Categories
Story

Smokers Die Younger

It was exquisite.

Soft beams of light seeped in through the frosted glass, like water dripping from a corporation-tap. Reflecting on the milky-white tiles of the bathroom, the light strayed about the four congested walls in infinite loops of Brownian motion, making the bathroom fittings seem gothic in a bohemian glow. He wasn’t sure whether it was Brownian motion or not; physics was his Achilles ’ heel – precisely why the physics professor at the IIT coaching class chucked him out, four years ago. He smiled at the thought – he had come a long way since then.

“Why’re you smiling dude?”

Sujoy’s voice echoed – floating through the psychedelic notes of Floyd.

Pink Floyd is sex.

Being a virgin, he couldn’t be sure – but if his more experienced friends were to be trusted, yes it is. The songs did something to men (and women), or, why else would two (perfectly heterosexual) friends light up in their toilets?

Why else would he, of all people, decide to light up, at all?

CC Credits: Pratheesh Prakash

If there was anything about the world that he hated – it was the cigarette. He could stand alcohol – he hated the smell, but drunk dudes were fun. He didn’t mind those of his friends that smoked up, they went on to win quizzes and debates, despite acting weird at times. He even got himself to forgive his pedophile of his friend, who proudly publicized his ‘conquest’ of the teenaged cousin, amid glory – he would probably rot in hell. But the cigarette…

Heck, no.

It all started when he first caught his dad in the act. He was a toddler, back then and thought his father was doing some magic trick by ‘eating fire’. Confident of repeating his dad’s amazing feat – he tried ‘eating’ a rolled-up newspaper with the other end on fire. He didn’t get himself singed thanks to a vigilant mom who went on to counsel her child, rather unparliamentarily. At the end of a passionate ‘one to one’ – the child emerged with tears in his eyes, countless cane-marks on his thighs and a hatred for the ‘tiny burning cylinder’.

As he grew up, he learned how deadly ‘the burning cylinder’ was and realized how badly his father was addicted to it. The last thing he wanted was to lose his father to gruesome mouth/blood cancer . He even devised an ingenious way to force his father into kicking the habit. The very next day, his mom scampered onto the terrace, having heard his father breaking into a vicious coughing spree. He smugly looked on as his mom rubbed his teary-eyed father’s back;  tobacco when ingested with chilli powder gives interesting results, indeed.

From then on, his dad made it a point not to leave his Wills packets unattended.

Time sailed on, and life changed for the smartass pre-teen who now grew into a young man caught in a time-warp. Life just wasn’t happy-go-lucky any more. He flunked life’s tests, the same way he flunked despicably in exam. By the time he was 21, he had gotten himself beaten-up, was abandoned, lost his lady love and had gotten himself killed nearly-twice. Yet – he stayed himself clear of the ‘sutta’, which now even had a tribute-song of the same name to boot, all set to lure him.

At the end of the day, Pink Floyd won, where ‘Zeest  – the band’ lost.

Lip service from Sujoy didn’t hurt. There’s just one life (Sujoy was Christian and didn’t subscribe to rebirth) – why waste it depriving oneself of the many pleasures and possibilities it offers? Some pleasures may slow down life’s timer, but old-age is pain. Be a man.  Die in pleasure. Die happy. Die young.

Sujoy’s logic was undeniable.

He felt his body shiver as realization drove deep in. He had been through enough already. He had successfully repelled plenty of the worldly-vices (but fell prey to many others). Yet, life double-crossed him. Now the ball was in his court. His arms trembled – he even felt the world around him vibrate in resonance. Heck, he could even hear a buzz that grew louder in intensity with time – must be the resonance in action, he thought. The vein on his forehead twitched. Rivulets of sweat soiled his shirt. He stretched open his right arm (which was now trembling flailing incessantly). Revealing one of his classy smiles reserved for special occasions, Sujoy gingerly placed the Davidoff on our dude’s palm.

Davidoff Lights – It was slender and long. With great difficulty, he maneuvered his thumb, ring finger and little finger to push the cigarette between his index finger and the middle finger. He had half a mind to throw that despicable killing machine down and crush it with his feet. But…

“I… I gotto pee.”

The Forrest Gump moment.

“Be my guest.”

Sujoy ushered him into a ‘palatial’ restroom. Slamming the door behind him, our friend rushed inside. Opening the toilet seat, he lifted his right hand high in the air, and aimed the cigarette at the pot…

He had played the role of Chandrasekhar Azad in a school tableau – where he aimed a (fake) revolver at a group of attacking police officers. The cigarette was the sole bullet in our Azad’s revolver  – and a white ‘pot’ of cops silently returned the stare. Back then, the ten-second tableaux won him the first place, but that day, he ‘enacted’ the scene for good ten-minutes. Then, like Azad, he drove his ‘bullet’ into his head.

