Having grown up in a strictly middle class family meant that while I was not denied anything in my childhood, I grew up without having too much of an exposure to the ‘cosmopolitan’ lifestyle that Bengaluru (then Bangalore) was opening up to in the 90s. While I personally didn’t miss that particular lifestyle and was happy with my own, it became somewhat of a hurdle when I joined my first job.
Right after college I was lucky enough to get recruited by a ‘boutique’ consulting firm and on my very first day on the job I realized that my situation was akin to that of a fish out of water. The rest of the employees there, my colleagues, were from relatively well-off families compared to mine and lived a lifestyle which was somewhat different from mine. While I carried a lunchbox to office, they didn’t mind spending a couple of hundred rupees everyday on food. While I wore my dad’s old shirts (impeccably maintained I must admit) with his old ties (once again in pristine condition), they didn’t mind shopping for new clothes every weekend. Although they didn’t behave in a manner where they discriminated against me, I was all of twenty years old and desperately wanted to fit in with the crowd. If not for them, at least for myself, to prove to myself that I had it in me to be part of the ‘hep gang’.
And that is how I happened to stumble upon the easiest way to break barriers in a corporate setting. By smoking. Yes, believe it or not, the number of friends and acquaintances that I made in the smoking corner of office outnumbers the number of friendships and relationships that I had carefully cultivated over twenty years of my life so far. And funnily enough, smoking as an action was completely democratic in nature, in terms of the fact that all smokers respected each other and shared bonhomie irrespective of class, creed or social strata. The smoking corner was a place where barriers of corporate hierarchy, income levels and formalities were broken and all of us were friends. Added to this was that a lot of my colleagues used to smoke to overcome the pressures of the jobs we were all doing.
What began as a method to ‘fit in’ with the crowd soon developed into an addiction that I started struggling with. Although I wasn’t a great athlete while in school or college, I was fit enough to run a few kilometers, play cricket or soccer or basketball for around an hour or so without feeling tired. But after taking up to smoking with great gusto, I soon found my lungs struggling for air. And without oxygen circulating in the blood stream, you can guess how my sporting endeavors had to take a backseat. And it was not only sports that took a hit, but my overall fitness levels.
The worst indicator of my overall fitness levels happened on a trip to Sravanabelagola, a hill shrine on the outskirts of Bangalore. During my last 4-5 trips to this place, I had happily climbed the steep 600+ steps to the shrine very easily, even beating my school and college classmates while doing so. But on an official trip to the place, I could barely climb 45 steps and was already panting for breath and struggling with cramps. My lungs were screaming due to all the tar and other carcinogens which had made their home there instead of allowing oxygen to circulate. That trip was an eye opener in more ways than one.
That day I decided to literally ‘kick the butt’ (the cigarette butt) for good and quit the habit of smoking. Even though most of my colleagues found it hard to believe that I could quit so easily, especially given their own unsuccessful attempts at doing so, I was determined to stick to my guns. And quit I did, once and for all.
My own motivation to stay healthy and stay fit for a long time won over my addiction to cigarettes. I chose to #StartANewLife that day and haven’t looked back since.
While I had my own motivations to #StartANewLife, I am sure some of you would have your own wonderful stories when you have affected change in your own lives and started things anew. Share those wonderful experiences as part of this Housing.Com campaign.