Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Who is John Galt?

Well, who the fuck cares?

Definitely a much more interesting question is, "Why do Bongs smoke?"

The question hits you hard when you see 4 smokers cramped in a cubbyhole hardly bigger than a bombay loo and puffing away like mad in this supposed green building somewhere in Northern Europe. And 2 of them from you-know-where, faithfully recording their attendance every hour.

Mostly you will hear them argue that its all about peer pressure. When you grow up watching the male half of your family blowing rings at each other at every given opportunity, what else will you do? A boy who does not smoke in Bongland, is generally a fictitious entity. They immediately lose admittance to all these vital sorority rituals which are part and parcel of growing up in Cal, e.g how to light a fag with exactly one matchstick under a fan, how to cup one when the first person you see after lighting up is your mom, how a burn happens only after 3 seconds of contact with flesh, how to blow one perfect smoke ring within another a la Barun Chanda in "Seemabaddhha", how the first fag out of a fresh pack has to be put back upside down always and saved for the last, etc. etc.

Yeah, so much pressure. No wonder the poor souls crack and bow to the inevitable ... burnt lungs.

My personal hypothesis is that bongs smoke to look intellectual. They think it gives them a personality, unique, fashionably anti-establishment, a little risque and one which will build a hopelessly attractive air of vulnerability about them. A personality type, which will bring unknown girls screaming to their doorsteps, all set to bathe themselves in this bottomless well of intellectual depth.

Don't laugh. Some people I have known have actually believed this. Some still do. An active imagination always helps. One person, when asked to explain his quite unexpected success with a member of the fairer sex, put it all down to the fag held fashionably in his left hand. Another, invoked that ultimate bong intellectual hero, Pradosh Mitter and his Charminar while trying to explain the raison d'ĂȘtre of his chain-smoking.

Its funny how the things which are archetypal bong (or at least are considered to be), like culture, fine arts, books, theatre, quizzing, football tend to associated in our memories with cigarette smoke.

Well, it must be just me.

The hour approacheth. Let’s find the other bong.


Anonymous said...

Pradosh Mitter kept trying to kick the habit, however. In about five years after "Badshahi Aangti" (Royal Ring) he was said to smoke at least one after dinner, despite his efforts to quit.

You are almost spot on the peer pressure. A teacher , who taught Bengali, in my school once said that taking a bus to Sealdah amounts to smoking 17 Gold Flakes -- apparently because of air pollution. So I moved closer to my school and started smoking 2 packs a day, throwing the last 3 out to just match - not exceed - harms caused by the bus ride.

In most of West Bengal, smoking also has a self-destructive romanticism like Devdas drinking to his charred liver. When I started I was admonished and taunted for breathing the smoke out. Real men, I was told, inhale the whole stuff.

Talking of college smoking, one is always reminded of the long, slowly burning rope at the local paanwaalah that one needs hold the naked end of the cigarette tight against to light it without using a - somewhat expensive - matchstick. When I started smoking at a ripe of of 15, I was not aware that to light a Cigarette one does not only need fire - one needs to suck air out of the filtered end as it meets the fire too. So, a callow me wasted a full cigarette as I held it on, and on, over a burning lamp ("kupi") of a "phuchkawallah". Damn! Filter Wills was a princely 75 paisa than, even though I stole it from my father.

My father conveniently forgot the times when I used to steal the 20 rupee note from his slightly bulging (because the leather aged) wallet, but he duly noticed the missing filter wills.

As the story goes, from then on he started smoking 555!

Dipta Chaudhuri said...


And of course, the urban legends... even MDs smoked Charminar 'plain' because of the pleasure. Apparently, someone my father knew tore off the filter when offered a filter cigarette. And said, "I don't like to dilute my pleasures" as he lit up!

No wonder, the women just loved him! Something to do with moth and flames, maybe?

And Amsterdam is doing you a world of good. Stream of posts...

udayan said...


Wish you had left your name. Because your stories give me an eerie feeling of deja vu. Maybe we were lost in the Kumbh Mela, after all:)

The Sealdah story is priceless. So are the missing Filter Wills. Only in my case it used to me Gold Flakes.

And Navy Cut was 60 p when I started and was considered the height of luxury. Oh nostalgia!


Your dad has the right background, which you sadly lack :))

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

The more I read this, I more I am amazed at the richness of the topic.

Even the creator of Mr Mitter was a devotee of the 'shada kathi'... as were all the childhood heroes of Bengal. Byomkesh, Ghanada, Apu (in the film!)... even Buddha-babu!

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

In later years, The Man smoked a pipe, even on location. Cigarettes were an occasional aberration.

Benu-da, the new avatar of P.C. Mitter, is also trying to cut down. Age happens.


Anansi said...

cigarettes and cha-milk, the cheaper the better. quite, quite different from bandra with it's davidoffs and cloying smell of sheesha around mocha isn't it?
By the way, do you have a separate theory as to why Bong women smoke?

Prometheus_Unbound said...

Wow, all this serious talk of Bongs smoking to demonstrate their intellectualism has left me totally confused.

Think I will step outside for a smoke to clear my hand. :))

Anuja Byotra said...

"A boy who does not smoke in Bongland, is generally a fictitious entity."

spot on!

Indraneel Majumdar said...

I remembered going to Cal for my IIT exams..(that was my first time in Bengal, believe me)..and what do I do first, after escaping my Uncle's grasp(the man had come with Pantua, water bottle, chata, my reckoners and Glucose!!, I go straight to the Ciggi shop opposite Presidency college main gate and light up a 40 p Charms..spit out the smoke like an anari..and start life on my own..

Shit man..lemme go and light up!!!

Ghetufool said...


i started smoking with 555, once a week (better smoke good things than those tar-laced indian fags). soon, the urge got better of me and i switched on to gold flake!

i was in my school and by the time i reached college, i was smoking bidi like a chimney!

Anonymous said...

feluda could go without a smoke for days according to tapesh , although the charminar has been replaced by foursquare for the bong, while most mumbai boys will go for the usual chhota goldflake the bong will go for the foursquare.

Anonymous said...

Good one... thanks for the laugh!

I got inspired by my school principal perpetually smoked a pipe but I just stuck to Classics. 'Classics' as its known in Bongland but 'Regulars' elsewhere in India probably because Kolkata obviously does not have enough takers for the milder version. With the world shunning smoking and smokers, I wonder how he'd survive if he was around.

The knife said...

hi....this is my first time in your blog. A fellow calcuttan (?) at bandra. I can barely think of any Bong who doesn't smoke. Amd more often than not it would be Gold flake etc. I was in cal recently and renewed my acquaintance with the long rope...Kalyan
PS was a bit surprised that you don't have a label on smoke
@ Anansi, i don't know why Bong women smoke but I think that I have seen a sense of personal confidence/ achievement on their faces when they take a drag...maybe i am just being chauvanistic