It was just a normal restaurant. I was with someone I know. He is at least 15-20 years older than me. He doesn’t look much old though. Amidst the busy schedule that we two go through every day, today we managed a transient amount of time within our lunch time to meet and get to know all the whereabouts of each other.
Well, as usual, a waiter with ‘shirt of the year’ on his upper half of the body brought two cups of tea in front of us even though the weather tells us to have something cold. You better keep it in mind, no matter what kind of job one does and how much one earn, he’ll find ‘a cup of tea’ as his best matching order at a restaurant in KATHMANDU. He ordered one ‘Surya Red’ cigarette separately. Keep this in mind as well; maybe the combination of ‘Cigarette and Tea’ is better than anything else.
As I started sipping the hot tea; pushing it forcibly down my throat, he lit his cigarette. The scorching sun outside, a cup of tea alongside with emerging steams from its surface and the smoke being inhaled; what a terrible combination that was. I could feel his heart and lungs jumping, trying to get the hell out of his burning body. We talked about the normal happenings of our life. How’s life? How’s work? And so on.
After few minutes, while I was about to put down my empty cup of tea; he ordered another cigarette, he same one ‘Surya Red’.
“Don’t smoke too much Dai. It’s blistering hot outside. It will be baleful for your health.” I said with pleasing voice.
“Cigarette and…. harm? No way Bhai. I’ve been an addict before. Cigarette is nothing for me.” With a pretty confident tone he replied to me.
“Were you? Really? I haven’t heard this before.” Surprised I was.
“Yes! I was. I doubt if you were even in your mummy’s belly while I was a drug addict.”
“But… there’s no any sign that says you were such an addict before. How come you got rid of the addiction? How come you are so normal now?” I was surprised more after all he said.
He just smiled in my response. And said, “You never know what life brings to you?”
“I need to know what ups and downs your life brought to you. Who knows I’ll get inspired from your story.” I requested him to tell me what actually happened in his teenager period with a sentence that wouldn’t let him decline my request.
And after a moment, seeing his face I felt that he was ready to share with me. Pushing aside the empty cup of tea, I turned my ear towards him. I was pretty much interested indeed.
“As you know I believe, two of my older brothers did quite good in their school level education while I cleared my SLC with just the needful marks to pass. I was 18 years old when I joined college to pursue my higher studies. The bad company is indeed the main factor to take one away from his track. I was in the circle of friends who used to bunk classes and go for cigarettes and weeds. And what next? I developed the same habit and turned myself into a chain smoker, later an addict.”
While he was narrating me his story, he was taking long and deep drags of the cigarette. Maybe it was because he was revealing all those worst moments of his life after so long time.
“Did you continue your study anyway or dropped?” I asked him enthusiastically.
“Yes! I did. I completed my 11th standard leaving two subjects to try the next time. But while I was on 12th, the addiction got over my head. Cigarette, weed, brown sugar were my bread and butter. Thank god! I escaped from using syringe. I kept being an absentee in my class, my grades became lower and lower, my performances were recorded as worst. No wonder, everyone knew about my addiction. My father was informed about this and he took me to rehabilitation center even though I hadn’t completed my +2 studies.”
He put the cigarette down to the ashtray from his guiltless fingers and took a sip of his tea. He had just managed to drink half of the cup. During this time, I could feel the sense of regret in his eyes. Maybe it was because of the incomplete study. He might have felt its cost by now.
“I spent almost a year in that rehabilitation center. After being quite improved, my father took me back home but I couldn’t continue my studies again. I started working with my father helping him in his own business. My brothers did justice with their life, they got married as well. After that, I was the only unmarried child but I started enjoying working with my father. I was not allowed to wander around with my friends all the time. My father used to give me just enough money to have lunch at day time and pay the travel fare from home to work and vice versa. Since then I got myself out of the addiction and cigarette is the only thing I smoke now.” He picked up his cup of tea to drink the last sip and put it aside.
“And then?” I asked him not letting him to stop.
“And then…life went on. 2/4/6 years passed and I noticed nothing improved or developed inside me. The hectic work everyday, daily routine and same people around me started becoming monotonous. Even my parents could feel what was going inside me and where that boring period of my life was leading. Then, they came up with the idea of my marriage. They thought that marriage would be the best solution for my life at that moment. Only then I will be able to take my life towards the path I wanted.” He just looked at me and smiled. I didn’t know why. Neither I dared to ask.
“I denied my parents few times about marriage for few months. But, later on I had to admit; life doesn’t work like this. The long journey of life ahead of me was still waiting for me to take a new step; to enter into the new phase. And that certainly was to bind myself with someone; to tie my life with someone’s. Then, at the age of 28 I got married to someone my parents searched. And after 3 years of marriage, we had a son. The only child we’ve got and will be.” He took a long breath. Maybe he felt that he led his life towards the right path by marrying.
“They said that marriage is a chain; a chain that detains our freedom. But, for me marriage is just a chain of responsibility. It rather helps people to develop the sense within them that the time to be ‘young and wild’ has gone and the time has arrived when we should be serious enough to commit ourselves. After my marriage, this feeling of being ‘a responsible man’ started coming in my head. That I have to work to earn enough money to feed my family; to provide better education to my son so that he will never be dragged to the path where I already had crawled. I searched for job, tried for a lot of places and finally I got this one. It’s been more than 8 years now since I started working here. And, soon I’ll be leaving. I am being old.” He had a short laugh then. I could now sense the feeling of happiness in his face. He had successfully built that complacence leading his life from hell to heaven.
“How do you feel thinking about those days Dai? Do you feel bad?” My question again made him take a deep breath.
“Off-course I feel bad. I feel the hatred towards myself actually. Thinking about that teenager period which I wasted, thinking about my college life; which I spent just bunking and smoking weed, I feel like spiting to my face. Had I studied well at that time, I could have been in the place of my manager in my office. But I didn’t and end up being just a delivery guy. The feeling of regret kills me sometime. But then, when I think about the future of my son, I wake up again, collect all the enthusiasm and energy and get back to work.”
I didn’t speak. I just let him. I just wanted him to continue narrating such an inspirational story of his. I was going numb. I just looked at his old face where the folded skin was hiding his blunders of life and the fake smile had camouflaged his horrible times. His eyes trying not to see those moments again, his ears trying not to hear those awful things again and his mind trying not to remember the worst period of time that he had suffered.
I knew it how a man can turn himself all around, how he needs to manipulate his own mind and take the right decision at right time. Drug addiction, rehabilitation center, busy life, marriage, being a father, sense of responsibility and manipulating oneself. This was one great inspiring story I’ve heard so far in my life.
While we left that restaurant heading towards our offices, I just watched him walking away and wished ‘may his son never be like his father’.