Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Similarities in Modi’s and Obama’s campaigns

Borrowing from the Obama campaign?
Obama’s victory in the presidential election in 2008 was a watershed movement in world history. It captured the imagination of the world. It was a play of the classic story of the under-dog, the David who dared to take on the Goliaths of the world and won! While it has been described as a victory of multi-culturalism and of the “American Dream”, many analysts believed that the victory was the result of an “outstanding campaign”.

The Obama campaign was the first to discover and utilize Web 2.0. It drew on millions of fans from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace. It didn’t matter where in the world you were, you could still support and participate in the Obama campaign!

It was also a very shrewd and pragmatic campaign. “Race” was consciously kept out of the campaign, while everyone on the outside was constantly talking about it. The tensions and desperations were more visible on the Republican side with their campaign denigrating in to a vicious and vociferous “keep ‘em out- PLEASE” type of campaign. The Obama team was thus also able to capture the moral high-ground.

The campaign focused on the weak economy, the state of the nation and simple plots of the same nature where it was obvious to one and all that the current administration had failed and therefore deserved to be booted out. The Obama team was smart to place itself as the better alternative to the most pressing issues.

Obama drew on the media. He was everywhere, all the time. And this constant barrage broke in to the American consciousness. He was no longer just some random senator from Chicago but a very “real” and a very "serious contender" to the top job of the land.

Team Obama also made full use of the momentum that was in their favor. Right from the primaries and the face-off with Hilary Clinton (who would have given Obama a chance with her in 2007?) to the final elections, each victory was milked.

We also had Obama masks, Obama T-Shirts, Obama coasters, Obama with Hollywood A-listers, Obama in a pop song etc etc. all with the idea of creating an aura around “the chosen one”.

Modi and Obama represent two opposite ends of the political spectrum. However, Modi’s team seems to have taken many leaves out of the Obama campaign book. Readers would have seen the many parallels to the Obama campaign.

He’s omnipresent in the web. His campaign has been using technology to the hilt. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs- you name it, he’s there. He has an army of fans online.  I’ve even seen a video where Modi and his audience chant- “Yes- we can!”- borrowing from the famous Obama refrain. Modi masks have become a famous and standard feature at all his rallies. 

“Religion” has been consciously kept out of the campaign. The focus has been on the “mis-goveranance” and “massive corruption” of the current dispensation. There’s also been a very smart and calculated way of tackling with the media. Even if the campaign hasn’t been directly sponsoring any air-time, Modi seems to have found a way to be constantly in the news. The attempt has been to target the young- urban-educated middle class, the same group that took Obama to the White House. And Team Modi misses no chance in attributing any victory anywhere to its mascot.

The two key questions to be asked here are:

1.       Is this campaign working? And,
2.       Is the Urban-educated middle class in India big enough to influence the outcome of a national election?

There has been massive attendance at all Modi rallies, especially in urban areas, even in cities such as Hyderabad where the BJP is not all that strong.   

The results of the state-elections have come out today. Modi fans will be quick to take credit for everything.  I will ignore the verdicts in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. The two questions above would be more pertinent to Delhi and from the verdict the answers are still not clear.    

Saturday, November 30, 2013

On What is to be Done

For the past 10370 days I’ve struggled with the idea/concept that I need to do something with my life. Readers of my blog (there are a few around!) will immediately connect to a similarly reflective post written about 4 years ago.

But I’m wiser today (got grey around my temples), more mature (I hope so!) and have a better understanding of what it is to live (or struggle rather!).

I believe I have better perspective today (I see many of my ‘fans’ nodding their heads in disagreement). But, somewhere I feel that I lack clarity (my fans now nod in agreement). And this post is to, sort of, help me with that (my fans go- O.K!).

I’m a deeply reflective sort of person. I can reflect on anything and everything. There are times when I reflect on my reflections. Then I reflect on my reflections of my reflections. And then on my reflections of my reflections of my reflections. And if I’m not doing that, I reflect on why I’m not reflecting.

