“aye bhai, aye! kya karta hai tum? aise koi train mein tambakoo khaata hai?” a voice came out all of a sudden in my beloved #MumbaiLocal. i had just got in with a herd of thanekars inside the dadar fast train. i was still getting adjusted amidst the crowd since i was destined to dadar while some other’s pushed here and there to make way for getting down at mulund, the immediate pause. “yeh tum aise tambakoo banata hai toh mereko bahut poblum hota hai… chheenk (sneeze) aati hai fir rukti nahi. tambakoo khaanewale se jyaada paresaani toh aaju baaju k logon ko hoti hai…”
while i was very much at comfort amidst the impatient crowd which was continuously searching for heaven in the aisles of compartment, those words of wisdom went into my ears. it didn’t take much to realize the train has started its course from #dombivli – the land of gujjus and majority of those uncomfortable travellers are gujrati. “tumko maalum hai yeh tambakoo se cancer hota hai? aadmi poora barbaad ho jaata hai? sareer (physically) se bhi aur ghar (economically) se bhi…” this sentence struck to my ears. the sleeping activist within me woke up with a startle. like someone had stepped upon the tail of a sleeping dog. though i couldn’t bark any words like usually a dog does. let’s call this fair skinned gujju with red tika on forehead as a activist gujrati.
i gave him one more look, a little closer this time. black trouser, lemon yellow shirt with ends fluttering out and a plastic bag in hand with usual office stuffs. you would be easily convinced that you are travelling with an activist, one of the only social worker in the society that we are part of. i usually have a lesser liking for those who are going on with “the tambakoo”, especially the ones from my generation. there are lot other better things to be addicted to, than the tambakoo. though i have never stopped anyone from eating tobaco, except for a few close relatives. i still dream of a world which is whitewashed instead of gradually turning red! i have almost concluded that i would be unsuccessful in whitewashing the world.
when i listen to such lines from those who have spent some more years than me on this earth, i feel some hope still left. i can continue to dream of the whitewashed world at the minimal. an respectful picture of that person starts building up in my mind. i start to think if he has done at least one similar good deed in our society or more than that? is he fighting out singly or in a group against the enemy of humanity?
his concern seems to be rising more for that other person who is seated on 4th seat and massaging the contents of Om Pudi (packet) and the white chunna (limestone) in his palm. “laa toh bhai, idhar dikha toh. tu kya khaa raha hai”, uttered the activist. the man massaging the contents of his palm, has skillfully held the Om Pudi and tube of limestone in his hand, a finger of which is still massaging the contents. not to forget he is on the 4th seat of #MumbaiLocal. the 4th seat is the unnoticed 8th wonder of this world and the person on it is more courageous than the one in an ambush. he flashes the packet and the activist again utters in surprising tone, “tu om pudi khaa raha hai? kitna neechi kwality ka hota hai yeh tambakoo, tujhe pata hai bhai?”
by the time he finished his sputter of words, there were few more onlookers like me upon the activist. everyone had a quite surprised look on their face. wondering if such activists do exist in this real world? that too at such a commonly uncommon place – the #MumbaiLocal? well, its #Mumbai. anything is possible here. “laa toh idhar. dekh, main tereko isme ki gandagi dikhata hun.” another impacting statement by the activist. usually people get rid of twigs or chaff may be while they are massaging the stuff between their palm and a finger. without any word, the poor looking man keeps his palm open with the stuff already well massaged and ready to be taken in. “yeh dekh isme kya kya kachra hai aur tum log aise hi khaate ho”, said the activist while picking up the twig and throwing it around.
“dekh bhai. tujhe samjhaane ka koi matlab nahi hai. tu samajhnewala nahi hai. idhar jitna bhi haan-haan karega, bahar utna hi jyaada khaayega.”, said the activist. by this time bhandup was approaching and few more people had taken interest into the activist and his preachings. “aaj tu yeh khaayega, kal tujhe cancer bhi ho sakta hai. tu aur tera parivaar kitna pareshaan hoga iss cancer k peeche, tujhe maloom bhi hai kya?”, went on the activist while holding the pinch of that well-massaged, twigs-free tambakoo. “oh wow! he seems to be a man of his words. looks like he is determined on his task of creating awareness to this one who is consuming tambakoo for pleasure”, were some of the thoughts that travelled from my brain to my mind.
