A Smokey Affair

IMG_3003It wasn’t long back when I was enticed into a “world of smokers” by signing up for a career in advertising. Just as Mexicans are synonymous to tequila, it seemed to me every adman had a thing for cigarettes. Although I had managed to keep my lips off this burning stick throughout my school and college years, the fulfillment of an adman was yet to be realized. Upon joining my first job in advertising back in 2006, I was just another guy from NSU-overconfident, hyped and yet bearing no sense of the world around. Since I had a friend who used to work right next-door in what we all call an ad agency, when the time came for me to look for something beyond the regular classes, the friendship landed me a job at “a positive advertising”.

Needless to say, the friend who got me the job and the rest 99% of my colleagues in the new firm, had a cigarette stuck in between the index and middle finger almost every 30 min of a working day. While the weekdays in an advertising firm are never-ending, so were the chimneys working in them. I was sidelined, booed and invited over and over to join the group of commoners i.e. smokers; but their relentless pursuit proved to be futile as I continued on. But as the story goes, just like Adam’s interest towards the forbidden apple, my slow yet inevitable attraction towards cigarettes soon grew to become a habit. From a casual puff or two to becoming a full-time smoker, all it took was just a couple of weeks. And to my utter surprise, becoming a smoker was having friendly benefits, as I got idler networking hours as well as the “fruitful” brainstorming minutes. I was enjoying this new world of smokers and smoking anew, may be a little late than usual; but I was a smoker nevertheless. And as I joined the masters of cigarette advertising in the form of Ogilvy & Mather, the cherry on the cake was redder than ever 🙂

Life seemed ever so macho and cool with every puff of nicotine that I had soon started talking like a smoker (i.e. pulling legs of other non-smokers), living like a smoker (mint candies, cigarette holders, fancy lighters) and of course the attitude of being the “Marlboro man”. From smoking Benson & Hedges to Pall Mall, Dunhill to Marlboro, Gold Leaf to 555 no stone was left unturned for I was as keen as a kid to get used to myself in this global phenomena.

But the glitz-blitz had made me oblivious to how the “Adam’s apple” story ends; I had completely overlooked the fact that I was asthmatic till high school, my stamina was getting reduced and also the fact that, one burning cigarette was taking away 6 or so minutes of life away. Strangely, I knew what I was heading for and persisted on, watching movies like “thank you for smoking” as references of cool guy with attitude who smokes everyday. Slowly but steadily, smoking was becoming an unwanted part of my daily life from the early morning poop to the first cup of tea, everything had a liking for a smoke… and I was more than willing to comply with this!!! The angels in me tried to fight off this amoeba devil, which was getting a firmer grip on me every passing day. I tried quitting, but all it resulted in was a temporary decline in number of sticks consumed. I was a victim of my own whims, and soon the time was here to pay for it…

The family had a long lackluster history of tuberculosis and deaths from it, and yet I had never paid any heed to it. Since the last known case was the generation prior to my parents, I had almost forgotten it even existed. But ironic as it may be, soon I was diagnosed having an infection of these venerable bacteria. Luckily I had managed not to be diagnosed with the more common and contagious form of it, the tubercular lung disease… mine needed treatment just the same though. I continued to live my daily life under a heavy dose of drugs and of course with my dear-old cigarette. Throughout the medication, the smoking was on… and all I could do in the idle moments was to contemplate how my life would be if the infection turned to a disease. As the course of drugs finished, and it was time to get a review of my infections… a simple precautionary test was thought of by the family. Since my regular physician was out on leave, and couldn’t suggest the proper heath check to ensure my medication had worked; we all went for the basic tuberculosis test the Mantoux test.

To my utter shock and disbelief, every member of the common gene pool (my father, me and my brother) had tested positive of having the bacteria floating somewhere in our blood streams. Down and devastated, I was only awaiting for the worst – that I had developed to be become an active case, and my father and brother were contaminated being exposed to me. But gladly, god had his own plans for us! As we hurriedly consulted a doctor specializing in tubercular ailments, he consoled me with the news of a total recovery and that over 60% of total population of Bangladesh carry dormant cells of tuberculosis (which of-course is non-malignant) and my family need not be worried.

This sudden stage of events got me thinking, and thinking hard on it… there was only one way out of foreseeable complications, QUIT SMOKING!

And quit I did, rather abruptly. I decided to pick a day to put an end to it, and fixed on 1st of July to be the “day of reckoning”. Ever since then, its been almost three weeks I have lived without a puff of smoke, and I feel ever so happy to have left this habit behind. Now I go jogging after office, beating my previous lap times almost everyday… only to breathe better and live healthier one more day. May be I had a reason to quit (since my weak lungs would certainly endanger me), but so do you all!!! No adman ever found it hard to work around his brains without a cloud of smoke clogging his brains, nor would you…

Life has many offerings to us, and what is beneficial and what is not is for us to decide. May be all our lives we would aspire to breathe in the clean air of tranquil Switzerland, and live amidst the fog and clog of polluted Dhaka but impossible as it may sound its much better to dream of a utopia than to inhale in the breath of death… NICOTINE!!!

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