Many of you would have rightly concluded that this guy suffers from “analysis paralysis”. I guess it comes from a person who’s totally in love with himself (narcissist is a negative word for the same). That’s also why most of my posts are in first person.

So where I am going with this? Patience my dear reader.

I want to be “successful”. Yes, I do (you wouldn’t believe what I had to overcome to write that one small line down). Now, that’s kind of broad- I know!

How would I define “success”? Success is a journey. And in this journey of mine I would like to accomplish the following things-

1.       Become a great sales person.
2.       Become a great businessman.
3.       Become a great writer.
4.       Become a great finance person.

And I would like to fully utilize and create any opportunity that is out there to help me excel in all of the above.

That’s it. That’s all this post is about.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I think too much- Mea Culpa!

I think too much,
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!
For that is where I find most joy,
That is what strings my soul and is my light.
Forgive me for trying to fathom,
For trying to uncover life’s meaning- ‘Myself’!
Yes- I’m guilty, but I don’t feel guilt.
I say it aloud here only to share my motivations and my failures.
In this random world- how is one to make sense?
If I focus on others I’m being ‘controlled’,
If I focus on myself- I’m ‘selfish’!
Right or wrong is a matter of perception- but whose?
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!
I have questions- mea culpa,
I always have questions!
I’d like to imagine it like I’m peeling away at an onion,
But in reality I’m removing a drop from the ocean.
What is all this for? (Or should I cover my mouth for uttering the unutterable?)
I laugh at your naiveté,
But secretly- I long for your certainty.
I long for your simplicity- I long for…
But, alas! I have not only tasted the forbidden fruit (we all have),
I have also applied it!
Mea maxima culpa!

I think too much!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


How are you doing?

I’m doing _____!

OH! __________ ____?

Not ___!

How long before _ ____ up????

____ ___.

____ you too!


_ don’t ____, _ don’t ___ __ anymore.


___! I’m being ________ ____st.


That’s what they all say… for me everything’s just going blank!

Sunday, August 4, 2013


For the past couple of days I’ve had friends and well-wishers enquiring about me. Where have you been? What news? Why no funny FB updates? Yada yada yada.

Well… you see… I’ve been Bangalored. I’m going to explain that to you. So don’t rush. Ps: this post is going to be random because I’m just in the flow.

On April 21st I landed in this city. I got down somewhere near Forum mall (the landmarks are all malls in this city) and rang up my great friend Mr. U. It’s 7 in the morning. And I’m in the middle of the road with all my life’s belonging packed up from Cochin (3 small trolley bags and one air bag if you’re wondering what I’m worth).  And I call U and he doesn’t pick up. I’m stranded in the middle of the road for half an hour and U doesn’t pick up. That brings me to one of the most important rules in Bangalore- No one wakes up early. If you expect someone to meet you early in the morning 9 times out of 10 it is not happening. The one time it may happen is when he/she has been drinking the whole night and hasn’t slept a wink. That’s the only time Bangaloreans see early morning!

But, I don’t blame them. I empathize with them. You see for a morning guy I used to get irritated that you don’t get a hot cuppa at 6 in the morning. But, now I understand that it’s nearly impossible to wake up in the morning in this city. The climate is just so frigging awesome that you just want to cuddle up under your blanket and snooze away to glory. It’s a pain trying to wake up, it really is. Ah… the climate!

Well, in life you always have to have a plan B. So Randi way my plan B. Randi will be up in the morning. Randi is not Bangalorean (and you will never be!), he’s Mangalorean! And off I went to Randi’s place. Randi cooked for me, cleaned up after me, spent money on me, took care of me so well. The only problem is that he has a girl friend. Sigh! (Ps: girl friend thinks she might lose him to me sometime.)

Office was simple enough. Day one I was told what to do and ten minutes later I was expected to be doing it. Work’s more fun in Bangalore I have to admit. It helps that I have a boss who explains things to me in a language that I understand. “Wealth management is a function of knowledge skills”, he says. “You need to constantly update yourself or”, he pauses for emphasis; “you need a good pair of tits. So what would you like to develop?” See, simple choices.

