A Cigarette Half Finished


You had come over
To resolve a fight before you left
We all sat together once again
Chatting and laughing
Till you asked me to prepare a pizza for you.
You just loved it the way I baked it
Grudging that I’ll miss all the fun
But happy that we were together again
I cooked all that you desired to eat.


Not a smoker, though,
You had managed to buy a few
From the street vendor who sold it loose.
With elders out, we tried one.
Then just as suddenly you lighted it
You put it off.
Before leaving you left that
Half finished cigarette and told me
To keep it safe; you’ll finish it on coming back.


But only the news of you came
Swept away by the merciless sea.
Everyone’s body was found but yours
God was testing our patience; it took a week to find you
Fished out; in a terrible condition
Half eaten; recognizable only by the sacred threads
Tied by pehi*on your waist and neck…
The dreaded wait was over; we stood defeated by fate
While you crossed the border between life and death.


Those horrible moments
Are still etched in my memory.
I was 19 then, and now at 46 also I feel your loss.
Ah…!! That unfinished cigarette…!
I could not throw it away, I could not keep it.
Lest mum discovered it
And thought that I indulged in smoking.
So even though I didn’t smoke I finished it.
I smoked it till the butt burnt my lips and my fingers.
All the while shedding silent tears
I knew you wouldn’t be coming back to finish it now….

*Pehi- father’s sister in the Assamese language
All thanks to  Jane for prompting me to write down my hurt and purge it from my system…Even after so many years, I haven’t gotten over the pain of losing my cousin brother, Partho Jyoti Dutta. Sometimes some wounds always stay raw I guess… you can block them in your memory… but when you see or hear something even remotely connected to it… it becomes raw again


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35 thoughts on “A Cigarette Half Finished”

  1. This is beautifully written. I can almost see the cigarette burning away as you smoke it. I wonder if that cigarette; rather than making it more painful for you, gave you some kind of a focus, like a ritual – and yet, that which seems to have stayed with you more than anything, tearing you apart over and over, seems to be the cigarette. Yes, some tragedies stay raw forever, and I believe this is one of them – but still we move forward, and we know happiness between those dark moments.
    Thank you for the link to my blog, and I’m sorry it took so long for me to get to your poem. My evening became complicated, and I was unavoidably pulled away.
    Lots of love to you xx Jane.

      • I’m humbled by your gratitude. When I first started blogging I thought it was just about writing, but it’s so much more.
        Your poem suggests that others were washed away that day…

        • Yes… two of his friends who tried to save him…. they had formed a human chain and had caught his hands trying to pull him out when the strong undercurrent on the calangute beach , Goa, sucked him under… the boys couldn’t hold on against the current and the let go… and the boys trying to save him also perished with him

          • You, your family and the families of the other boys must have gone through each minute detail so many times – trying to imagine a scenario where the result was different. I think that’s the most painful aspect of grief.

          • Hindu by birth, a mixture of warrior and Brahmin clan. I don’t believe in going to temples or any worship place to offer my prayers. Neither do I believe in hell and heaven. I believe that God is a universal being. I see him in humans, in crows, in cats and dogs…. I believe in Karma. I believe that to love his creations in form of lesser beings is loving him. When I need him he’s always there. He’s my friend ; my guru; my guide. Hell and heaven both exist in this life. There is none in afterlife. Our deeds and thoughts create hell and heaven for us in this life. I pray daily…my prayers are simple… I want enough for me and my family to eat, enough to serve a guest that comes unannounced, enough to feed a stray and destitute animal that I find and enough to save for the rainy day. I pray that he should bless me that I’m always on the giving side…never on the receiving side. And I pray that he gives me courage and strength to stand by truth and against injustice. Even if it means to stand alone… that is my religion… humanity is my religion.

  2. Though it may actually have happened to you but the symbol of burning out the cigarette shows the angst in you and your poem….very intricately written and very pragmatically conceptualised…..

  3. In each word of yours , the grief behind it get unveiled. The sorrow comes on the top but its your strength with which you have written this pem , takes my heart away.

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