“dekh bhai, tu isko bhool ja. tere pe aanewaali pareshaaniyaan main le lunga”, said the activist. by this time the train had paused at ghatkopar and someone had stepped over in my piece of heaven into the compartment. it is usually a cold war with me, where i take advantage of the train’s motion to push someone out of my space. while i was busy in my cold war, i wasn’t able to look at the activist and the silent massager who hadn’t uttered a word yet, despite humiliation by our respected activist anymore. from what i had last heard, i was wondering in what way would he be taking up his pareshaaniyaan on himself?
is he an insurance agent to cover him? is he a financial advisor to secure his future financially? no no. he might be associated with a rehab and would take extra efforts for him to join there to get rid of his addiction to tambakoo? what would be his way to help him and taking off his pareshaaniyaan? my mind was full of thoughts and questions that should be answered before the train cuts the final mile to dadar. majority of those few interested people in their activist thoughts had lost interest and were back to their newspapers! before any other thoughts came in my mind i heard him say, “bhai, tereko main yeh tambakoo se duur kar dunga aaj. aaj toh main tujhe yeh khaane nahi dunga. jab tak tu iss train mein mere saath hai, main tujhe yeh khaane nahi dunga. laa idhar chunna aur padika (packet).” i thought this would be the moment of clash. a tambakoo eater can be really violent lion if you deny him or disallow from consuming it. they are more violent than a drunk coz they are still into senses unlike the ones with a alcohol filled belly!
but there was no reaction from the other person. he was still quiet and watchful on his product which was outcome of his vigorous massage but now lying into pinch of someone who appeared to be quite promising in relieving him from the invisible chains of tambakoo. i got another thought with a fear! the actvist might just dump the pinch of that life-taken-away drug on the train floor so that he cannot use it anymore. in the process of disposing it, he might get the multiple sneeeze as he was allergic to the stuff, i recollect his previous lines. is this what he meant when he said, “teri pareshaaniyaan main le lunga.” but that gave me another chilling thought – what if his act would also give me continuous sneezing along with him? no no, nothing of that sort happened. good. instead whatever happened was totally never thought of, in my mind. the activist filled the gap between the gums and skin covering the gums, with the stuff he was holding in his pinch. “dekh bhai, teri pareshaani maine le li hai. mujhe bhale cancer ho jaaye, main bhale marr jaun par tu apni biwi bachchon k saath khush reh.” a villainous smile then roled out of it. i couldn’t take it anymore of what uncovered after the whole pandemonium he had created so far. while there were revolutionary thoughts growing in my mind to attack him in his face, all the onlookers had lost interest on him. “aise bol-bol k hi main ek baar ek bhaiyye ka tambakoo hi utha liya tha. usko khaane hi nahi diya aur maine **rolls his wrist in inward circles, like prafful does in khichdi** indicating he took it in his mouth.
while agitating thoughts in my mind tattered the respectful image of the activist, the glass of the respectful picture frame broke in pieces. everything in my mind. no spill of emotions on the floor of train. i got a new clearer picture being painted now. the one who was massaging the tambakoo, was a so-called-brethren. he wasn’t violent and didn’t utter those swear words even when the product of his efforts was taken away by someone in his pinch and doused in a cavity which was not his own. he didn’t do any of that act as his mouth was already filled up with it. as a toast of the day, he was preaparing it for his friend/brethren. “agla station, KURLA… next station, KURLA… pudhil station KURLA…” uttered the helpful lady in #MumbaiLocal.
while the pandemonijm was almost over, herds of humans made their way to exit door, i got an opportunity to throw out my anger on the acivist. a quick turn and a more quicker kick on his leg. “aye bhai, tumhara pair lagta hai mere ko”, he said to me like i was unaware. “abhi nahi lagega bhai”, i assured him.
as kurla passed, everyone got a seat in the compartment. almost everyone. he had already given his share of brags about his love for tambakoo. about how he lost almost 22 grands in manikchand. stories of how his wife tactfully disposed the manikchand packets if he forgot them in pockets of his pants when changing. another story of how he caught his kid red-handed while the innocent was disposing off the manikchand packets, there by stopping his losses. truly, a gujju with tambakoo has the potential to influence anyone to join the gang of Om Pudi and Chunna massaging sessions!