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The Day After I Quit Smoking

January 18, 2008

THE DAY AFTER I QUIT SMOKING 

 By

 VIKRAM KARVE

One of the things that deters smokers from quitting decisively in one go is the fear of withdrawal symptoms. This results in smokers resorting to half-baked remedies like gradual reduction, nicotine patches, low tar cigarettes and various other futile therapies. In my opinion this exaggerated importance given to withdrawal symptoms is just a big myth, a ploy, an excuse by addicts to avoid giving up smoking. The so-called withdrawal symptoms are nothing but craving. The best and most effective way of quitting smoking is to just stop smoking, totally, in one go, and then never to smoke again. Don’t be afraid of the so-called “withdrawal symptoms” – you can easily tackle the craving. You can take my word for it – I successfully did it and conquered the craving for smoking once and for all.

I’ve written earlier and described how I quit smoking. I’m sure you must have read it in my blog.

 [In case you haven’t read it just click the link below – but remember to come back to this article!]

 http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/12/how-i-quit-smoking.htm

 Now let me describe to you the day after I quit smoking. I woke up early, at five-thirty as usual, made a cup of tea, and the moment I took a sip of the piping hot delicious tea, I felt the familiar crave for my first cigarette of the day. I kept down the cup of tea, made a note of the craving in my diary, had a glass of hot water (quickly heated in the microwave oven), completed my ablutions, and stepped out of my house, crossed the Maharshi Karve Road, and began a brisk walk-cum-jog around the verdant tranquil Oval Maidan, deeply rinsing my lungs with the pure refreshing morning air, which made me feel on top of the world. The Clock on MumbaiUniversity’s RajabaiTower silhouetted against the calm bluish gray sky, was striking six, and I felt invigorated.

I had overcome my craving, and not smoked, what used to be my first cigarette of the day. I then went on my daily morning walk on Marine Drive to Chowpatty and on my way back I spotted my friends ‘N’ and ‘S’ across the road beckoning me for our customary post-exercise tea and cigarette at the stall opposite Mantralaya. I felt tempted, but my resolve firm, I waved to them, looked away and ran towards my house. They must have thought I’d gone crazy, but it didn’t matter – I had avoided what used to be my second cigarette of the day.

 I made a note of it my diary, as I would do the entire day of all the stimuli that triggered in me the urge to smoke – what I would call my “smoking anchors” which could be anything, internal and external, tangible or intangible – people, situations, events, feelings, smells, emotions, tendencies, moods, foods, social or organizational trends, practices, norms, peer pressure; and most importantly how I tackled and triumphed over these stimuli.

After breakfast, I didn’t drink my usual cup of coffee – a strong “smoking anchor” which triggered in me a desperate desire to smoke, and drank a glass of bland milk instead, thereby averting what used to be my third cigarette of the day. It was nine, as I walked to work, and I hadn’t smoked a single cigarette.

It was a long day ahead and I had to be cognizant, observe myself inwardly and devise strategies to tackle situations that elicited craving for smoking – recognize and neutralize my “smoking anchors”, so to speak. Anchoring is a naturally occurring phenomenon, a natural process that usually occurs without our awareness.

An anchor is any representation in the human nervous system that triggers any other representation. Anchors can operate in any representational system (sight, sound, feeling, sensation, smell, taste).

You create an anchor when you unconsciously set up a stimulus response pattern. Response [smoking] becomes associated with (anchored to) some stimulus; in such a way that perception of the stimulus (the anchor) leads by reflex to the anchored response [smoking] occurring. Repeated stimulus–response action, reinforces anchors and this is a vicious circle, especially in the context of “smoking anchors”.

The trick is to identify your “smoking anchors”, become conscious of these anchors and ensure you do not activate them.

The moment I reached office I saw my colleague ‘B’ eagerly waiting for me, as he did every day. Actually he was eagerly waiting to bum a cigarette from me for his first smoke of the day [“I smoke only other’s cigarettes” was his motto!].

I politely told him I had quit smoking and told him to look for a cigarette elsewhere. He looked at me in disbelief; taunted, jeered and badgered me a bit, but when I stood firm, he disappeared. I removed from my office my ashtray, declared the entire place a no-smoking zone and put up signs to that effect.

The working day began. It was a tough and stressful working day. I was tired, when my boss called me across and offered me a cigarette. I looked at the cigarette pack yearningly, tempted, overcome by a strong craving, desperate to have just that “one” cigarette. Nothing like a “refreshing” smoke to drive my blues away and revitalize me – the “panacea” to my “stressed-out” state! It was now or never!

I politely excused myself on the pretext of going to the toilet, but rushed out into the open and took a brisk walk rinsing my lungs with fresh air, and by the time I returned I had lost the craving to smoke and realized, like in the Oval early in the morning, that physical exercise is probably the best antidote.

 People may think I’m crazy, but even now I rush out of my office once in a while to take a brisk walk in the open and not only do I lose the craving for a smoke but I feel distressed and invigorated as well. Conversely, once I rushed into a “no-smoking” cinema when I desperately felt like a smoke while strolling in the evening. Often, after dinner, when I used to feel like a smoke, I rushed into the Oxford Bookstore next door, for a long leisurely browse till my craving dissipated.

And, of course, one has to change his lifestyle, activities, and, maybe, even friends. Always try to be with likeminded people who you would like to emulate – if you want to quit smoking try to be in the company of non-smokers. It was simple after that, but my diary for that defining day makes interesting reading of smoking anchors – saunf or supari after lunch, afternoon tea, the company of smokers, paan, coffee…

But the crucial test came in the evening. My dear friend ‘A’ landed up for a drink. Now ‘A’ is a guy who doesn’t smoke in front of his kids and wife (I’m sure she knows!). So since he doesn’t smoke in his own home he makes up in other people’s houses. But mind you, he doesn’t bum cigarettes – in fact he gets a pack and generously leaves the remaining behind for the host.

