This article is about the archaeological site. For the 2016 film, see Mohenjo Daro (film).
Mohenjo-daro (Sindhi: موئن جو دڙو, Urdu: موئن جو دڑو, IPA: [muˑənⁱ dʑoˑ d̪əɽoˑ], Sindhi for Mound of the Dead Men;English:) is an archaeological site in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. Built around 2500 BCE, it was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, and one of the world's earliest major cities, contemporaneous with the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Minoan Crete, and Norte Chico. Mohenjo-daro was abandoned in the 19th century BCE as the Indus Valley Civilization declined, and the site was not rediscovered until the 1920s. Significant excavation has since been conducted at the site of the city, which was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. The site is currently threatened by erosion and improper restoration.
Mohenjo-daro, the modern name for the site, has been variously interpreted as "Mound of the Dead Men" in Sindhi, and as "Mound of Mohan" (where Mohan is Krishna). The city's original name is unknown. Based on his analysis of a Mohenjo-daro seal, Iravatham Mahadevan speculates that the city's ancient name could have been Kukkutarma ("the city [-rma] of the cockerel [kukkuta]").Cock-fighting may have had ritual and religious significance for the city, with domesticated chickens bred there for sacred purposes, rather than as a food source. Mohenjo-daro may also have been a point of diffusion for the eventual worldwide domestication of chickens.
Mohenjo-daro is located west of the Indus River in Larkana District, Sindh, Pakistan, in a central position between the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra River. It is sited on a Pleistocene ridge in the middle of the flood plain of the Indus River Valley, around 28 kilometres (17 mi) from the town of Larkana. The ridge was prominent during the time of the Indus Valley Civilization, allowing the city to stand above the surrounding flood, but subsequent flooding has since buried most of the ridge in silt deposits. The Indus still flows east of the site, but the Ghaggar-Hakra riverbed on the western side is now dry.
Mohenjo-daro was built in the 26th century BCE. It was one of the largest cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, which developed around 3,000 BCE from the prehistoric Indus culture. At its height, the Indus Civilization spanned much of what is now Pakistan and North India, extending westwards to the Iranian border, south to Gujarat in India and northwards to an outpost in Bactria, with major urban centers at Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Lothal, Kalibangan, Dholavira and Rakhigarhi. Mohenjo-daro was the most advanced city of its time, with remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning. When the Indus civilization went into sudden decline around 1900 BCE, Mohenjo-daro was abandoned.
Rediscovery and excavation
The ruins of the city remained undocumented for around 3,700 years until R. D. Banerji, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, visited the site in 1919–20, identifying the Buddhist stupa (150–500 CE) known to be there and finding a flint scraper which convinced him of the site's antiquity. This led to large-scale excavations of Mohenjo-daro led by Kashinath Narayan Dikshit in 1924–25, and John Marshall in 1925–26. In the 1930s, major excavations were conducted at the site under the leadership of Marshall, D. K. Dikshitar and Ernest Mackay. Further excavations were carried out in 1945 by Ahmad Hasan Dani and Mortimer Wheeler. The last major series of excavations were conducted in 1964 and 1965 by Dr. George F. Dales. After 1965 excavations were banned due to weathering damage to the exposed structures, and the only projects allowed at the site since have been salvage excavations, surface surveys, and conservation projects. However, in the 1980s, German and Italian survey groups led by Dr. Michael Jansen and Dr. Maurizio Tosi used less invasive archeological techniques, such as architectural documentation, surface surveys, and localized probing, to gather further information about Mohenjo-daro. A dry core drilling conducted in 2015 by Pakistan's National Fund for Mohenjo-daro revealed that the site is larger than the unearthed area.
Architecture and urban infrastructure
Further information: Sanitation of the Indus Valley Civilization
Mohenjo-daro has a planned layout with rectilinear buildings arranged on a grid plan. Most were built of fired and mortared brick; some incorporated sun-dried mud-brick and wooden superstructures. The covered area of Mohenjo-daro is estimated at 300 hectares. The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History offers a "weak" estimate of a peak population of around 40,000.
The sheer size of the city, and its provision of public buildings and facilities, suggests a high level of social organization. The city is divided into two parts, the so-called Citadel and the Lower City. The Citadel – a mud-brick mound around 12 metres (39 ft) high – is known to have supported public baths, a large residential structure designed to house about 5,000 citizens, and two large assembly halls. The city had a central marketplace, with a large central well. Individual households or groups of households obtained their water from smaller wells. Waste water was channeled to covered drains that lined the major streets. Some houses, presumably those of more prestigious inhabitants, include rooms that appear to have been set aside for bathing, and one building had an underground furnace (known as a hypocaust), possibly for heated bathing. Most houses had inner courtyards, with doors that opened onto side-lanes. Some buildings had two stories.