There’s money in the city. Insane amounts of it. It’s mind boggling for a guy who’s fascinated about numbers and money (I am both). And the best part is most people don’t have a frigging clue what to be doing with it (and that’s where I as a professional money manager come in!).

Office is a crazy place. The 3 of us in my team are obsessed with money and we spend all our talking about it. Asset allocation, planning, taxation, fund selection and most importantly- numbers. The kind of stuff we’ve been discussing and researching could fill up a couple of volumes on Wealth Management. I’m loving every moment of it. It’s also the first time I’ve worked in a place where most of the women come to office in skirts. I love it.

When you land down in Bangalore you get the feel that you’re in the middle of one giant party. Bangalore is all about having a good time. And everything is done in excess. Everyone’s always talking about booze and food. There’s a million restaurants and pubs in the city dishing out every conceivable type of cuisine. This is the booze capital of India. It’s a pleasure to walk in to a beverage outlet with the fancy lights and designer set-up and find variety of alcohol available for you to choose from. No wonder Vijay Mallya is from this city. It’s the culture here.

And it’s almost a sin to be vegetarian here. Even Brahmins here are beef-addicts. The only vegetarians here are the ones imported from outside. And even they (have to in order to be ‘cool’ enough) compromise with egg. One day at this pub after taking our order (beef, chicken, mutton and some more beef) my vegetarian roomie orders something veg. And the waiter goes like- “Saar athu vegetarian saar!” It is not expected that you will eat veg.

And so let me move on to my PG. I stay off Brigade road. Those in the know will have questions like- How? What? Really? Yes, I stay just off Brigade road, bang in the heart of the city. It took me a week to find this place. I walk to office (which is every Bangalorean’s dream never going to be realized). There’s 8 of us here in the PG. And I’m proud to say that each one is a character (I always end up in places like this!). We’ve already had long nights with guys playing the guitar, random chatting, ranting about the land-lord and his assistant. It’s good fun. Almost like a college hostel.

What I don’t like about B’lore is that it makes you feel like you need a car and you need a girl-friend(girl-friend and not wife, pls note the distinction). It hits you. So much that you could almost punch a guy with either and murder the guy with both. I don’t know why it is exactly but it a sentiment that many guys have shared with me. Must be the climate- ideal for romantic long-drives. (I’m getting old!)

This place is also a smoker’s paradise. You can light up wherever and whenever you want. Every small shop will have every brand of cigarette. It’s crazy. One thing I don’t get is why the quantities of food and drink are so small in this city. You order for a tea and they give it to you in one small plastic cup. Two sips and it’s over. You order a masala dosa and it fills half a small plate. However, you go to a pub and order a pitcher and it’s one massive one. I just don’t get it!

Initially the pace of life in the city was something I needed to adjust to. Cochin is dead at 8 P.M. Here I’m in office till 9:30. But it’s something I’ve slowly got accustomed to. And actually the pace of life is not hectic at all. People just stay out longer. You see the concept of “just chilling” must have been invented in B’lore. You call up a guy/girl and ask what he/she’s doing and the reply will be “just chilling”. And you can picture in your mind what exactly the other person is doing. It fits.  People from other places/ from a previous generation would think that it’s just a waste of time. No it’s not. It’s just chilling!

So I’ll leave you with that. Chill madi- enjoy madi! (Ps: picking up a smattering of Kannada and will be using it more often in my posts.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


“We’re perfect for each other!”

“Ha ha… why do you say so?”

“It’s obvious. You have to be blind or stupid to not see it.”

“Well, I’m not blind, so are you suggesting that I’m stupid?”

“Just like you to read a double meaning in something unintentional. All right, you tell me why we are not?”

“Why we are not what?”

“Not perfect.”

“It’s obvious.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Yes, it is. You’re seeing things where there are none.”

“Look, we spend a lot of time together. We’re always laughing and it’s generally a good time when we hang out. We’re constantly in touch through whatsapp and phone calls. We’ve shared a lot of personal bits of our lives. We wouldn’t do that unless we were comfortable with each other and we trusted each other.”

