of a school. So standing there I light my first cigg, which scandalizes the mothers waiting for their kids to finish school.
In my 3 years of Presi B.A. and JU M.A. I quiet never managed to become an antel. Somehow was never that intellectual. But ciggs stayed with me. Even now once in a while I go puffing.
Lately 3 of us from office have taken to smoking just in front of our office. Now guys we are talking about Bhogal area in Delhi, which is the Punjabi heartland. We get stern disapproving looks from the middle aged Pubjabi aunties. It is quiet fun and I can just imagine them thinking ‘aaj kaal ki ladkiya kitni besharam hain’ (girls these days are so shameless)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. This is hilarious. and you actually took to smoking pretty late... usually motivated people are drawn to it within class ix - x :P

  2. hey yes but then i was a 'good' girl in school....;)

  3. amayik dost, amayik likhechhis.. aha ha.. ki sundar description antelder sambandhe ... chamatkar lekhar style.. darun darun... aro lekh.. samay pelei pore nebo :)

  4. You are a real blogger dear.....Love to check your's every now and then. A lil view into your life and a lots of masala...a great combo. Been reading yours since last few months, cudnt find ur contact to send in my regards...ha ha...Accept them here. keep writing.

  5. hey vardhan thanks :) wow grt to know you have been reading my stuff for so long! thanks yaar....

  6. Ya sure...actually it all started with economics....I am an aspirant for JNU and I found your blog in search and as I am also a voracious reader, I hooked up to your blog. I dunno whether I will make it to JNU....but reading your JNU stories was just fun. Why dont you write sometime to me....on and view my bachcha catagory blog at Will have a lil chat ;)

  7. lol, this was funny, & what about the "usually seen around the nandan & rabindra sadan complex" criteria for the anntels? :P

  8. yes grey...more like antel habitat--rabindrosadan and nandan....are you payal's sis?

  9. hey vardhan, so u r a wannabe jnu'ite? well i am sure you will make's a complete and most diverse zoo...once you are in there u will realise :) results will be out in june na? luck suchi

  10. I have only heard about calcutta and coffee house. :)

    Sounds great!

    Such a 'reaction' is very common in my home state-Kerala.


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