Another precious life goes up in smoke – literally. It’s a pity that Johnny Carson, the lovable, jovial and quick witted host of Tonight Show and the undisputed king of talk shows finally succumbed to heavy smoking and died on 24th Jan 2005. With a boyish look on his face, he was often seen on the show with a cigarette dangling between his fingers. His wit and insight made Americans laugh and think for three decades. But America never tired of him. Carson had climbed up to the top when he retired in May, 1992.
Johnny Carson’s death reminds me of my own childhood when as a 13 year old boy I used to live in a small town in northern India. Born after four daughters, I was the apple of my parents’ eyes and hence much pampered. My father was particularly fond of me. For most of the time, he would keep me by his side like a proud possession. I accompanied him on his long walks. Even sometimes to his office. He was particularly fond of movies in that black and white era. I would tag along with him but fall asleep soon after the movie started.
I had a son’s natural wish to mould myself after my father since I pictured him as a perfect man. All sons perhaps do that. My father had this habit of smoking which I thought in my nubile mind to be the secret of his manhood. Screen characters also frequently indulged in blowing the rings of smoke which appeared to my young mind to be quite a macho thing to do. Perhaps Johnny Carson also derived his inspiration from these actors.
So, on a hot day in the summer of my 13th year, I pinched a cigarette from my dad’s stock and climbed up to the roof with a matchbox in hand. Eager to have a taste of heavenly smoke, I lit the cigarette and pulled on it with all the vigor at my command. The moment I puffed in the smoke, it completely choked me and made me cough violently. My eyes became blood shot. My entire body went into some kind of spasm.
The noise of my cough was loud enough to bring my father from downstairs rushing up the stairs. How ever much I tried to conceal the offending butt, saving the situation was impossible as I was completely exposed. He gave me one glance and realized what I had been up to. Taken aback, he gave me a resounding slap across my face. This further compounded my misery. My head went into a spin and my red eyes bulged out. I was barely able to keep myself afloat.
And that hot summer day scotched all my desires to be macho with the help of smoking. My dad is no more. But even after over forty years, I still vividly recall the expression of horror on my dad’s face. I wonder why more fathers do not slap their smoker children! After all, a stitch in time saves nine.
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Your article reminds me of myself, back when I was new in the field of cigarettes. How I wished someone I held high regards for (aka idol) would just tell me to stop and I would. But then no one did, save a few aquaintances and sisters---they don't count. Now, smoking is a hobby I am living with. I know that in time, I would tire of it eventually. I'm just wondering how long that's gonna last. The smoke is not helping my brain cells and I don't want to die from lung cancer, afterall.
Posted by Jedilou Alip on 27th May 2007
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