“Agree. But, that’s not reason enough for me to get in to a relationship.”

“Oh, come on! It’s been ages since I’ve even kissed a girl.”

“See, the truth comes out. It’s physical for you, nothing else!”

“Yes, yes it is! I have to kiss you. I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve wanted to for many months now.”

“And after we’ve kissed?”

“We’ll kiss some more.”

“Ha ha… and after that?”

“Well, if you’d really like it then I could arrange for Ram’s room and you know maybe we could…”


“Roll around in bed a bit.”

“Ha ha… you know what I like about you. You are honest.”

“Good. See one more good thing about me.”

“You idiot. Fine, let me put it in words for you. After we’ve kissed and made out and whatever then what happens?”

“We’ll get married, have kids, send them away after a few years and then grow old with each other. Oh yes, there will be a lot of fighting along the way. I’ll usually win. It’s okay, I’m a generous winner. And the small things like buy a house, a car, settle down, lots and lots of love-making etc.”

“It’s all so simple for you na?”

“Isn’t that how it is for everyone?”

“Look, I don’t want to get in to something and have my heart broken again.”

“Me neither!”

“Yes, we’ve been through enough of that. So this time when I take a call I want to be dead serious about it. It’s final. I’m not going to change my mind. It has to be perfect.”

“I’m on the same page. And I think you are perfect for me. I think we are perfect for each other.”

“Look, I really like you… but…”

“But, I’m not perfect.”

“Please, don’t put it like that. Look you are funny, charming, intelligent, loving and gosh… I really don’t know why but it doesn’t feel right. Not yet at least.”

“You forgot ‘understanding’ in your list of attributes.”

“Oh yes, that also.”

“Are you waiting for prince charming again?”

“No, come on, don’t tease me.”

“Look, I know you’ve been through a lot. I’ve been very open about my past too. So you know where exactly I come from. Maybe I’m not the ‘prince-charming’. I know I’m not the greatest looker at all. But, I care about you. And, I think it could work between us.”

“Why do you hesitate?”


“Hesitate to say you love me.”

“Oooo boy! Okay, here goes. Well, I’m afraid of getting my heart broken again.”

She reaches out to his hand on the table. They hold each other and look at each other. At that moment the waiter arrives.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No thanks. We’re perfect!”

Saturday, March 2, 2013


It wasn’t that day and night were of the same duration. The fact was that where day ended and night began (or vice-versa) had ceased to be of any relevance. It was equinox.

Life didn’t matter anymore, neither did death. Which was why he was where he was. He lit a cigarette, dragging it in slowly. He had to wait. He could wait. Time didn’t matter anymore. There was nothing to go back to.

He was aware of day and night and what each meant. But they had ceased to be of any relevance to him in a personal way. Day meant that the sun would be out and there would be light. Night meant that you had to arrange your own light- that’s it. He couldn’t remember when he’d last slept so there was no way his body clock could react to the rotations of the earth.

Hiding behind a rock he took out his binoculars and scanned the sea. He noticed a light flashing. It was morse code. He smiled to himself- it was the right place. He then scanned the beach. Up about a distance of a kilometer he could notice a boat with two men replying back in code by means of a torch light.

The two men slowly guided their boat in to the sea and made out towards their target. The rendezvous would be at sea. It would take time. He waited and while he did that the mind began to ponder.

He had wanted to surprise her. He remembered walking in to the house without making a sound and tip-toeing his way across all the rooms looking for her. Finally, he’d moved upstairs in to the bedroom and that is when his life had come crumbling down.

He realized it was trauma that kept bringing back that scene in to his memory. His heart was cold and he no longer had any emotion when he played the scene in his head. It came back to him out of sheer habit. It had numbed him.

He moved closer to the landing point. From a suitable distance he took out his rifle and took aim. He had a clear view. He then placed the rifle by his side and took out the binoculars to once more scan the horizon. It had taken 6 months of work to get to this point. Now it was within his grasp.

