Terence Lewis, choreographer
“As a youth, I tried smoking as an experiment but detested the taste. I began smoking and drinking socially at the age of 35, after establishing myself financially. It started unassumingly – as an attempt to socialise, please people and forge bonds with others during smoke breaks. I assumed that I could quit whenever I chose to but didn’t realise its claws would sink deep into my system. After a few years, smoking had become a daily ritual.
In an introspective moment at the beginning of 2023, I realised that while earlier I would just borrow an occasional cigarette, now I was buying packs for myself. I told myself I had to quit before it got out of hand! It wasn’t the nicotine as much the idea of it being macho and cool plus the need to have something to do with my hands and look busy. I realised how shallow this thinking was and told myself to be a responsible adult. I also read a report that said the reason many smokers don’t die of lung or throat cancer is because they die earlier of heart diseases.
This February, I quit both alcohol and smoking for 21 days and then stretched it to three months. Now, I may light up a one-off, but smoking is definitely not going to be a regular part of my life ever again.”
Joy Bimal Roy, author and designer
“I enjoyed smoking because it reminded me of my father (filmmaker Bimal Roy) who was a chain smoker. Also, I think men feel ‘macho’ while smoking and that was one of the reasons I smoked too.
I started smoking while I was assisting director Shyam Benegal, who was a heavy smoker. He would sometimes hand me his lit cigarettes to hold while he was shooting and take them back after the shot. I liked the feeling of holding a cigarette, and it was only a matter of time before I started smoking. It reached a stage where I was smoking 40 cigarettes a day.
Mine is a strange gave-up-smoking story. I was 30 and didn’t want to stop smoking. But my revered Guru, despite living in Ujjain, got to know about my smoking. When I called him to ask about a job offer, instead of addressing that, he said: ‘Lay your cigarettes at my feet’. I was dumbstruck at first and then angry. Smoking was the one thing I enjoyed. I had an internal tussle with my conscience. I had three cigarettes left in my pack and I smoked all three one after the other in irritation. But I couldn’t disregard my Guru. I had to give it at least one honest attempt. I told myself, ‘Let’s see how long I can hold out.’ I struggled through the night but when I woke up the next morning my desire to smoke had miraculously vanished. I felt absolutely fine and I have never touched a cigarette again.”
Shishir Sharma, actor
“I started smoking when I was just 13 years old. It was too early to start but I was studying in a boarding school and my curiosity took over. As years passed, I started smoking 10-12 cigarettes a day. But after I started working irregular hours on television, the number went to 20-25 cigarettes a day. Smoking had started as a fad, however, later I would feel like having a cigarette whenever there was nothing to do.
This changed for me in 2007. I was at a party and I ended up smoking more than my usual quota. I returned home feeling terrible and nauseated. The next morning, I just didn’t feel like having my usual post-chai cig. I told my wife ‘I am going to throw my packet of smokes out of the window’... And I did just that. Since that day, I have not touched a cigarette.
Giving up smoking was pretty easy for me. The very next day I was to attend a party and my wife warned me that I would have friends smoking all around me. I told her I might join them if I felt like it, but that didn’t happen. I knew I had to give up smoking, so I exercised my willpower.
I started smoking at 13 years and left at 54, but it felt great to suddenly quit smoking.”
Rahul Roy, actor
“I began smoking 33 years ago after the success of my debut film, Aashiqui. But I haven’t smoked for the past three years because I had a brain stroke. My near and dear ones supported my decision to quit which has helped tremendously.”