Pic.: Chetna Shetty
“Hey, she is smoking!” This is your topic, “Your time starts now.”
It was a group of three boys and three girls, all junior-college kids. I had given them this topic for Group Discussion, this morning, during our P.D. session.
None of them smoked, leave alone the girls. They came from conservative homes and went to conservative schools and colleges. So, it didn't surprise me when all of them spoke strongly against smoking.
But, then, the topic was – “Hey, ‘she’ is smoking!”
17-year-old Debasmita had objection to the gender discrimination. “To me, smoking IS injurious to health; it sucks your lungs... It kills you,” she said with loads of conviction, “But, it doesn't’ discriminate between men and women, boys and girls – it sucks all, kills all.”
Debasmita pointed that she wasn't surprised seeing girls smoke as much as she wasn't seeing boys do. If boys think that it is their freedom and they can get away with it, so do girls,” she added, “So, I will tell all of them – not just girls – ‘Don’t smoke’...”
Eighteen-year-old Jaanvi argued, “If boys can smoke, why can’t girls?”
“It is not about whether you ‘can’,” pointed Chirag, “It is whether you ‘should’...”
Nobody said ‘the boys can and girls can’t.” Nor did anybody say, “Boys should and girls shouldn’t”
“We should stop boys and girls from smoking,” a young-man suggested.
“No one will listen to our advice,” another young-lady noted, “Once they decide to smoke, they will go all the way and do it.”
“For many of us, the sight of girls smoking outside malls or movie-halls comes as a culture-shock, because we have not been seeing it here,” said another young-man, “But, it is a common-sight in the West.”
“So, what is the moral of the story,” someone had to conclude.
Debasmita did. “Friends, I am happy that we could openly talk today, on this much-avoided subject,” she said, “I am happy that almost all of us are of the opinion that smoking is a health issue and not a moral or gender issue. It doesn't spare any smoker. So, our reaction should be – ‘Hey, SMOKING! and not Hey, SHE is smoking!'...Thank-you.”
Like all other habits, the habit of smoking, too, starts with the influence of someone around us. It happens when our minds are susceptible, weak... It. also starts with a misplaced notion – as made famous by Gary Lawyer’s famous song (Remember 90’s anti-smoking ad on D.D.?) - ‘A cigarette in my hand, I felt like a man!’ Yes, the distorted notion, that one could impress, look macho, bold, free, modern and progressive by holding a cigarette in hand!”
And, like all other addictions, the addiction of smoking, too, is tough to come out from...
So, as Debasmita said, today, it is not about ‘She’ smoking... It is about ‘smoking’... It is about whether or not we want our lungs to be sucked, and whether or not we want to be killed by the smoke!”