But, did it matter? Was he going to be happy once he’d accomplished his mission? What next? Was all this worth anything? How long was he going to go on like this? These thoughts kept playing in the back of his head while his eyes remained focused on the horizon.

Finally the boat came again in to view. There were 3 men on the boat this time. There also seemed to be some crates on board. The sea was getting rough and the men were having a tough time trying to negotiate their way back to coast.

He needed to confirm what was in the crates and therefore waited for the boat to land before he took aim. The boat hit ground and the 3 men got off. They beached the boat on the shore and were about to unload their cargo when one of the men fell down flat on his face much to the surprise of his mates. The other two were looking at each other when one of them found a small bindi type dot forming on the others forehead and suddenly that same man had fallen flat on his face too.

Aleem had been too surprised to react when suddenly he felt a searing pain in his neck. He fell on to the sand and grasped at the wound with both his hand and felt himself suffocating.

“You move and I will kill you” -came a voice from behind Aleem.

Aleem strained to make out the features. He could feel his vision blurring. With a determined effort to focus he took a good look at the man. He was shocked.


“I want to know where the consignment came from”- said the man.

“You deceiving son of a pig! How could you?”

“Let’s not get in to too many details. You are dying. You are going to die. If you cooperate I will make it easier for you. Else you may wish yourself dead and hope that it happens sooner rather than later.”

“I treated you like my brother. I had even spoken to Ummi about giving you Sana’s hand in marriage. You ate and slept at my home for so many months. And all the while you were double-crossing us.”

The man smiled and said- “The truth can be a bitch.”

 “Son of a pig! You will go to hell for this!”

“I’m guessing that the stuff came from the Norwegian ship- ‘The Queen’. From there it was on-loaded to a smaller vessel called- ‘The Katgi’. In fact my guess is that it was the Katgi that signaled you guys from sea.”

Aleem remained silent and defiant. With an effort he spat in the direction of the man. What came out was more blood than sputum.

He was sorry for Aleem. He had fooled him completely. Aleem was a nice man but in the wrong profession. The man took out his pistol and took aim. Aleem’s forehead was pierced in an instant. He could have waited and prolonged Aleem’s agony. But it was not in his nature to do so. He wasn’t evil. It was the only kind of mercy that he was capable of.

He climbed on board the little boat and opened the crates. It was quality A-1 heroin. He removed the packets one by one and made a huge fire to destroy them. Once that was done he dug a huge pit and dumped the 3 bodies in to it. He then covered it up. He had with him a few sticks of dynamite. He placed them on the boat attached to a timer. He then pushed the boat out to sea. In ten minutes the boat exploded comfortably away from coast. He’d gotten rid of all evidence.

The B-gang would be confounded. This was the biggest operation they’d been planning for over a year. They would have no way of finding out what exactly had happened to their consignment. There was no trace at all. They’d be going around in circles trying to figure exactly what had happened.

It had all gone perfectly according to plan. He was supposed to be happy and so he smiled. But it didn’t come from within. Suddenly he felt weary. He hated himself. Aleem was right- he did deserve to go to hell.
Maybe this was hell he thought to himself. The never ending equinox.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Freedom of Expression

India is no longer a democracy. We are a hypocrisy. Our stated values and actions are poles apart.
This country was founded on the fundamental basis of value of human rights. Our founding fathers had the wisdom to write a constitution that would enshrine these human rights for everyone lucky enough to be born “Indian”. But, where are we today?

Yes you have the right to justice. But, we never told you how long it would take na. Yes you have the right to equality. Which means all of you will be treated equally badly. And most importantly, you have the freedom of expression- which means that you can say whatever you want as long as no one else hears it!

Government structures have evolved over centuries. Today, most societies in the world have come to the common conclusion that representative democracy is the best way forward. The system is not perfect. That’s why there are many checks & balances in place to make sure that the system doesn’t become stale and abused. There are two fundamental flaws though with democracy. One is that it takes time. To get even 50% of the people to form a common consensus is no simple task especially in larger countries. The bigger flaw with democracy, and one that we must be aware of at all times, is that though the government is elected at the behest of the majority, it doesn’t have to be that the majority is always right!

