NO SMOKE SIGNALS


King James I of Great Britain described it, way back in 1604, as: “A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the Nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.” Of course, he was talking to his subjects and asking them to stop smoking. Ever since, every wife has taken his admonition to heart, as men with nag-induced deafness will vouch for.
The anti-smoking do-gooder, control-freak mafiosi has spread globally and prohibited almost everything there is to prohibit re smoking. For a glimpse of some high-impact anti-smoking ads, check this blog out. Remember Animal Farm’s memorable Orwellism? “Everything is permitted, except that which is not prohibited. Everything is prohibited, except that which is permitted.” It is illegal in the US and European countries for young kids below 18 or 19 years to buy cigarettes. I don’t understand this: kids can have sex at 13 years, but can’t smoke? Are their sexual organs developed faster than their lungs? I mean, is any of this evidence-based? In India, the Censor Board has made it illegal for actors in movies to be shown smoking, unless they, the censors, decide that the act of smoking has, necessarily, to be shown in the scene. You can’t smoke in pubs, restaurants, toilets….poor smokers have to stand under a tree, risk bird droppings on their heads, and puff without pleasure. Very soon, some leftist, American environmentalist will protest that the birds in the tree (which were aggressively and unacceptably squirting their pungent excreta inferiorly and aggravating androgenic alopecia in the unfortunates below), were harmed by the second-hand smoke, and launch a multi-billion dollar campaign, funded by the smokers’ own taxes, to act and stop the power (less) puff girls and guys. Every irritating caw of a perennially argumentative crow will sound like fits of hacking smokers’ cough to their untrained ears. Every bird death will be on the collective conscience of the smokers. They will then prove that Bird Flu (SARS) is caused by a second-hand smoke-induced susceptibility of the birds to germs. ‘Smoked chicken’ will have a totally different meaning in times to come. Countries where smoking would be allowed would be shamed repeatedly in the UN, WHO, World Bank, GATT, G8 and other international meetings for being barbaric and allowing such wanton ornithologic destruction. Obviously, these countries would be untouchables for trade, as we all know. Just like the animal-testing thing, you know?

The UK is banning smoking in restaurants from the 1st of July this year, and France is following suit from 1st January 2008. In India, every place a smoker goes to becomes a smoking zone. Anything goes, or as we say, “Chalta hai, re!” I remember, back when I was a student on the way back home, sitting near the driver in a ramshackle (even that word is flattering) mini-bus made of tin, tearing up at its edges, there was a man blowing thick cig smoke on my tender, clean face. And this was on a hot, humid day, temperature in the 40s, with my shirt sticking to my back with odorless sweat. I asked him not to smoke, to which he screamed, “Is this your bedroom? You ask me to stop smoking in your bedroom. You have no right to control me here!” Ah, such acute awareness of rights we Indians do have, don’t we? In the same breath, I should mention that if anyone should see a young couple necking in a park, or in a car, he would happily get them arrested or, at the least, chastised and threatened. We have a population problem, you see. Can’t allow promotion of sex, can we now?

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