I can still remember many of the discussions we used to have, when still in college about the supposed benefits of Jeevan Vidya as a good means of bonding between individuals (as purported) and comparing it with smoking/drinking, the catalysts for bonding according to us. Not many people (obviously having the experience) would disagree with the fact that a bottle of whisky shared between two people can go a long way in forging a relation between the two, not only for the meantime as well in the long run. There are many examples in my life where I have bonded with people while sharing smokes or a quarter.
Along with all such friendships which are forged by the help of these bonding agents, another kind of friendship which almost any smoker would be having is with the local pan wala. Over a period of time, the (default) pan wala of a person may change owing to the chage either in his location or at some rarer times, disappearance of the gumti of the pan walah courtesy some road widening exercises or the pressure of the local police. Although the 5 minutes you spend at the place shortening up your life by a few minutes, you might not interact with the guy sitting at the shop but with the passage of time, as you start becoming more frequent at the place, a sort of band starts forming! The pan walah can recognize you, the regular customer among the few people who might be there, wanting their own cigs, giving you the cig first among them with a recognizing smile, and at the not so busy times, you can have quite a few conversations with the guy! The last 4.5 years, I have been in hyderabad shortening my life with this futile exercise, there have only been 3 regular pan wale that I have gone to and the trust with them is such that I can anytime go to them with a empty wallet and ask them for a cig never to be denied one. At times the accounts running to 50s and 100s (the poor days of college you see).
And yet, the best part of this whole exercise came a day back I went to a shop which although wasnt a party of my daily routine, but definitely one which I would visit time and again. More than 6 months after I went to the place, I definitely knew him as the guy near Cafe Latte, one who also stocks smoking paper for some needs of mine, was wondering if after all this time, he would be able to recognize me. But, the moment I reach the shop (teeming with many customers), he shoots me a cursory glance and asks the question Accident? and I with a sheepish smile say “haan bhaia”.
I wouldnt like to call it as a reason for smoking as all of us know, how harmful smoking can be to life (and all that jazz) yet, there is one thing about it, which puts a smile to my face and helps me have more acquaintance than normal and none of them is worse than some of the friends I might accrue through this journey of life in the non smoking environment!