My family owned a tobacco business for a few years when I was a child. All the adult men in our family had to smoke to assess the quality of the tobacco. The youngsters, particularly from the family of my uncles, were not prohibited from smoking. If they had to be a part of the business, they had to know the taste of the tobacco.
Smoking, however, never interested me. As a child, I thought smoking was bad for youngsters and may be good for older people who earn out of it. I didn’t smoke and my dad didn’t want me to smoke ever.
Around the mid 1950s, on one specific occasion, curiosity got the better of me – I wanted to know what a smoke tastes like. I chose a time when my dad’s office was empty. I closed both doors to the office. To ensure that no one detects me, I crept under the office table, and put a beedi in my mouth, filmy style.
I tried to copy Dilip Kumar, N T Ramarao or Nageswar Rao, the then Hindi and Telugu famous movie actors. I lit the beedi, and took my first puff. Oh no! I started coughing immediately. The cough just would not stop.
My dad was in the quality inspection room located just behind the office room. He sent our senior supervisor Girijappa to figure what was wrong with me. Girijappa rushed, looked at me, understood what I was upto. He said it is not unusual and that it happens when you smoke for the first time. That was the only puff I had in my life. I hated the concept thereafter.
I thank that puff for keeping me away from smoking forever.
Written: Badri Baldawa Edited: Meeta Kabra