In 1950, Sir Mortimer Wheeler identified one large building in Mohenjo-daro as a "Great Granary". Certain wall-divisions in its massive wooden superstructure appeared to be grain storage-bays, complete with air-ducts to dry the grain. According to Wheeler, carts would have brought grain from the countryside and unloaded them directly into the bays. However, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer noted the complete lack of evidence for grain at the "granary", which, he argued, might therefore be better termed a "Great Hall" of uncertain function. Close to the "Great Granary" is a large and elaborate public bath, sometimes called the Great Bath. From a colonnaded courtyard, steps lead down to the brick-built pool, which was waterproofed by a lining of bitumen. The pool measures 12 metres (39 ft) long, 7 metres (23 ft) wide and 2.4 metres (7.9 ft) deep. It may have been used for religious purification. Other large buildings include a "Pillared Hall", thought to be an assembly hall of some kind, and the so-called "College Hall", a complex of buildings comprising 78 rooms, thought to have been a priestly residence.
Mohenjo-daro had no series of city walls, but was fortified with guard towers to the west of the main settlement, and defensive fortifications to the south. Considering these fortifications and the structure of other major Indus valley cities like Harappa, it is postulated that Mohenjo-daro was an administrative center. Both Harappa and Mohenjo-daro share relatively the same architectural layout, and were generally not heavily fortified like other Indus Valley sites. It is obvious from the identical city layouts of all Indus sites that there was some kind of political or administrative centrality, but the extent and functioning of an administrative center remains unclear.
Flooding and rebuilding
The city also had large platforms perhaps intended as defense against flooding. According to a theory first advanced by Wheeler, the city could have been flooded and silted over, perhaps six times, and later rebuilt in the same location.
Numerous objects found in excavation include seated and standing figures, copper and stone tools, carved seals, balance-scales and weights, gold and jasper jewellery, and children's toys. Many important objects from Mohenjo-daro are conserved at the National Museum of India in Delhi and the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi. In 1939, a representative collection of artefacts excavated at the site was transferred to the British Museum by the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Main article: Dancing Girl (Mohenjo-daro)
A bronze statuette dubbed the "Dancing Girl", 10.5 centimetres (4.1 in) high and about 4,500 years old, was found in 'HR area' of Mohenjo-daro in 1926. In 1973, British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler described the item as his favorite statuette:
"She's about fifteen years old I should think, not more, but she stands there with bangles all the way up her arm and nothing else on. A girl perfectly, for the moment, perfectly confident of herself and the world. There's nothing like her, I think, in the world."
John Marshall, another archeologist at Mohenjo-daro, described the figure as "a young girl, her hand on her hip in a half-impudent posture, and legs slightly forward as she beats time to the music with her legs and feet." The archaeologist Gregory Possehl said of the statuette, "We may not be certain that she was a dancer, but she was good at what she did and she knew it". The statue led to two important discoveries about the civilization: first, that they knew metal blending, casting and other sophisticated methods of working with ore, and secondly that entertainment, especially dance, was part of the culture.
In 1927, a seated male soapstone figure was found in a building with unusually ornamental brickwork and a wall-niche. Though there is no evidence that priests or monarchs ruled Mohenjo-daro, archaeologists dubbed this dignified figure a "Priest-King." The sculpture is 17.5 centimetres (6.9 in) tall, and shows a neatly bearded man with pierced earlobes and a fillet around his head, possibly all that is left of a once-elaborate hairstyle or head-dress; his hair is combed back. He wears an armband, and a cloak with drilled trefoil, single circle and double circle motifs, which show traces of red. His eyes might have originally been inlaid.
Main article: Pashupati seal
A seal discovered at the site bears the image of a seated, cross-legged and possibly ithyphallic figure surrounded by animals. The figure has been interpreted by some scholars as a yogi, and by others as a three-headed "proto-Shiva" as "Lord of Animals".
Sir Mortimer Wheeler was especially fascinated with this artifact, which he believed to be at least 4,500 years old. The necklace has an S-shaped clasp with seven strands, each over 4 ft long, of bronze-metal bead-like nuggets which connect each arm of the "S" in filigree. Each strand has between 220 and 230 of the many-faceted nuggets, and there are about 1,600 nuggets in total. The necklace weighs about 250 grams in total, and is presently held in a private collection in India.
