When he heard the knock at the door, my hostel room-mate Ravi Nair sprang to his feet. He was sure it was Nandu, with whom he had an old score to settle. A streak of vengeance spread across Ravi's countenance as he lit a cigarette and drew a lungful of smoke.
Then he opened the door abruptly and spewed a thick cloud of smoke into the face of his quarry. As the pall of smoke began to lift, there emerged a familiar face. It was not Nandu but Ravi's father who stood at the door, fuming with rage. That was the last time Ravi smoked.
Or so I thought until I paid him a surprise call at his office a couple of decades later. I asked the receptionist where I could find Ravi. " Walk straight and look around, " said the lady at the desk. " From amongst a row of glass cabins in the hall, the smoky one that appears to be on fire is Mr Nair's." Then she added with a wink, " Rest assured that there is no smoke without Nair."
The visibility in the cabin was down to three feet and I wished I had a fog-lamp. Then the draught burrowed a hole in the haze and Ravi peeped from behind the clouds with a sunny smile. After a bout of mutual back-slapping and catching up on news, I pulled him up for not wising up to the hazards of his vice.
" The only hazard I faced was burning my moustache when I lit a cigarette." said Ravi mockingly. " So I shaved it off. Besides, the lone smoking related death in our family in recent times was that of my uncle. He was crossing the road to buy cigarettes when he was run over by a speeding truck."
" But you may be right in a way," conceded Ravi as an after thought. " I heard of a firebrand anti-smoking lobbyist who went around snatching lighted cigarettes from smokers' lips and stubbing them out with his bare feet. The result? He died of cancer of the foot!"
" But the smokescreen of your nutty argument can't hide the harm you cause to passive smokers." I objected. " The only passive smokers here are my files, " Ravi shot back. " Look at them. They are well preserved because of daily fumigation."
" Let me confess, " declared Ravi with finality. " The truth is I can't kick the habit. Unless, of course, decreed by a Government Statute, cigarette companies are ordered to mix either asbestos with tobacco to make cigarettes fire-proof, or with gunpowder which will make them explode on lighting."
I realised that I was at the 'fag-end' of my conversation, as all my efforts to convince Ravi went up in smoke. As a Parting shot I said, " Well, some day I will insert a tube into your windpipe and connect its free end to a chimney stalk fixed on top of your head. Then I will fit a smoke alarm at the outlet so that each time you exhale the smoke, passive smokers an run for cover."
With that, I vanished in a puff of smoke!
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