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Vice – Wise

Why do people smoke and drink despite knowing the hazardous effect it has  on the body? - Quora
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The other day there was a news article about the legal age for drinking being reduced to 21 years from 25 years in the National Capital Region (New Delhi). This disturbed me and set me thinking. It is so ironical that everyone knows that there is no virtue in either drinking or smoking; nevertheless, both flourish. In fact, the pictures showing how the habitual drinkers – who were forced to become teetotalers during the initial months of the lockdown last year – heaved a sigh of relief and stood in long serpentine queues from 6 A M to guzzle what they consider the elixir of life, were there for everyone to see.

Serpentine queues to buy liquor when lockdown was relaxed in May, 2020
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What is disturbing is that alcoholism and smoking have become acceptable. Eyebrows are only occasionally raised – especially when a woman is smoking or drinking. There is still a retrograde belief in society that it is alright for men to smoke and drink but not for women. Let me state here emphatically that it is my firm belief that smoking and drinking are vices irrespective of gender.

Unfortunately, smoking and drinking are, by and large, associated with being cool, modern and sophisticated. I still remember watching the opening scene of the movie Bareilly Ki Barfi – the father and the daughter sharing a cigarette – and cringing. This scene somehow left a very bad taste in the mouth. I feel there are better ways of depicting a modern and progressive outlook. A cigarette should not be something that a father and child bond over. And by no means, can it be treated as a symbol of gender equality.

Romanticizing spirits and smoke has been an inseparable part of the tinsel world both in real and reel lives. Almost every song is replete with words like Saaqi ( an attendant who fills and serves glasses of drink), Jaam (Wine glass), Bekhudi (senseless due to intoxication), Sharaab (wine), Nasha (intoxication), Khumaar (hangover) all of which are vivid images drawn from the act of drinking. There are so many movies where the protagonist does not let go of the cigar/cigarette even for a split second. Kaagaz Ke Phool is a classic example of this. In the first half of the movie, it is difficult to find frames where Guru Dutt lets go of the cigar. In the second half, he is wedded to spirits.

Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) - Lets talk film / The curse of being successful โ€”  Steemit
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Several talented members of the film fraternity have bid goodbye to this world much earlier than they should have because of these vices. The one particular song that I hate and love is Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya from the movie Hum Dono (1961). The music is wonderful and so is Rafi’s rendition. The lyrics and the on screen portrayal are, however, problematic. Somehow, to say that the only way to deal with worries is to puff up, just doesn’t sound sane.

Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhaata Chala Gaya
Har Fikr Ko Dhuen Mein Udaata Chala Gaya

There is an urgent need to deglamorize smoking and drinking. There is the ‘social drinker’, who supposedly drinks only in social situations such as work outings, parties, and other gatherings with family and friends. Social drinkers often consume a moderate amount of alcohol and are well within their safe drinking limits, though this isnโ€™t always the case.  When social drinking has reached the stage of problem drinking is not easy to ascertain. Ditto for social smoking. Smoking is perhaps the more ruthless addiction for it does not spare the non-smokers who are in the company of the smoker. Passive smoking is equally harmful.

Smoking and drinking – social or otherwise – are akin to treading a slippery slope. It is a path of self-destruction. Thus, there is no glamour or sophistication in indulging in spirits and puffs. There are more inexpensive and harmless ways of relieving stress and being happy; going for a walk or chatting with your best friend or picking up a book helps. I just hope that some day sense prevails on society. I will wait for the day when vices will not be romanticized and accepted; pandering to vices is and must remain in the realm of errant behaviour. Further, the gender construct is senseless in the context of smoking and drinking. Nicotine and alcohol destroy the person (and the family!!๐Ÿ˜’), irrespective of gender!

8 thoughts on “Vice – Wise

  1. I totally agree. I have never smoked, and as for alcohol – I may have a glass of wine in the course of a year, but that’s it. And many people seem to think there’s something wrong with me because I don’t drink. A writer, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t do drugs? How boring!

    So sad, really, that people should be dependent on such lethal supports to keep themselves amused. Or to look cool, or whatever…


    1. Madhuji, thanks for reading a non-song post and commenting! This issue is something I feel quite strongly about. I am happy you echo my sentiments. I have been reading Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story written by Yaseer Usman. That the talented Guru Dutt dug his own grave is very obvious. His addiction to alcohol and nicotine coupled with his mental condition destroyed him completely. His wife only followed in his foot steps.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Anita,
    I donโ€™t drink, nor do I smoke. Therefore, you can appreciate I have wasted my life ๐Ÿ™‚ . But it is not possible for me to redeem myself. In a serious vein, at least on smoking the world has changed and there is universal consensus that there is nothing like moderate smoking or social smoking. It is bad. Period. Therefore, now we donโ€™t see the glamorisation which was common in the 50s and 60s.

    Drinking is different. Finally, the State cannot do much if someone is bent upon committing suicide. Nor should we blame the parents for their poor upbringing. If someone is fit to vote, he should also be able to understand what is good or bad for him.


    1. Thanks, AKji for reading and commenting! Have my song posts fallen out of favour?๐Ÿ˜ Missing your valuable feedback on them!
      Your observations about smoking and drinking are quite valid. I must say that there is no need to redeem yourself. A teetotaler cum non-smoker is a rare breed now. I am blessed that my husband belongs to this rare breed!


  3. Anita ji,
    I neither smoker nor drink. And I don’t find it sophisticated either. I fully agree with you. I echo AKji’s thoughts. Being a doctor, I know the slippery slope, either of it leads too. Unfortunately in my profession too, drinking is considered acceptable by many.
    Sad thing it is.



    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Anupji! I was actually a little apprehensive about writing on this subject as I felt I would be called preachy. I am rather happy that the regular visitors of my song posts have not just read but even commented on a non-song blog. If medical practitioners see nothing wrong in smoking and drinking, then bringing about a change in the societal outlook is going to be that much more difficult. ๐Ÿ˜’


  4. Two great actors who had developed cigarette smoking as a style statement were Ashok Kumar and Pran.

    Ashok Kumar would take out a cigarette from his golden case, would tap the cigarette a couple of times and then light it.

    Pran’s throw of smoking rings was a craze in those days.

    And of course, the drunkard songs genre has yielded some of ‘vintage’ (pun not intended songs in the Hindi films.


    1. If the script really demands indulging (in vices), I guess it is fine. But to deliberately make it a part of a song or a scene because it is fashionable is pretty much in bad taste. For example, Satyajit Ray movies are masterpieces but the permanent prop, (even where unwarranted) in all of them, is the cigarette!


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