We poured out a rum–paani each, clinked our glasses, said cheers, and sipped.

‘A’ lit a cigarette and offered the pack to me. At the end of a hot, humid and tiring day, the fortifying beverage induced a heavenly ambrosial sensation which permeated throughout the body and what better way to synergise the enjoyment than to smoke a cigarette along with the drink and enhance the pleasure to sheer bliss.

Till that moment, for me, drinking and smoking were inextricably intertwined – they complemented, accentuated each other and accorded me the ultimate supreme pleasure. I enjoyed my smoke the most along with a drink.

I realized that drinking was my strongest “smoking anchor” and if I had to quit smoking permanently I would have to give up drinking forever.

 So that’s what I did. At this defining moment of my life, I quit drinking forever. It’s been almost four years now and I do not smoke and I do not drink. I will never smoke again – I have quit smoking forever.

I may be tempted, but I know I can overcome the urge, for I have mastered the art of taking charge of my “smoking anchors”. And from time to time, I shall look at my old diary to remember and cherish that cardinal day of my life – ‘the day after I quit smoking’.

 Dear Reader, do comment and give me your feedback. Did this work for you?

 VIKRAM KARVE

 Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008 Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

vikramkarve@sify.com

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 http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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IIT JEE – an unfinished story

May 17, 2007

IIT JEE

[An unfinished story] by 

VIKRAM KARVE

Sunday. The 8th of April 2007. The date of the IIT-JEE. 

IIT-JEE. You know what it is, don’t you? You don’t? I’m surprised! Maybe you are an “Arts” type, or on your own trip! Okay, I’ll tell you. IIT-JEE is the Joint Entrance Examination for entrance to the Indian Institutes of Technology, the most prestigious BENCO, MIMMET AND TECHNO – unique pioneering engineering and technology learning institutions of India, with a rich heritage and matchless tradition of excellence, located at Banaras, the temple of learning, now amalgamated and synergized into what they call ITBHU, Varanasi.  

Now-a-days, the IIT-JEE is a simple one-day affair – two composite three-hour papers for which you just need a pencil to mark off the answers. Way back then, in the scorching summer of 1972, it was a two-day grind, on the 4th and 5th of May, the height of summer, in the dilapidated drawing hall of the COEP, which vibrated and reverberated every time a train thundered close by on the adjoining tracks from Pune to Shivajinagar. Four papers, three hours each, two a day, in English, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, analytical and subjective, and you thought and thought, and wrote and wrote, till your fingers ached, your brain went blank, and you collapsed in agony with the sheer mental and physical exhaustion of it all.  That was the time when education, even at an IIT, meant something much more than mere utility value, and it was not primarily the mind-boggling money-spinning placements that benchmarked an academic institution but there were multifarious quality and heritage factors by which a place of learning would be judged.    

Then, we all lived in Madiwale Colony, a lovely place in the premier middle class locality of Sadashiv Peth of Pune. Life was good. It was easy to be happy as our threshold of happiness was so low that it was quite readily achievable. A morning run up Parvati, a stroll in Talyatla Ganpati Saras Baug Garden, enjoying the frolics of animals in the Peshwe Park Zoo, a ride in the toy-train Phulrani , unrestrained playing with carefree abandon on the swings, see-saws and slides in adjoining park, a yummy bhel made by the hugely bearded Kalpana Bhelwala, a cream-roll or doughnut at Ashok Bakery, Patties, Nankatai and Khari at Hindustan Bakery, Ice Cream at Bua – so many things to do – and once in a while, we would bicycle down Camp to partake the inimitable non-veg samosas and tea at Naaz, Chinese at Kamling, Paan at George and enjoy a Hollywood Movie and Ice Cream Soda at West End. And for the more adventurous, it was rumored that there was a hush-hush cabaret in the posh hotel across the road. [Needless to say, yours truly was certainly not an adventurous type!] Most parents with bright sons had but one ambition – their son should get into an IIT. And there he would strive for a nine point CGPA – a passport to the “land of opportunity” – for higher studies in a good university – the   best way for a middle-class boy to go abroad. And then he would find a suitable groom for his sister there, so she could follow.  

My neighbor was a bright boy – in fact, he was the only child of his ambitious parents. And his parents were desperate, they left no stone unturned, to ensure that their son successfully cleared the IIT-JEE and got the course he wanted in the IIT of his choice. And the son did indeed make the parents proud – he got a top-notch IIT-JEE rank, later topped in IIT too, and achieved the dream of flying off across the oceans to pursue higher studies  Hey, why am I telling you all this and boring you to death? Permit me to elucidate. This is a story I didn’t want to write, I didn’t want to tell you. But on the 8th of April this year, something happened. A couple and their only son visited us. During the lunch break between the two papers of the IIT-JEE. They knocked on our door to enable their only child, on whom they had pinned all their hopes, to freshen up and prepare for the second paper in his exam-center nearby. They talked, and I realized how desperate they were to get their son into IIT, how they had staked everything, material, emotional, their hopes, for achieving their dream. I looked at the couple in front of me who were in almost a do or die situation for their son’s success –totally frantic parents whose burning life’s ambition was to get their one and only son into an IIT. Just like our neighbors in Madiwale colony. Memories revived. Something triggered in my mind, a stimulus, and suddenly I wanted to tell them this story. I didn’t. When you read it you’ll know why. But I’m not going to tell it to you right now, for it’s quite late in the night, I’m feeling quite tired and want to go off to sleep. So, Dear Reader, please bear with me and wait a while. Let’s hope I can finish this unfinished story soon, right here, in my blog!  

VIKRAM KARVE

  

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

  vikramkarve@sify.com