Empty packs of Marlboro lying on the ground. Piles of ash scattered over the road on which we walk. I know where it is, I know where it is…
There is a place where trees burn in smoke that parts from our lips and the sky is lost in the blur of sight and we lose ourselves in the past… of old love, of mistakes committed, of blunders that were, at that time, unavoidable.
It is where cheap boards of plastic have names of Bollywood stars of the 90’s and shopkeepers sell cigarettes like hot cakes. It doesn’t matter to us that often the cops catch us and fine us. That escape is far greater than the money that defines our very existence. Because at that moment, nothing exceeds the reach of smoke that pulls us away from the embrace of pain.
We don’t realise it, but smoking is the symbol of everything that is humane about us. We connect through pain along with the compromise of sin. It is not in the preaching of the church, the dictation of spiritual gurus, but in the guy nearby who offers you a smoke seeing the desolation in your eyes. What is odd is that even in something such as smoking, there is gender discrimination.
“You know she smokes?
“What a slut!”
“You know he smokes?”
“Oh ok, so what’s wrong in that? It’s his life. His choice.”
The smoke that comes from incense sticks in the name of God kills more people than the smoke from a cigarette. Because it kills the souls that reside in the people. Forces them into submission to a higher power that supposedly dictate how we are supposed to live. That very soul that can break free, that very soul that can scream and cry when there is the desire to do so. That very soul, that is not ashamed to claim and destroy itself. A cigarette, that poison is the instrument of our liberation.
Yes, we burn every living cell to dust. But we live at the price of surviving. And who is to stop us from putting anything in between our lips? Be it, strawberry candy or a cigarette. We did not ask to be born in this fucked up world. We were thrown into it and told to obey. Told to be good to others, to be kind to people, to be compassionate towards those hurt us. What about us? Who will fill our own underlying silent… emptiness?
We may be born slaves, but our freedom lies beyond the space where the smoke escapes, where we lose our sense of living and reach a kind of infinity where perhaps, death exists. So, what if we die? We forget that the very moment we are born, we are destined to die. Such is the tragedy of our lives and no matter how much we cloud it with hope, principles or faith… that will not change.
But is the tragedy bad? Isn’t everything that dies beautiful? Isn’t a flower in a garden more alluring than a flower made from plastic? Would Eva Green still possess the sex appeal as she did in the movie “The Dreamers” if she stopped smoking? Isn’t the picture of Eva green with a cigarette enticing because it reminds us that anything that has the ability to die also has the ability to hold beauty? These are some things worth pondering on. Doesn’t the aesthetics of existence count for something?
It’s a metaphor and perhaps we are not able to see it due to our own crooked moral compass. For every inch of a cigarette that turns to ash, there is a whisper of liberation, a wail of loneliness, a cry for revolution against oppression and a declaration of our right to assert ourselves against the moral judgment of people in general.
Thus, affirming the very insignificance of our short, mortal life.
Photography By: Sarthak Dubey