Alumni Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts
Don’t smoke no, appa
You’ll get cancer.
What is cancer?
I ask her
It’s a very bad disease that comes,
she says worriedly.
Really? Is it that bad?
It the worst-
she says confidently
Are you sure, my love?
You are young
You are yet to see the world
And a new life is ahead of you
But as for me,
I have already walked this path-
People are a disease.
And that is why I smoke.
I smoke because our country is torn
And the bits are catching fire.
Fire is everywhere
Why can I not light my cigarette?
At first I lit my passion in this fire
I strayed and I saw
And soon I smoked
Because what is a cigarette?
But a commodity
Which we all share; and everyone can use
And by smoking this cigarette in some way
Or by rolling this tobacco we share experience, pain, love-
Because we all smoke, don’t we?
We all burn
And through this small cigarette,
I liked to believe that even if we were commodities
We shared a light, a small hope
But then my youth left me
With nothing but horrors I saw,
And the fire that once ignited a passion in me
Was reduced to dangerous flame that was distant but always near
And now I see Kashmir is burning
Gujarat is burning
Bastar is burning
And I see newly wed couples going around the sacred flame
Don’t they see it is the visible part of the invisible fire that surrounds us?
And my darling, as you steal ghee to eat from the kitchen
they pour ghee into the fire it lights up
Blind belief is ghee, my child
Never pour it into fire if you don’t want it to ignite
But you ask me why I smoke?
I smoke because each tale of rape
Each tale of death
Each tale of heart wrenching sadness
Is spirit to fire
Every tree cut down
Every forest cleared
Every Adivasi killed
We watch, and we wait
We light our cigarettes in this fire
And they hide behind their privilege
The fire is building
And soon this world will burn
So when the world is burning
And the smoke of belief becomes a fog
What is one cigarette, my darling?
Its ash will give you light to find your friends
So why do I smoke?
I smoke to forget the itch of inaction
I smoke to rethink my privilege
I smoke and I believe that with each drag out
I am freeing thousands of people
But mostly in the invisible fire,
I light my cigarette on the same pyre that burnt a woman with her husband
To show them that they can burn women,
they can burn forests,
they can burn the marginalized
But remember these ashes will not fade
They are collecting on this very earth
And soon there will be enough
To extinguish their flame.