Into his mouth, rather.

A concerned Sujoy, forced the door open to see the newly-christened Azad gaze blankly back – donning an unlit cigarette between his lips.

Sujoy flashed his ‘classy smile’ the second time, that day.

Soon, Sujoy’s Nokia 5130 Xpressmusic acquired position beside the shaving mirror – duly playing ‘High Hopes’ from Floyd. He shoved a bucket aside and sat on a chair brought from the dining room, while his friend made himself comfortable on the toilet seat. Sujoy conjured a lighter from nowhere and flicked it. The reddish-orange flame swayed like a belly dancer on trip.

“Let’s light up together, shall we?” Sujoy winked. Our friend bent down with Sujoy, aiming his cigarette to the flame. “Carefully man, A forest fire’s the last thing I want,” Sujoy took a dig his friend’s perennially-unkempt hair. Our man barely noticed the snide comment. His eyes were transfixed at the tip of his cigarette – which now made contact with the flame. The edge of the cigarette smouldered in an eerie glow. Tobacco and nicotine burned.

A moment late to notice Sujoy withdraw his lit cigarette, our friend pulled his head back. He looked up at Sujay, who seemed to be sucking the cigarette like a kid enjoying his frooti. A couple of seconds later, he withdrew the cigarette from his mouth and blew out a long trail of smoke. Having inhaled some of the smoke, he coughed badly – he loathed the very smell of cigarette smoke – it always made him cough. He wondered how it would be when he had the real thing.

Noticing his friend eyeing him quizzically, Sujay played teacher. “Look, first inhale through your mouth, as if the cigarette were a straw,” he took a drag. After blowing a (longer) trail of smoke, he clarified: “Then, inhale through your nose – the smoke has to get to the lungs. Otherwise, you’d be ‘mouthfagging’ which is the smoker’s equivalent of masturbation. You don’t wanna do that, do you? Now blow out the smoke, like what I just did. Try!”

Now our dude nearly had a heart-attack – he was so sure he had one, cause he hadn’t seen his heart beat this fast till date. Nevertheless, he mustered all courage, and took a deep drag at the cigarette, closing his eyes, half expecting himself to collapse due to a long bout of coughs. Having trapped the ‘smoke’ inside him, he opened his eyes.

“Now, inhale,” our friend followed Sujoy’s instructions and took a deep breath. He was so sure he’d cough away for the rest of the day, just because of this single drag.

Turns out that he didn’t.

As he inhaled, he felt something happen to him – a peculiar sensation took hold of his head. It wasn’t a bad feeling. On the contrary, he felt real good – a ‘ring of pleasure’ formed around his forehead, around his eyebrows. He felt slightly dizzy and elated.

Our buddy had the first ‘high’ of his life.

“Dude, you’re a bag of surprises – I expected you to lay writhing on the floor. But, look at you right on the first drag itself! Awesome man!  ‘High’-five,” the Barney fan in Sujoy lifted his left palm, but never got the return five.

Meanwhile our friend took another drag. And another. And another. As soon as this cigarette got over, he lit up another one.  He went on to smoke six cigarettes in a row, until he felt like vomiting – he felt as if some virus had infected his entire system, starting from his throat. He stood up, only to find that he couldn’t balance himself properly – he felt so ‘high’ that he thought his head hit the ceiling, only to realize the pointlessness of that PJ he just made up and smile involuntarily.

The sick feeling was at its peak, as he dumped his sixth cigarette into the closet. He thought he’d vomit any moment – smoking was indeed a bad idea. The high felt good, but the ‘hangover’ wasn’t quite appealing. He drunk six glasses of water, and had his second breakfast for the day from Sujoy’s place. Only then did the tendency to puke pass.

As he bade good bye to Sujoy, he renewed his pact  – he wouldn’t touch another cigarette for the rest of his life. Ever.

*****************************************************************************************************

The protagonist of this story died of lung cancer, thirty six years later. He was a chain smoker, known to smoke at least three packets a day. He’s survived today  by his wife and two children. The man spent the last few years of his life in deep agony. Yet, he regularly used to sneak away for a secret puff. “I won’t touch another cigarette,ever,” he promised to his wife moments before he passed away.

The staff nurse found two packets of cigarettes and a lighter from the man’s clothes, later that day.

Categories
Technology Viewpoint

The Curious Case of Collective Attention Deficit Disorder

It’s a bright, sunny morning. Airily filling up your lungs with a (city variant of) the fresh morning air, you rev up your car and drive to work. As you’re half-way through, you notice a very obvious vibration from your jeans pocket – it’s the usual suspect, the mobile phone. You pick up the call – it’s your soulmate. She rants on and on about the brand-new outfit her dad purchased for her…But you’ve no clue as to what she’s talking about, do you?