Conservation and current state
An initial agreement to fund restoration was agreed through the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris on 27 May 1980. Contributions were made by a number of other countries to the project:
Preservation work for Mohenjo-daro was suspended in December 1996 after funding from the Pakistani government and international organizations stopped. Site conservation work resumed in April 1997, using funds made available by the UNESCO. The 20-year funding plan provided $10 million to protect the site and standing structures from flooding. In 2011, responsibility for the preservation of the site was transferred to the government of Sindh.
Currently the site is threatened by groundwater salinity and improper restoration. Many walls have already collapsed, while others are crumbling from the ground up. In 2012, Pakistani archaeologists warned that, without improved conservation measures, the site could disappear by 2030.
2014 Sindh Festival
The Mohenjo-daro site was further threatened in January 2014, when Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Pakistan People's Party chose the site for Sindh Festival's inauguration ceremony. This would have exposed the site to mechanical operations, including excavation and drilling. Farzand Masih, head of the Department of Archaeology at Punjab University warned that such activity was banned under the Antiquity Act, saying "You cannot even hammer a nail at an archaeological site." On 31 January 2014, a case was filed in the Sindh High Court to bar the Sindh government from continuing with the event.The festival was held by PPP at the historic site, despite all the protest by both national and international historians and educators.
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- ^ abGregory L. Possehl (11 November 2002). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Rowman Altamira. p. 80. ISBN 9780759116429.
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- ^A H Dani (1992). "Critical Assessment of Recent Evidence on Mohenjo-daro". Second International Symposium on Mohenjo-daro, 24–27 February 1992.
- ^ abKenoyer, Jonathan Mark (1998). “Indus Cities, Towns and Villages”, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Islamabad: American Institute of Pakistan Studies. p. 65.
- ^Possehl, Gregory L (2010). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. AltaMira. p. 12. ISBN 978-0759101722.
- ^"'Findings show Moenjodaro was larger than unearthed ruins'". 14 November 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
- ^Mohan Pant and Shjui Fumo, "The Grid and Modular Measures in The Town Planning of Mohenjodaro and Kathmandu Valley: A Study on Modular Measures in Block and Plot Divisions in the Planning of Mohenjodaro and Sirkap (Pakistan), and Thimi (Kathmandu Valley)"; Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineerng 59, May 2005.
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- ^Peter Clark (editor), The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 158–59; "since it is impossible to ascertain what proportion of the city was used for habitation the basis for this [population] estimate is weak." For lower area estimate of 85 hectares, see note 25, citing U. Singh, A History of Ancient and Medieval India, Delhi, Pearson Education, 2008, p. 149. See also FR Alchin and G Erdosy, The Archaeology of Early Historic Asia: The Emergence of Cities and States, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 57.
- ^ abMcIntosh (2008), p. 389. "The enormous amount of labor involved in the creation of Mohenjo-daro's flood defense platforms (calculated at around 4 million man-days) indicates the existence of an authority able to plan the construction and to mobilize and feed the requisite labor force."
- ^McIntosh (2008), p. 118. "More than seven hundred wells were sunk at Mohenjo-daro when the city was built. Over the centuries houses were rebuilt and street levels rose; new courses of bricks were therefore added to the wells to keep their tops at the same height with respect to the street. The removal of earth and debris during the excavation of the city has left many wells standing like towers high above the exposed remnants of earlier streets."
- ^George F. Dales, "Civilization and Floods in the Indus Valley", Expedition Magazine, July 1965.
- ^Mohenjo-daro Tools and Artifacts Photo Gallery. Archaeology Online; retrieved 8 April 2012.
- ^British Museum Collection
- ^ abc"Collections:Pre-History & Archaeology". National Museum, New Delhi. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
- ^Possehl, Gregory (2002). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. AltaMira Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-7591-0172-2.
- ^"Priest King, Mohenjo-daro". Glimpses of South Asia before 1947. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
- ^"Responsibility to preserve Mohenjodaro transferred to Sindh", TheNews.com.pk, 10 February 2011; retrieved 14 May 2012.
- ^"Moenjodaro in Danger of Disappearing, Says Pakistani Archaeologist"Archived 6 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. Global Heritage Fund blog article; accessed 8 February 2014.
- ^"Bilawal's 'cultural coup' threatens ancient ruins". AFP. Daily Dawn. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- ^Sahoutara, Naeem. "Preserving heritage: Court instructs to take 'utmost' care in holding festival at Moen Jo Daro". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
Mohenjo-Daro is one of the oldest settlements in the Indus Valley Civilisation. It is believed to have been built 5,000 years ago in an area which today is in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Most historians suggest that Mohenjo-Daro was abandoned some 3,000 years ago. It remained buried underneath thousands of years of dust, sand and stone until it was rediscovered in 1920 by archaeologists.
