I quit smoking in Jul’18. Shortly after I left my job. Before that too, I was never a habitual smoker. I enjoyed smoking either with a cigarette pal who I met once a month or in my own solitude to get over the sudden memories of a lost lover. It never went up more than 1-2 cigarettes a month. I never carried a packet in my purse, cigarettes were graciously offered by my friend, the constant smoking companionate or bought from the local shop.

I don’t know the reasons, why other people took to a cigarette, but for me, a cigarette was a means to connect, to my eroticism, my sensuality. It felt that the smoke is not coming out from the cigarette but from my red hot heart. And yesterday those lost memories came alive, when a recent friend I met, hesitated to smoke a cigarette in front of me. To which, I told him, don’t get misled by my Sari. I too smoke sometimes. The man then offered me a cigarette which I gleefully accepted. The long barren spell has ended and in my curled fingers landed a gold flake. A cigarette that was as thin as my tender fingers. Doesn’t a cigarette suit a woman more? Its tenderness, suppleness, and fairness, and the haste with which it burns itself into flames of passion suit a woman more. Anyways, the man offered me the lighter to which I quipped:

‘I never light my own cigarette. These are always done by my lovers.’

I loved my confidence and my desirability as I said this to him. The man courteously approached the open counter of the paanwallah and lit my cigarette with a lighter. Ah! Some rituals are never meant to be broken, their heart might be. And then there we both stood, in a derelict corner of late night Connaught Place, smoking our own cigarettes. I puffed the smoke close to his face, never directly on his face. It’s a coquetry understood by the intelligent few. Can the man bear the ferocity of the smoke? It’s not my smoke darling, it’s my savagery that wants to claim your mind, wallet, and underwear. And the Huntress herself wants to be ravaged by you. Isn’t it a sweet deal hon?

Cigarettes bring me closer to the men, as I gaze through the smoke into their eyes, reading their hidden stories slowly. Sometimes these stories interest me, and sometimes its an alchemy of potent attraction. The smoke is natural kohl for my large doe-like eyes. And I want to make the men cower on their knees, trapped inside the fence of piercing arrows that my Smokey eyes shoot at them, one by one, one in each gaze. The ultimate triumph and conquest over the man. Hail the cupid!

And I never dispose of the cigarette, until it simmers and orgasms. Till it reaches deeper, at its butt, the crisp golden-yellow roll. I like the heat burning the edges of my fingers. The burn is a soother for my aching heart, a heart that never wallowed in the moisture of love. Needless to say, all this heart needs is to burn and extinguish in its flames, its lover’s conceit.

When I grow old? Ah! The silver strands glower in my long hair, and the wrinkles make their new home, laugh lines on my face. And the brows are a tad denser as I can no longer bear the brunt of that blade-like thread of the beautician to shape them. The cotton saris are now lighter in color, mostly cream and khaki shades. And the lovers, yes some of them still remain who endure the calamitous times and most of them will bid goodbye. I might then learn to lit a cigarette finally on my own.