The second instalment of How I quit smoking.
The year 2003 was a very mixed year. I was doing some very exciting work for my clients. In fact, we filed some patents for some of the work I did during that period. This was also the time when my business partnership was not working out well. It came to such a stage, that we decided to split. I came out of the company that we had founded together. It was a very traumatic period in my life.
As you can imagine, the time was just right for my smoking to hugely go up. I was smoking about 15 cigarettes a day then.
In January 2003, Mihir, my son, participated in half-marathon. I had gone to cross maidan to see him off. Looking at the crowd and their enthusiasm, I decided that I would participate in the half-marathon, but I knew it was not possible till I quit smoking.
In August 2003, I joined Skyscape. This was the company started by Sandeep Shah alias Sandya, my old mountaineer mate. The India operation was headed by Nitin Valame alias Valu, another mountaineer from IIT. In fact, they gave me the mental strength to get out of my partnership firm. I would forever be grateful for their support.
My responsibility was to start an engineering team in India and bring all the device related development here. This was a completely new field for me. So far, all my programming was for desktops and web. A lot of exciting learning. In parallel, I was still working towards smooth work transition in the older firm. And so I continued smoking a lot.
In September 2003, Sandeep came to India to initiate me in the technology. At that time I observed that Sandeep had become allergic to cigarette smoke. So while he was in Mumbai, I would avoid smoking near him. During this visit, it was decided that I would visit Skyscape in the USA to continue my training.
This really started me thinking. I was going to spend lots of company money to go to the USA to learn the technology from Sandeep, and If he couldn’t work with me because of my smoking and his allergy, my visit will be completely pointless and a waste of resources. So I decided to use this opportunity to quit smoking.
I decided to play on another weakness of mine. I am a little stingy when it comes to spending money on me. Cigarettes were always very expensive in the US, particularly when you earned in Rupees and spent in US dollars. So in all my previous US trips, I would buy a carton of cigarettes from Mumbai and would make do with that for the whole trip. I decided that I wouldn’t carry cigarettes with me like I usually did and my stinginess would not let me buy them in the US by spending dollars. I would also not be able to borrow cigarettes from anyone since I didn’t know anyone!
On 11th October 2003, I left for the USA without my carton! I was a little tense. I had not committed to my wife that I was planning to quit, because I had broken that promise so many times earlier. I had confided in Mihir and he told me that he was sure I would kick the habit. When I reached USA, I made a public announcement that I had quit smoking. And that’s really it. I had created a situation for myself where it was impossible to smoke.
It was a little difficult in the beginning, but not impossible. After four smoke free weeks, the momentum just carried me forward. It’s now 7 years without a smoke.
My friends asked me if Geeta was not upset that I didn’t quit for years when she kept urging me, but let go for Sandeep. My confident answer was that she would be happy that I quit and thankful to Sandeep, definitely not upset.
The truth is that for many many years, different people had urged me to quit. Geeta, her parents, my parents, my son. Many people also inspired me to quite. Many of my friends who were smokers and had eventually quit.
The reality is that an opportunity emerged for me to quit smoking and I just grabbed it.