IT WAS a shocking sight to find a group of two-three girls, perhaps college-going, or even first-time employed, indulge in smoking cigarettes. Evening shadows had vanished behind the tall trees on the west, and twilight was making visibility poorer by the passing minute. And under that cover, those girls stood tucked in a corner, merrily smoking.
A closer look revealed their blackening lips and blood-shot eyes, besides, of course, their unkempt hair and carelessly worn clothes designed perhaps to reveal things rather than conceal. By any standard, it was a shocking sight, to say the least. However, at such moments when I feel shocked, I suspect that some people may call me ‘backward’ since I cannot tolerate to see girls indulging in smoking. Some women’s liberation (libbers, in modern terminology) activists may even blast me for not allowing the freedom of smoking to girls.
To all such persons, all I can say is that there is nothing on my part to block somebody’s freedom, or give it to them. For, no matter what I feel or do and do not do, those girls had already taken that freedom to indulge in something that my sanskaar does not allow. As a journalist of lifelong standing, I have seen many quaint situations -- of indulgence of men and women in absolute nonsense. Nothing actually shocks me. So, smoking by girls, too, does not shock me per se. Yet, my sanskaar does not permit me to accept certain things, including women getting involved in certain things or behaviours. Let alone the sanskaar part, I worry about something serene the girls -- or even boys -- are losing when they indulge in such matters. They lose something called ‘human resolve’ not to indulge in undesirable things. They lose control on their nerves and their ability to say ‘no’ to wrong things. And by any definition, smoking is a wrong thing to do -- by women and by men.
Experience has taught me that when girls or women smoke, they do so with some sort of vengeance, with some sense of mocking at the society, some type of of daring the norm. To some extent, rebellion is associated with youth, which I accept most willingly. Yet, indulging in sly smoking and then spoiling health in l ong term is something anybody and everybody should avoid at any cost. Several studies have shown that ill-effect of smoking may have a long gestation of even 30 years. But who is going to tell all this to young smokers? And even if somebody does, are they going to listen to the wise word? Let alone that, my sanskaar makes me feel shocked when I see young people falling prey to stupid temptations or nonsensical motivations. Finally, therefore, I place an appeal at everybody’s doorstep: Please save our youngsters from disaster.