This is why we have fundamental rights. It is to protect the individual from the state. It clearly defines what you are entitled to. And come what may- these rights cannot be denied to you. The most fundamental of rights would be the right to freedom of expression. The very essence of being human is the ability to express one’s self. This expression could go against the prevailing norm of the day. And, this will be the acid test of how “civilized” we as a society are willing to be.

 It is difficult to clearly define the limits on the freedom of expression. Yes, we need limits. We can’t have guys going around town “expressing their rage” by shooting everyone in sight. Fundamentally, this expression should not involve the physical abuse of another person. What about the non-physical abuse? Now, this becomes a little tricky.

Say a woman walks past me naked. She is in no way physically involving me in her “expression”. How would I react? A part of me would be aroused. But, if I were with my family, then I would also be upset. It is indecent to appear nude in public places. It puts everyone else at a discomfort. When we are in the public sphere we must acknowledge that we are only tenants and not land-lords. We must behave in ways that will respect others’ rights. So which right of mine was the nude-lady infringing on? I would say it would be the “right to be left alone”. The right to be left alone/ the right to choice/ the right to privacy, becomes important in order to clearly define what can actually be designated as free expression. If a nude lady came out in a public space then that clearly abuses my rights and should be stopped. Maybe she’s protesting against AFSPA or for PETA. But, that doesn’t give her the right to invade my space. Now, if PETA wants to draw attention to its cause and says come and watch models nude and show your support- there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m being given a choice and the ladies are being allowed to express themselves.  

So, when it comes to freedom of expression, there must be a choice for the people. Now, with media, it is clear that we have this choice. If you feel Arnab Goswami is speaking rot today, you have the freedom to switch channels. If a movie touches a raw nerve then you have the choice to not go for it. It’s that simple.
But, all this is well when it comes to third persons. What if I’m involved directly? What if I felt someone was perpetrating lies about me and hurting my character and public image? Well, then in this case, the simple rule should be- “the truth must prevail”. If someone has said something rotten about me then they better substantiate it with proof, or, they must tender a public apology and remove the incendiary material forthwith. But, here again we must be careful with how this rule is applied. It should be the responsibility of the litigant to clearly define that the intent of the accused was libel/slander. This is important because if someone says- “Ajai doesn’t like cheese burgers” and if I go to court demanding proof of the same, then we are going in circles.

It is important to allow people to express themselves in the widest of ways possible. Only when one expresses an opinion can another grasp it. History is replete with examples of people who went against public opinion and had to make the ultimate sacrifice. Our modern societies need to ensure that individuals are given the space to express themselves without fear. It might be that the speaker is pointing an important fault in us. But, because of various reasons we are unable to see/ understand his/her views. With time and maturity society slowly begins to understand and appreciate the problem and starts to act on it. Public opinion takes a long time to shape. Democracy isn’t that we will always do things right, but, that eventually we will all find the right way. Freedom of expression is essential to ensure that it is so.

But, today in India, this freedom of expression is being abused by the political class. There have been many instances in the recent past where a twitter/FB update has sent a person to jail. Even the recent controversy over ‘Vishwaroopam’ was a clear political ploy. It becomes important for the courts and society to step up and stop this kind of abuse of our fundamental rights. This sets a dangerous precedent and one that could affect the way our society develops over the years.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Know Smoking!

It was a December evening. Was back from work early and had nothing much to do. Went back to my room, changed into my casual clothes and went down to the chai kadai on the street parallel to my lodge.
I’m a regular so I don’t have to place an order. I just need to be seen and automatically a strong tea and a Wills Navy cigarette end up in my hands. I lit my cigarette and was sipping my tea when I saw this guy who was about my age. He ordered tea and biscuits. He looked at me and smiled. We’d been noticing each other for some time. It was the first time he’d acknowledged me so I smiled back.

