Today, I seriously considered smoking.
That lead to an initial feeling of self-disgust. Clearly two decades of 'smoking kills' posters plastered across my neighbourhood coupled with 'smoking is not cool' campaigns in school had succeeded in achieving its desired effect.
"Is this the person I've become?", wondered this model citizen. "Is this what 47 days of lockdown has done to you, you loser?"
At the time, I was sitting at my computer desk. The clock read 7:30 A.M. I had already fired up my PC and it loaded the morning headlines from New York Times. My morning routine was perfected. Wake up, shit, work out, shower, meditate, then see which part of the world the virus had infected. Brazil was the latest victim. My life was formulaic that way, because any other way would probably result in falling into some kind of existential dread.
It was raining heavily this morning. One of the rare occasions in Singapore you see heavy rain accompanying the morning sunshine. In a country with the same miserable combination of hot and humid all year round, this morning was actually pleasant. I was even wearing my favourite sweater. But the rain also meant that it was now completely illogical to go out and buy myself some cigarettes. The shops were already inaccessible to me on foot. Also, what if I slipped, broke my neck, and my parents, carrying me to the hospital, saw a pack slip out of my back pocket? "What would they think of me?".
It had become too much of a logistical nightmare at that point. Anyhow, I had convinced myself that smoking was a sign of ill discipline a while ago. An act of low virtue. It's probably why I gave up alcohol and have been sober for 2 months now. Not because I had a problem. I just didn't see the need anymore. You body does not need to inject itself with poison for you to catch a momentary high.
I kept wondering why the urge to smoke all of a sudden. Was it because I had smoked before? The urge made me feel worse about myself. I was starting to have chest pain, and I hadn't even taken a puff yet.I thought about it for a while, and realised that I had, in fact, taken a puff before. It was in Kathmandu, March of 2019. The day before I embarked on my solo trek to Everest Base Camp. It was at that temple. I could not describe a single additional detail of that day but somehow recall the interaction I had with my tour guide. A local, in his early thirties, whom I had paid a thousand rupees to show me around and explain the mythology and the significance of the building. I needed the cultural exposure and he seemed just the man for the job.
Midway through the tour, as we stood in between two temples, he pulled out a cigarette from his breast pocket. He offered me one. I declined. I thanked him for the offer and told him I didn't smoke.
As he lit the cigarette, he offered it to me once again.
"This is famous Nepali cigarette. Cools your body. Good for you. Try it".
That first puff, was, absolutely disgusting. I hated myself for taking it in. I realised I had become everything I told myself I would never be. Never again.
I chucked it into my memory, thinking that was that with me and smoking. Never again.But it finally made sense to me. Now, that puff represented so much more than what it seemed in that moment a year ago. It represented a life-changing adventure. It represented the freedom with being in a foreign country and being able to do whatever I wanted. It also was an act of defiance. Having been raised in a conservative Indian household where even talking about smoking was taboo, I was free now to do anything I wanted. I was, in the truest sense of the word, free.
I have been stuck at home for the last 47 days. I crave a new experience. Any experience. I want, I need to feel free. I miss simply being able to go outside and have an interaction with somebody whom I do not know. I miss those temples.
"Maybe tomorrow", I tell myself.
Surely it won't rain two days in a row.