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Cigarettes Symbol Analysis

Cigarettes Symbol Icon

The symbolic significance of cigarettes in “Sharmaji” is complex, curious, and at times contradictory. While cigarettes are undoubtedly a symbol of modernity, they often fail to conform with other such symbols and are sometimes in direct opposition to them. This is most obvious in the case of Sharma and Gupta’s frequent, lengthy smoke breaks. In these instances, the cigarette offers an escape from work and a rejection of the streamlined efficiency of the office and its division of labor, despite that fact that the cigarettes’ very existence is emblematic of a modern factory system of production and distribution. Indeed, cigarettes surprisingly function here just like Sharma’s beloved paan, a much older and definitively traditional addictive habit, suggesting the capacity of people and societies to incorporate modern practices and technology into traditional habits and rituals.

Cigarettes also exemplify the gender divide, as Rahul spreads rumors around the office about the fact that Miss Das smokes. While this is never explicitly confirmed or denied, the reactions to this rumor further suggest that cigarettes are charged with meaning—they not only stand for a certain kind of modernity but also for a mode of behavior previously reserved for men, making it a radical act for a woman like Miss Das to smoke, at least from the point of view of her male employees. Of course, the symbol of the cigarette is just as ambiguous in this regard, helping to express a general feeling of flux and instability resulting from rapidly changing traditions and gender norms.

Cigarettes Quotes in Sharmaji

The Sharmaji quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cigarettes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tradition, Modernity, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sharmaji Quotes

In the corridor he bumped into Gupta smoking a cigarette. ‘What Gupta,’ he said, ‘you left me alone to face her.’

‘What to do?’ said Gupta. ‘She has already told me off twice. She thinks it is still Indiraji’s raj. Cigarette?’

‘Might as well,’ said Sharma, and took one. ‘So, how are things with you?’

Gupta lit his cigarette. ‘All right, so so.’ He gave a bashful smile. ‘My parents are searching for a girl for me. I have to get married before December. The astrologer has said that the two years after December will be very inauspicious for marriage.’

‘Are you looking for a working girl, or what?’

‘Yes. We think that might be preferable. How can we manage on my salary? But they bring less dowry. And my sister has to be married off next month. It is very difficult.’

Related Characters: Sharma (speaker), Gupta (speaker), Miss Das
Related Symbols: Cigarettes
Page Number: 368
Explanation and Analysis:

They ordered tea. Sharma lit a cigarette and smoked sadly.

‘Sharmaji, said Adesh deliberately, ‘you had better mend your ways. I can’t help you out next time.’

The tea arrived.

‘What do you mean, mend my ways?’ asked Sharma sulkily.

‘You know what I mean. You don’t seem to know your limits.’

‘Don’t lecture me. You are the general secretary of the union. Your duty is to get me out of this, not give me speeches.’

‘You keep quiet. If you want me to help you, hold your tongue.’

Sharma simmered. Again, insults from someone so much younger.

Related Characters: Sharma (speaker), Adesh Singh (speaker)
Related Symbols: Cigarettes
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:
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Cigarettes Symbol Timeline in Sharmaji

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cigarettes appears in Sharmaji. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Tradition, Modernity, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
In the hallway, Sharma meets Gupta, who is smoking a cigarette. Sharma asks Gupta why he left him alone with Miss Das, and Gupta replies that... (full context)
Tradition, Modernity, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Loyalty and Disillusion Theme Icon
...trapped in their positions, concluding their thoughts by saying, “This is life.” They smoke more cigarettes and discuss Sharma’s family; his wife is about to have a fourth daughter. Gupta expresses... (full context)
Tradition, Modernity, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...Gupta asks if Sharma has heard the latest office gossip: that Miss Das also smokes cigarettes, which Gupta suggests is a highly unusual activity for a woman. Moreover, she has a... (full context)
Tradition, Modernity, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Loyalty and Disillusion Theme Icon
...asks Adesh to come with him to speak to Borwankar. First they have tea and cigarettes together, and as they drink and smoke, Adesh tells Sharma to “mend his ways.” Sharma... (full context)