“Hi, my name is Sam”- he said introducing himself. “Ajai”- I replied.

“What do you do?”- he enquired.
“I’m a financial advisor. Work for an investment bank here in Panampily Nagar.”
“That’s nice.”
“Thanks. What do you do?”
“I’m a pastor.”
“Oh wow! Little young to be pastor na?”
“Ha… I’ve heard that before. Well it’s never too young to be doing what you love doing.”
I liked that answer. I nodded in agreement.
“Where do you preach?”- I asked.
“Church nearby, near Padma.”
“That’s cool.”
“Can I ask you a question?”- he enquired.
“Sure, go ahead!”
“Why do you smoke?”
I smiled and replied- “Because I enjoy it!”
He laughed and said- “That’s the most original answer I’ve heard.”
I smiled back.
“But, if you don’t mind, I’d like to prod. I don’t get why people smoke. Why people willingly consume that poison and drown themselves in it. It doesn’t make any sense.”
I’d just finished my cigarette. I stubbed it out. Ordered 4 more for the night, pocketed it and went back to my friend.
“Busy?”- I enquired.
“Not really”
“Want to go for a walk?”
“Ya, sure.”
We started walking down PT Usha road. I opened again.
“That’s a difficult one to answer. It’s a question I’ve asked myself. I guess it’s the kick!”
“What kick? I’ve heard many guys tell me about this ‘kick’. What are you actually talking about?”
“I guess you’ll have to experience it to know.”
“I’ve tried a cigarette once- a long time ago. I remember choking on the smoke. I remember telling myself this is ridiculous and there’s no way I can be doing this.”
“That’s usually how it is the first time.”
“So, what made you continue?”
“It was not my first experience. I didn’t cough when I first smoked. I don’t know why. Probably because my Dad smokes and I was around it so much.”
“Okay. But did you experience this kick the first time?”
“No. Actually the first time I did it I was like why the hell is nothing happening.”
 “So you continued till you got the ‘kick’?”
“Hmmm… you ask good questions. Yes, that’s what I actually did. Before you ask me why I did that let me answer. I thought it was cool and rebellious.”
“That is absurd.”
“No it isn’t. Might not be very logical, but not absurd.”
“So you still do it to be cool and rebellious?”
I laughed and said- “No. Today I know I’m cool and I know I’m rebellious. I probably do it to tap in to that part of me.”
“But, what about the consequences?”
“About the diseases and cancer and stuff right?”
“Ya. That and everything else.”
“Well, all things have consequences. I guess it’s up to the individual.”
“How do you do it when the consequences are so clear to you?”
“Well, a soldier knows the consequences of his profession. But, he still takes it up.”
“It’s not a fair comparison.”
“Well not an exact one. But, it was meant to highlight that the consequences need not be a deterrent. Look I have a simple funda. All things in excess are bad. You eat too much food and that’s bad. You sleep too much and that’s bad. Similarly if you smoke too much or drink too much it’s bad. You should do everything in moderation. Too much or too little can be a problem.”
“So you are saying everyone should smoke?”
“No. It’s like saying everyone needs to eat non-veg, doesn’t have to be. You can eat non-veg. Too much might not be a very good thing.”
“But, eating non-veg is good. It gives strength and proteins to the body. What does a cigarette do?”
“Eating non is good for us, but not for the poor animal that got killed. And non-veg is not ‘necessary’. We eat non because we enjoy it. Yes it has positives for the body. But, too much non is not good.”
“Yes, but smoking is not good for the body.”
“Different people react to different stimuli in different ways. And it’s not always about the body. It’s more about the mind. I go out to watch a movie not because my body will benefit but because my mind will. A cigarette probably falls in to that category of stimulus.”
“I can’t believe you are actually defending smoking and doing it quite well.”
“Thank you”- I said smiling.
“But smoking is a bad thing right?”
“Health wise- yes. And if you look at it at a social level again you could say it is better done away with. But, it’s a natural product. People have been doing it for ages and will continue to do it whatever happens.”
“So you are saying we should let people smoke?”
