As the World No Tobacco Day dawns on May 31, my mind races to my ancestral home where smoke emanating from his cigarettes used to greet me every day as I peered outside the window into the garden, as he watered the plants. He would then seat himself beside the phone using which he ran his seafood business.
Seated on the settee beside the phone, he would swing his legs rhythmically, knocking his knees in the process, betraying the nervousness of a businessman dealing with an unpredictable business as his.
With the receiver of the phone in his right hand, he would caress his fast balding pate with his left, between the middle and the index finger of which would be present his omnipresent companion of those days—a smouldering cigarette.
The number of cigarettes smoked daily would be directly proportional to the ill heath of his business. Phone calls through, he would stroll up and down the garden, spewing smoke like a mobile chimney! Whenever his cigarettes ran out of stock, I would be ordered to run up to the kiosk at the junction to buy him new packets of cigarettes, to reinforce his fast exhausting stocks, which I used to obey without protests or second thoughts, unaware that I was only hastening his death.
Nothing deterred the man from his smoking ways, except stern warnings from my mother on the effects of passive smoking, while he smoked inside the house when his first granddaughter was born. The little infant was instrumental in having her grandfather stop smoking at least inside the house. However, he continued to be his ‘mobile chimney’ self outside the house, as the means to smoke away his ‘business worries’, seemingly. One morning he suffered a massive heart attack at home. He passed away on the way to the hospital.
Turning back, I feel guilt ridden for having played a part in having him smoked himself to death. I should have protested vehemently while being ordered to reinforce his cigarette stocks. If at all there is something on which to disobey an elder, it would be to deny him that packet of cigarette, which is nothing but a tubular structure that smoulders at one end, and has a fool at the other!
I exhort all youth of this land to disobey an elder when being asked to provide him his quota of cigarettes, as I, as an youngster years ago, inadvertently hastened my father’s death by helping him reinforce his fast-dwindling cigarette stocks, which played a great deal to hasten his death through a heart attack, though it is too late now to regret about it.