Ah, yes. You’re driving – but did you just notice a city bus shave off the side-view mirror and the side-beeding of your car? Oh, okay, you were on the phone.

Yeah, right.

Later that evening, you watch one of those art-house flicks at the friendly-neighborhood multiplex – with your girlfriend as arm-candy. Suddenly, the screen goes dark – it’s apparently a part of the movie which is standard art-house flick material. You jerk your arm into the pant pocket and jerk out your office BlackBerry – can’t miss those mails from your US-based Boss, can you?  It took you a long ten seconds to realize that your arm-candy wanted to make, err, ‘better use’ of the ‘dark break’. You take five more seconds with the BB, before you give in to the girl.

Any of these situations ring a bell?

The second one might be a tad too far-fetched (it’s true though – scene from PVR Mumbai, circa December 2009. ‘Avatar’ was the ‘arthouse flick’, however). But the issue is indeed  a grave problem we all have faced at some point in time

Welcome to the new millennium of Collective Attention Deficit Disorder.

Image Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brookhavenlab/

Patients with ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder’ would find it difficult to focus on a particular task over a period of time. They get bored with the task fast, and quickly move on to other tasks. They have high tendencies of procrastination and exhibit escalated physical movement.

Today, this disorder is spreading rapidly, directly proportional to the growth of technology in our lives.

It’s necessary evil. We’ve accustomed ourselves to a ‘fast food culture’. We just cannot wait – we want instant results. Be it in any field – we rue traffic blocks, for they don’t allow us to reach our destinations on time. We curse slow computers, ’cause they don’t help us complete our task on time. Our bosses want tasks to be done in unrealistic deadlines. And in this survival of the fittest era, you can’t afford to budge.

Reading is a direct casualty of ADD – first it was hesitation to read long books. Thus, abridged versions were born. Then, people didn’t have time to read even abridged versions; short stories and blogs became the order of the day, for a while. Then came twitter, smashing all existing ‘literature’ with its 140 tiny characters. No, twitter and microblogging is yet to win over traditional publishing – but at this rate of exponential growth, that too could happen.

Even ‘Google’ has moved with the times, pun intended, with Google Instant, for lazybones like us reluctant enough to press the enter key on our keyboard. Remember ‘Google Wave’? It had the ‘revolutionary’ technology that directly posted what we typed (making the ‘enter’ button redundant again) – thus ‘increasing productivity’. In fact, Google’s obsession for fast results was evident by their hiring of the guy who made YouTube instant.

Alright, what’s wrong with shifting attention spans?

Simple – you’d end up wrecking your mind. Accept the fact, we’re not made of Dual Core processors – at least the males amongst us. Women have been multitasking for a while, but they too have a limit. Quoting a friend of mine, “Multitasking IS screwing many things at once.” You may not realize it – but you will, over time. Every time you indulge in more tasks than you can, simultaneously – your mental capacity takes a toll. Your mind’s like any machine – it needs rest. Give it some cool-off time, will you?

With short attention spans, you’d simply reach nowhere.

Here’s a DIY test:

Lay your hands on one of those short stories. Any simple story would do – it shouldn’t be too long. Get a stopwatch, set it on zero. Now, open the first page of your book and start reading – remember to switch on your stopwatch when you start. Once the story is over, note the time spent to read the story. Now that the story is over, choose a second short story of roughly the same length and complexity as the original one. Repeat the process – with one difference. Switch on the music – it should be your favourite track, and read the short story. Record the time taken.

Needless to say, you would have taken at least 50% more time, when you read the story with music on. And trust me, you wouldn’t even remember a lot about the second story – you’d just have a broad idea of what happened. You wouldn’t have enjoyed the music either.

Enough proof, innit?

So how do you tackle this attention deficit disorder?

The sad reality is, there’s no definite solution. You just cannot dump your blackberries and iPhones into the dead sea – they’ve irrevocably become a part of your life. But you can always try to give your full attention to one task at a time. While you are at a critical task, avoid interferences – you’d have the mental push to reply to that text – and if you intend to do that, you may certainly go to hell. 🙂 Spend some time with yourself each day – take a walk, enjoy the beauty of the stars and the night sky (don’t forget to leave that confounded mobile handset in your couch as you go about it. :P). Try meditation and yoga – with time, you’d be more focussed and productive.

Attention definite disorder is necessary evil – but you can’t afford it to ruin your life. Push it to the wall and leave it there. Go about your life, focussed and ready.

