All eyes are on her. She is sitting in her car intently taking a drag as she waits for the traffic light to turn green; she is stirring her coffee at Barista and raising smoke tendrils; she is reading a paper and lighting her cigarette; in between shaking a leg or two on the dance floor she is sharing her partner’s cigarette! She is the modern Indian woman, well-clad, well-bred, chic and urban, and she is enjoying a smoke, but definitely not enjoying the public attention.
Time and time again the urban Indian woman is ostracized for smoking – publicly, clandestinely, regularly and not so regularly! But is it only the urban independent woman who dares to enjoy the pleasures of nicotine. Most of us need to get our facts straight on this one.
In the rural areas women cover their heads but are not hesitant to smoke in public. A research paper on “Tobacco use in a rural area of Bihar, India” read “The most prevalent form (>80%) was bidi-smoking both in men and women…. prevalence among females was high even though smoking by women is considered as taboo in Indian society.”
Research proves that women in rural India are prime statistics in all forms of tobacco usage – smokeless (for example, pan masala), as well as smoker and mixed. Smoking amongst female members in rural and tribal families is an acceptable norm and does not incur flak from their society or “character-assassination.” Women in Indian villages also chew tobacco or betel leaves.
I am not defending smoking or tobacco usage in any form. I am just setting the facts straight for people who label city woman as “easy” or “fast” just because they smoke. If the self-proclained moral police lifted the veil off the social life in rural India, they would find that women brandish bidis and hookahs, as they complete their daily chores or relax after a hectic day. It seems that cigarette smoke has got into the eyes of not just those who smoke, but also of those who don’t!