“They will do it even if you try to ban it. That’s the truth. It’s what’s happened with alcohol & drugs. Those who want to will find a way. Cigarettes are in some way better in the sense that the person doesn’t lose all control when he smokes.”
“And see all these things are kind of outlets. It’s a way for a guy to lose himself, to forget himself. This can be good and bad. Look if I’ve had a tough week and on the weekend I go to party, have a couple of drinks and have a good time to recharge myself, I think that’s an okay thing. It’s an outlet to remove the stress of the week. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
“On the other hand if I’m depressed- my girl just walked out on me and married a chutiya and I drink myself to forget my pain like Devdas- that’s plain silly, doesn’t serve any purpose. Both cases it’s alcohol, but for 2 entirely different purposes.”
“I get that.”
“Good. So it’s up to the individual. Each person should have the maturity to understand what he is doing and why he is doing it. Sometimes, people take a long time to figure. Some people never figure. But, each person reacts differently. And it’s probably part of the person’s growth, it broadens your outlook and gives you perspective. A person has to have the freedom to find himself.”
“That’s a way to look at it.”
“Yes, in this process of finding himself, if he becomes a menace/nuisance to society, then he needs to be stopped. No questions about that. It’s not going to be possible to ask each guy who buys a smoke or a drink- why are you buying it? Is it for a good reason or bad? However, if he starts a problem in society by his actions then we need to intervene and stop this guy.”
“So why do you smoke?”
“I answered that already didn’t I?”
“No. You seem like an intelligent chap. You know that smoking is not healthy. You could do other things to stimulate yourself. Why smoke?”
“Ah. That’s a good one.”
“And I’m waiting for your answer.”
I took out a cigarette and lit it. He watched me as I inhaled and then exhumed a cloud of smoke.
“I started because I thought it was cool and rebellious. I guess I’m still trapped in that image. I’m an extremely obsessive guy. I have OCD. Cigarettes are my stimulus. It helps me think. Whenever I’m stuck I go out and have a smoke. I don’t get the answer immediately, I admit to that. But, in some ways it stimulates my brain cells- keeps me going. Lightens the load and I feel good again.”
“Ya, it’s also in some ways a statement I’m making. Fuck the world. Fuck all the gyan about it being unhealthy and expensive and all that shit. It’s my way of saying- ‘Fuck you’ to the world.”
“Why do you need to say that?”
“Part of my rebellious nature. Look, it’s subjective. You have to be me to understand it.”
“Right. Go on.”
“Having said that, I admit it has limitations. There have been occasions when I’ve been under severe stress and where I’ve smoked 40-50 in a day continuously for a period of time without going anywhere. Nothing happens. You are just stuck. Then the cigarette actually does the reverse- it increases your stress.”
“Glad you realize that.”
“Yes. I do. And that’s when I need to do something positive. When I need to go out and do ‘something different’, something that stimulates me in a different way to divert the mind so that I can come back to the problem later on with fresh energy and a better perspective. “
“It’s all about working your mind and stuff for you isn’t it?”
“Yes. Totally! I guess I continue to smoke because I still find it enjoyable. I don’t do it in excess. On normal days it still helps. When I’m drinking I smoke a lot. But, that’s probably the other end when I’m enjoying myself. I drink only when I want to have a good time and with good company.”
“Still not making sense.”
“No. It won’t. We are very different people. Look at the most basic level all I can say is that I smoke because I enjoy it. Is it good? Sometimes yes, it helps my mind. Sometimes no, it does the opposite. Health wise or money-wise I don’t have a defense. It’s stupid thing to do- no doubt about it. But we can’t and shouldn’t be objective about everything. Probably if I find something else to stimulate my mind, or if I get bored of it, I will move on. Might happen, might never happen.”
“What do you want to happen?”
“Ah! You ask such poking questions! Right now I’m comfortable smoking. I enjoy it. So that’s how it is going to be.”
“I hope you will change your mind.”
“I will remember you if I do. Night!”
“Good Night!”