“I want Marlboro!”
Raghav’s words were loud and vigorous enough to scare the living wits out of Sushil and I. Raghav was Sushil’s friend. The two of us were on our way to CCD after a particularly tiresome day. That was when a slightly-overweight guy in blue Reebok tees and a queer gait, suitably accompanied by a a steady stream of smoke bellowing upward from his mouth approached us from the opposite side of the road – Raghav. Chaddi buddies, Sushil greeted Raghav with a bear hug (only before grabbing the smoldering cigarette from his mouth and discarding it – much to Raghav’s chagrin) and reprimanded him for smoking publicly in his area!! 😐 Image problems, yes!! Now, if you didn’t know, Sushil, Raghav and I are the biggest hypocrites Planet Earth has seen till date. You’ll know why, soon enough! 😛
Now, it would be a gross understatement to call Raghav an ‘addict’ – he’s a class apart! A ‘clean’ guy until a few months back, his addiction was spurred by jobless days at an equally jobless internship at a company that offered free cigarettes even to passing visitors! Since then, there was no looking back. He’s tried all brands, lived even with tiny butts of used cigarettes when severly afflicted by the melt‘smoke’down ( fund-shortage due to cigarette bills amounting to thousands!), and even perfected all those astounding tricks of smoke-exhalation you see on TV. Yes, the world’s first professional smoker with a GPA of 9.2 (yeah, studies were always Priority #1! 😐 )
Until lately, Raghav too had a squeaky clean image at home, like Sushil. Only to lose it by succumbing to his addiction. Unable to suppress his withdrawal syndrome, he went out to get his daily puff and finished a whole pack in a matter of minutes, inexorably forgetting to disguise the acrid smell! His mom was quick to identify the odor and he had to vow that he wouldn’t take another puff.
The vow was broken the very next day, as he conveniently got himself a ‘Wills’, on his way back home after dropping off his sister at a reputed IIT coaching centre near CCD. That was when we met this dude. He mouthed the sudden urge to have perhaps the world’s most popular brand of cigarettes – his favourite, for the sake of stress release, he said. The mention of ‘Marlboro’ set the ball rolling. Sushil was a carbon copy of his chaddi-buddy, sort-of. But he hadn’t smoked in a while, and his image was still intact. He too wanted to get a high, and with firm resolve he seconded Raghav and proclaimed the mission – The Quest for Marlboro!
The term ‘quest’ in this context might seem hyperbolic, but yeah, Trivandrum is a very sleepy town, if you didn’t know! One still had to go the long contorted route to get a piece of ‘decent’, branded stuff. We didn’t know where to start off, but we were sure to find what we wanted, Kowdiar was the place to be in! 😛 We thought we’d start off with the melting pot of ‘hanging-outers’ – The venerable CCD!
We’d barely walked over to CCD, when Sushil found this pack of guys smoking, standing next to a car. Before we could do anything, he ran over to one of them and asked:
“Dude, you studied in my school right? Isn’t your name Sidharth?”
Sid: “Yup, that’s me. And hey, long time bro! “
Sushil: “Dude, where in TVM would you find a Marlboro? Pretty damn urgent!”
Sid: “Just head over to Grand Bazaar, at Style Plus. You’d find your stuff! All brands under the sun… you name it!”
Sushil: “Thanks a million, dude. You’re a lifesaver!”
I could see Raghav’s face light up in glee. So was Sushil’s. Thus, we walked through Belhaven Gardens (yea, the pee-place! :|) and walked over to Devaswam board junction. They knew about the pee-story (which, ironically happened hardly a few days back) and were pulling my legs. I did my best to divert their attentions, non-smoker that I am. Pro-debater that Sushil is, he started quoting from “Thank You for smoking!” and other pro-smoking stuff. I had to shut up!! The dog’s tail would forever be curly! (പട്ടീടെ വാല്… 😐 ).
After a few minutes of walk, we reached Grand Bazaar. By now, Sushil had lost all his initial gusto for fear of image. Even Raghav had lost his courage, as a result of which, I had to lead the pack into the store. To my friends’ glee, there, all those packets were stacked right near the counter, by the wall! They were ogling at them the same way the three of us stared at this hot babe at Belhaven Gardens! Marlbro, Davidoff, B&C… all of ’em were there, stacked in neat plastic-coated packets.
Raghav was far from satisfied, though. The packet that read “Marlbro” had a subtitle which read “lights”. As the name meant, it didn’t have the ‘kick’! 😐 He started a semi-fight with the salesgirl over the lack of Marlboro and even pleaded with her. By now, all the customers were staring at us! Sushil, with his ‘image’ problem, coaxed the dude into buying the Davidoff. Then again, our stingy Raghav tried the sales girl to sell him just a couple of loose cigarettes. The lady was visibly angry when she said no, so Raghav and Sushil shared money and bought a Rs 110 – 20 cigarette Davidoff packet! This is how it looked:
Sushil and the davidoff: Yeah, smokers die young. These guys never understand!
Anyways, we ran out of the store after the purchase – only to realize another folly. There was no lighter/matches to light the cigarette with! Raghav went inside again in search for a lighter but alas… The classic ‘water-water-everywhere’ scenario! 😐 A belligerent ’പെട്ടിക്കടക്കാരന്’ (shop keeper) came to the rescue with ‘kadak’ matchsticks. Then came the problem of ‘where to smoke’. The ‘Jaggus Kitchen’ right opposite to Style Plus was the answer. It housed a baskin robbins too! However, the very ‘friendly’ rates forced us to retreat – to a nondescript by-lane! (I was reminded of the ‘pee ‘incident in the recesses of a similar lane!) Then, like cannibals feasting on human bodies, they ripped open the packets and wildly picked up those objet’ d death!
Luck clearly wasn’t favoring them even now. Lighting up the matches was a hard job – the wind was blowing high and fast. Sushil now made up stories of how he lighted cigarettes amidst high winds. Surprised at the magnitude of that blatant lie, perhaps, Lord Vayu pulled the winds back and the cigaretted were lighted. It was fun to see the dudes exhale air!! Raghav and Sushil had very distinct styles of blowing smoke rings in the air! Sushil’s lips contracted to a very funny form as he did that – was damn funny!! Now, both of them started the next part of the bluffing saga. Sushil started by boasting that he’d smoked 40 joints, straight. Raghav wouldn’t agree. He countered by saying that his personal record was 50… LOL!! The bickering continued for a while until I intervened and solved it. 🙂 After smoking a cigarette each and sharing a third piece 50-50, the pack was shoved back into Sushil’s laptop bag and we walked back to CCD.
Then came the problem of where to store the packets. Both of them wouldn’t take the packet home, for fear of parental detection! Finally Raghav chose to keep the packets in a consensus, after wild plans including loosely selling cigarettes at 5-apiece!! 😐
After walking both the dudes back to CCD, where they smoked away the remaining 17 pieces in the packet, I walked to the bus stop. I reiterated my forever-philosophy in mind. If the dudes don’t control their habit, they’re sure goanna learn the hard way…
Smoking is injurious to health!
The incident is real, but names are changed to protect identities and ‘images’ of certain ..ahem… very respectable people! 😛