Dead Man's Last Smoke
It was a shock to hear on the phone in the early morning of 24th August that he had died a couple of hours before. Even in the throes of death, he didn't give up his calm, unhurried attitude -- he didn't think it was necessary to call a doctor until it was a few minutes before the end. Colleagues and friends didn't delay in rushing there, many (myself included) for the first time. Last rites were taken care of, and over the next few days his 'estate' was put in order, mostly by his colleagues. There seemed to be some kind of mutual lack of trust among his relations, so the colleagues were the safest choice because they had nothing to gain by fuzzing anything. It was while going through the contents of his familiar side bag that one of us found the last packet of Wills Navy Cut bought by the deceased, some hours before his death.
The packet was brought to the college the next day, and opened in the library. The tobacco junkies were all there, as also were the occasional smokers. For this was an occasion indeed -- Bijan Sen's last smokes.
When there was only one cigarette left, I brought it away to my home, along with the packet. After dinner, I sat in front of the computer and smoked it in a leisurely manner. I told my wife about it, and she stared at me -- probably horrified by the idea. She had never met him, and only tangentially heard of him. Bijan Sen's memory went up in smoke in my bedroom. That was absolutely the final cigarette anyone would ever coax out of him, and I felt a curious satisfaction in being that last beneficiary.
The empty packet I have preserved in the hand-drawer in my computer desk. I intend to keep it there, but perhaps someday I'll forget its significance and throw it out.