High blood pressure and migraine were his constant companions. He was referred to Vellore Medical College for better treatment by doctors from an already well established hospital. There he was treated for his cardiac issues and advised to quit smoking, something he indulged in many times a day. At home I had very often heard the dissension between my parents on this topic. Though the doctor had advised him several times, my father could not give up smoking. It was his weakness. I grew up hearing my mother telling me that this habit of his would ruin his health, but to no avail. Not that they fell on deaf ears, I had seen my father trying to kick the habit but with little success each time. I remember the famous quote of Mark Twain – “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.” Years passed and we got used to seeing my father kicking the habit several times and it kept bouncing back each time though with lesser vigor of course.
As times changed, I secured a job, got married and moved on in life. My little baby was the apple of the eye of one and all in the family and even among friends and relatives. She brought immense joy to our lives and was doted upon by everyone especially my parents. A walk through the fields and through the open ground in my grandma’s house being her favourite pastime, she would lift up her hands in front of my father so that he would carry her around. My parents vied with each other to oblige her but my father would dole out his trump card of feigning hunger forcing my mom to the kitchen and him gaining the upper hand as usual. The swaying coconut palms, the fruit laden mango, jackfruit and other trees amused her, so did the cries of the birds.
It was before her first birthday, one day while my father was in his smoking session, she wanted to go out for a stroll. My father held my baby in one arm and was taking a puff at his cigarette now and then. Amused by the sudden glow of its tip my daughter caught hold of it in a jiffy. My father’s puff, her lightning speed grab of the glow and her cry were all instantaneous leaving my father shocked. Tears rolling down her chubby little cheeks she shrieked out aloud calling for the attention of everyone. The little palm had a tiny burn which burned badly inside my father for years and since then he never touched a cigarette.