As common as smoking has become in Pakistan and worldwide, it’s still not easy being a smoker in a country where you can’t fetch a cigarette without attracting a frown or two, and a good ten-minute lecture from your elders and do-gooder friends.
Here are some of the things Pakistani smokers will be able to relate to:
1. You have to excuse yourself from your company and look for a place to smoke every time you want to light one.
Because manners = no smoking. It is utterly ‘disrespectful’ and ‘offensive’ to light a cigarette in front of your elders, as well as your younger relatives. The ‘setting an example’ talk comes to mind, forcing you to stand cramped behind a tree, quickly smoking and barely unwinding, before anyone sees you.
2. You’ve spent a good part of your teenage years hiding this from your parents.
The cigarettes and lighter, the ashes that get stuck onto your clothes, the smell…
“Me? Haath bhi nai lagaya kabhi, ammi.”
“Asim peeta hai, uss ki cigarette ki smell aap ko aari hai.“
3. But you probably did get caught at least once and then the emotionally charged drama knew no end…
The breaking down in tears, the yelling, the discharge of emotions – they put so much ‘effort, love and money’ into bringing you up, and here you are, ‘puffing it all away.’ As if the emotional guilt from hiding your smoking wasn’t enough, your family goes out of their way to punish you for it.
4. If you happen to be a female smoker, people’s disgusted and horrified stares, labels and judgments will follow you even in death.
It’s worse if you’re a hijabi and a smoker. Religion and smoking apparently just don’t go together. Of course, that doesn’t hold true if a man with a beard smokes.
5. You’re not a Pakistani smoker if you haven’t gone around your university and/or workplace asking people for a cigarette or a lighter.
You’ve gone from bench to bench, from person to person in the hopes of finding a sutta. You’ve probably even stopped to ask that random guy you saw smoking on campus one day, all for a cigarette – and without any shame whatsoever!
6. But you hate it when your colleagues do the same, especially if you happen to have only one cigarette on you!
Jaan maang lo, sutta na mangna.
7. You hate it when some of your friends whine as soon as you reach for a cigarette;
Some start coughing. Some get up and leave. Some make disgusted faces. Some rant on and on about the dangers of passive smoking. And you’re just like:
8. Your girlfriend/boyfriend has emotionally blackmailed you into trying to quit.
The emotional drama your parents gave you? Um, you should wait till you see what your girlfriend has in store for you.
Her dad won’t say yes if you smoke; your personality and character do not matter.
9. But all hell broke loose the one time you did try;
The withdrawal symptoms got to you. Your temper shot up, your restlessness and anxiety knew no bounds, and your appetite altered, and whoever made nicotine gum had no taste buds, and didn’t want them ever again – the burning sensation alone is enough to kill you. So you gave up, and now you just hide it instead.
And for the most part, it works!