Last Sunday, a friend proposed to have a drink at a popular bar. It was to be my maiden my visit to a public drinking place after this year’s Gandhi Jayanti – the day when our Health Czar’s ban on smoking in public places came into effect. I must confess being a smoker I was not too keen on having a drink without my customary Wills Flakes. But my friend, a non-smoker, was pretty insistent. I relented to his wishes.
We went inside and settled down. The waiter took the orders and served our beers in a jiffy. Instinctively, my hands went inside my pockets for the pack of fags but I recalled the diktat and checked myself. I looked around the moderately crowded tavern – was by any chance ‘liberal’ and ‘iconoclastic’ Kolkata flouting this draconian invasion of personal space?! Alas! There was not a single fire of defiance! I looked down at our table; the glass ashtrays which had been a feature of this bar from its inception too were absent. Yes, I remembered ashtrays too have been banished!
I said, “Cheers!” in a feeble voice and took my first sip; the ice-cold lager surely tasted a bit different without the habitual cigarette … A few insipid gulps later a niggling thought crept in. I began to wonder about the fate of the glass ashtray and the millions of his brothers, sisters and cousins – made from ivory, silver, tin, plastics, steel, wood, bamboo, terra cotta – which were in use in bars, pubs, hotels, restaurants, dhabas, cafes and other public places.
Where have all the ashtrays gone? The answer blew in the ‘poison’ free recycled air which reeked of sweat and deodorants … But, I couldn’t decipher the code… If you have the answer my friends, please drop a line…