And yeah, give that new BlackBerry/iPhone a miss. it ain’t worth it.

P.S.
You CERTAINLY suffer from CHRONIC attention deficit disorder if you did not complete reading this post. 😛

P.P.S.
Watch this video.

Categories
Poem

Shaken, not stirred

Last night, a lot broke up at home:
Mom’s shattered cutlery was epitome;
The car-windshield and dad’s chart,
Left no trace like my foundered heart.

Money would replace the losses,
All but one, which was still in musses,
The broken heart shall take its time,
Yet, it shall tick, weak and sublime.

My heart was always brittle,
It always fell prey to battle,
Layers of flesh and bones,
Couldn’t stop the pelted stones.

I foresaw the onslaught,
But all precautions went naught,
Ignoring the aftermath at bay,
I gave my heart away.

I blame none but myself,
Fighting eventuality itself,
I lost out, and nearly killed,
The heart which now stands tilled.

I pop pills to blind the pain,
Wearing plastic smiles to attain,
Much-needed closure and faux joy,
Contrived, like a child’s battered toy.

Someday, into the future,
I shall rise, aroused and mature,
Then, I’d beam and past, now interred,
I was sure shaken but not stirred!

Categories
Blogging Engineering

FakeMECian – Another blogging crusader.

"Everything is hostile. The whole place is now a cage, a zoo.
Now this move by the authority is more psychological."
"Where do you see the "technical excellence" that we are supposed to be
receiving here."
"If Smokey gets a fleeting glance at it or has a gut instinct that
something’s not right about your chaddie, you are obliged to strip and
prove your innocence/crime."

Before you glance at the above lines condescendingly, brace yourself.

*Mild-Drumroll*

There’s a hot new blogger in the block. Or rather, on the prowl. He (uh, I can’t conclusively say if it’s a ‘he’, but for sake of convenience, I allow myself to be sued by womens’ lib groups) blogs from an undisclosed location, apparently within the environs of a certain ‘Model Engineering College’ at Kochi (one of the best engineering colleges in the state, for that matter). And there’s a hell lot of caged emotion and angst involved, seemingly for valid reasons. 😉

*Exalted Drumroll*

Behold, ladies an gentlemen, make way for FakeMECiana home grown blogger from the bustling ‘metro’ of Cochin, Kerala. And he’s no mean deal; he’s a razor sharp tongue and a style that’d even put Adiga to shame. And he’s the guts to put out some gross injustices going on in his educational institution, under an anonymous garb, nonetheless. 😀

*Drumroll concludes*.

Visit the FakeMECian at – http://fakemecian.blogspot.com/

Ostensibly, FakeMECian has taken inspiration from this celebrity counterpart – FakeIPLPlayer. His blog talks about the numerous flaws and foibles going around in his college, which he tries to uncover in a light hearted manner. So, we have exquisite (and insanely-funny) narrations about a (supposedly) unruly Principal of the institution whose hobby is to confiscate mobile phones and laptops and make students live in hell. He reads messages from confiscated phones, and causes immense problems to the students, who are towards the end of it, screwed. Plus, many student-unfriendly and academically discouraging policies are being dissed in a lighter vein. 😛

Having bogged down by these and many such instances, a strict gag-order in-place within the campus, FakeMECian decided to take the law unto his arms and harnessed the power of the Internet to protest against the atrocities.

And he’s hit jackpot. 🙂

His blog posts average 30 comments within a couple of days’ of publishing. The first and the most famous post – “Laptop Ban” – has around 122 comments (when this post was being written), and that too within a week of being published. The blog already has 84 followers. And if the comments are to be believed, many of the incidents narrated by the MECian are true. Students, alumni and faculty have posted there comments in the blog posts – most supportive of the MECian, and others pledging concrete action.

Apparently, the Principal found about the blog and conducted an en-masse raid in the Men’s hostel of the college – but in vein. MECian is still continuing his covert operations in full form. And his gang of supporters is growing.

There’s a possiblity that MECian is just another miscreant hell-bent on creating a ruckus: but there’s every reason to believe that the possiblity is baseless. There’s an entire community of students and alumni vouching for the FakeMECian, who’s now being vocally praised as a champion within the college campus. If the allegations raised by the MECian are true, the success of his plan of action is quite guaranteed – the world will come to know of  what’s happening within the college premises and hopefully, corrective action will be taken soon.

Allow me to conclude with a quote by the blogger – and don’t forget to visit the blog and feast yourself with all the juicy details! 😛

“Vendetta?? No way. We are either too lazy or too busy to take action against such atrocities even if it questioned our own Privacy. We got assignments and home works to do. So lets get back to our “busy” life and do nothing about it.”

A.M.D.G.