• Mithila Malaviya

Mom's First Cigarette

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Mom’s a smoker. She still is, I guess. It depends on who you call a smoker. If you can

go forty-eight hours without a smoke, then I consider that person an “Occasional Smoker”. I

consider my Mom an Occasional Smoker. She loves to go to new countries and smoke local

cigarettes. She could go days without smoking and then, as soon as she sets foot in a new

place, it’s like something possesses her. She needs that smoke break. We had just touched the ground at JFK and she started her rant about what she thinks the cigarette is going to be like in New York. I collected our bags and mom’s nowhere to be found. She was gone. I went

outside to hail a cab and looked around, but New York did not look like it did in

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or in How I Met Your Mother or in any of the thousands of movies and shows

I had seen. Though sightseeing started the next day. It was very confusing. This did not seem like New York to be honest. Mom found her way back to me but, did not track down her pack of smokes. Mom got hold of a cab. Yes, the map confirmed we were not in Manhattan, yet. I was too languid, but mom’s excitement levels were off the charts! They were kind of

rubbing off on me, but we had not reached Manhattan, yet.


It was still not intoxicating enough. I finally saw a part of the infamous “New York Skyline”, of course, my enthusiasm levels were increased now! But again, it did not look like the pictures. However, as soon as I started imprinting that skyline on my brain, we were in a tunnel. Apparently, the universe took this as a challenge, it was as if she said, “Honey this isn’t it, I can improve your scenery!” It was like the universe suddenly started a drumroll for the grand reveal. The tunnel woke me up. Like a scene from a movie, where the round lights of the tunnels passed us by with such speeds that they turned into shimmering lights. Identical to a hundred different spotlights, trying to spot you as you move. The wind moving unbelievably at a pace we could not fathom. To quote a New York Broadway Musical, I would not know another fitting way to describe the end of that tunnel- “A whole new world, a hundred thousand things to see. I’m like a shooting star, I’ve come so far, I can’t go back, to where I used to be.”


It was 2 am, but Times Square welcomed me like it was midday. Lights, as radiant as the sun. Faces, that I never thought I would see a thousand feet above in the sky. Animated billboards, that appeared like something out of Harry Potter. Identical to the moving, bewitching paintings of the magical realm, the Billboards made sure your eyes were star struck and blinded. Moreover, as if I knew what I was doing, the hotel we were staying at, that I had chosen, was BANG! at Penn Station, with Madison Square Garden right in front of us! Thirty-fourth street and sixth avenue. Right in the midst of everything. Midtown. In the distance on one side, I could still glimpse at Times Square and how it spilled some billboards

towards us. The other corner had beautiful architecture that I had spotted on different shows

in my flat screen back home. I was here. I was in New York. It was day, it was night, it was

Manhattan. 2:30 am and people were finding- food to eat, people to fornicate with and

intellectual debates to have.


Mom was as struck as me. We were two, five feet tiny creatures in the big city with

seven enormous bags. We had arrived and were unloading the car of those huge suitcases and I kid you not, no one even batted an eyelid. New Yorkers flew by us as if we were dementedand they were giving us a safe space to be demented. We struggled to get the bags out and into the hotel. Regardless of the struggle went to get ourselves checked in while exchanging excited smiles between the two of us. Mom directed me towards the room and ran out to get some food and hopefully that cigarette. I reached the room and settled in. As a huge fan of trashy American reality shows, I was settled on the bed and waited for my popcorn to arrive as I turned on the telly. The “Botched Botox” theme song played and I knew I was home! As I fangirled over botched botox, mom arrived wide-eyed and giggly. “Look at the size of this cup! It’s bigger than my head!”, she said as she held the large McDonalds’ coke cup next to her face. She got the most American food (the very first thing) she could find- a Big Mac. It was overhyped according to us, nonetheless, ironically enough our first meal in the states was a Big Mac at 2:45 am.


I finally gave up as mom dragged me down to find her some smokes. She said and I

quote “ My old eyes probably missed something...” that I might not overlook. We opened the

door and the bell-hop was there with our suitcases. We let him in and he put our bags away.

He then waited. We were confused. What was he waiting for? Mom asked me telepathically.

He was still standing there. He then put out his hand and mom laughed. She told him we had

no dollars yet to tip him! He smiled and said, “Next time.” We continued our adventure for

mom’s local cigarettes, she had googled the name she wanted- American Spirit. We had just

stepped out the main door when mom and I started having a conversation about cigarettes.

She then said, “Do you think any place that sells smokes, will be open at 3 am?”, and two

men having a debate about American politics tapped my mom on the shoulder and offered her a cigarette they were smoking. They even lit it up for her and then returned to their

conversation. We thought it was really delightful, then we realized that they listened to our

conversation. Delightful, but they eves-dropped. We were welcomed to New York, I guess.

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