Subsequent studies of the site exhibit that Mohenjo-Daro was a sophisticated settlement of traders, fishermen and farmers. It had a written language (which is yet to be deciphered) and complex religious cults. The site is located west of the mighty Indus River in Sindh’s present-day Larkana District. Mohenjo-Daro was one of the largest cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation which spanned much of what today is Pakistan.
In the 1960s, archaeologists who took part in some of the last major excavation works on the site claimed that Mohenjo-Daro as a city declined due to invasions of warrior-nomads of Central Asia (the Aryans) who subdued the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
However, many later-day archaeologists and historians now believe that cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation such as Mohenjo-Daro had begun to decline and started to be abandoned due to a change in course by river Indus and the impact of climate change in the area which curtailed rainfall during the monsoon seasons.
I first visited the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro in 1974. I was just eight years old and a class three student at a school in Karachi. My visit was part of a ‘class away day', during which students from grades three and four from my school were flown on a PIA flight to Mohenjo-Daro in the morning, and then flown back to Karachi in the evening.
PIA used to operate regular flights to Mohenjo-Daro (mainly from Karachi) and for which a special (albeit tiny) airport had been constructed near the site. The site was hugely popular with historians, archaeologists and tourists who in those days used to visit Pakistan in large numbers.
I don’t remember much about the visit, but I do recall strolling with classmates and teachers on a sprawling site, surrounded by men and women, most of whom were quite clearly not Pakistani. I also remember constantly sensing the ground beneath my feet to physically feel the story of an ancient land which we had begun to be told about at school.
I had believed that the tale of this ancient land being taught to us in class was just another fairytale; but there I was, standing in the middle of this story, often thumbing my feet on its rough ground, now believing that what one can physically feel is the truth; and that which one can’t, is a fairytale. Or something of the sort.
The second time I visited Mohenjo-Daro was 11 years later, in 1986. By now I was a grade 12 student at a state-owned college in Karachi. Between 1984 and 1986, I often travelled deep inside the Sindh province, mainly for political reasons.
I was a member of a progressive student outfit, and since in the 1980s the interior of Sindh had become a hotbed of agitation against the Ziaul Haq dictatorship, members of the student outfit I was a part of frequently travelled to various cities and towns in central and northern Sindh.
In November 1986, I accompanied four other members of the student outfit on a trip to the ancient city of Sehwan Sharif in Sindh’s Jamshoro District. Our plan was to join anti-Zia protests being planned by some small far-left groups. We travelled by bus to Hyderabad (some 100 miles from Karachi) and from there we were to take another bus which would have taken us directly to Sehwan Sharif.
Sehwan is best known for its beautiful shrine of Sufi saint, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. The protests were being planned around the shrine during the colourful and boisterous annual festivities.
In Hyderabad, some of our friends in that city warned us that the Zia regime had sent ‘hundreds of plain-clothed policemen’ to Sehwan who were to begin arresting possible agitators a day or two before the protests. We were advised to stay put until the rumours were confirmed or refuted.
Instead of staying in Hyderabad, we decided to travel to the diminutive city of Larkana and stay with an acquaintance there. We reached Larkana by bus but couldn’t locate him. One of his brothers told us that he may have been arrested in a nearby village where he had gone a few days before our arrival.
We ended up staying the night at a cheap, rundown hotel (Hotel Chaand), sharing a room which had just one rickety charpoy but lots of bedbugs! So we decided to sleep on the cold floor. What helped us sleep better (or at all), were neat swigs from a bottle of the very strong and entirely unsmooth whisky that we had bought for Rs60 from an employee of the so-called hotel.
The next morning one of the guys, Rehan (aka Roosi Sundi or Russian insect, because he was always claiming to be ‘more surkh' [red] than any of us) rented a motorbike (Honda 50) from a motorbike-rental-cum-tier-shop. The plan was to ride into the village where our Larkana buddy was supposedly arrested from. I accompanied Roosi. We failed to locate the village and on our way back to Larkana, I saw a board that read "Mohenjo-Daro 20 KM."
So, now, instead of Larkana we were riding towards Mohenjo-Daro. We reached the site late afternoon. I was stunned. It was breathtaking. Vast, and very still. As we made our way towards the ruins, I somehow remembered the spot where I had stood and thumped my feet on the ground 11 years ago.
There was hardly anybody there. There were just two gentlemen in the distance standing on a heap of ancient bricks. They were intensely studying what looked like a large map. I think one of them was Japanese. Or he might have been Chinese, I am not sure. Nearer to where we were, was a man sitting on a crumbling wall. He was smoking a cigarette and looking straight ahead in what seemed like a rather vacant gaze.
As I made my way to the spot where I had stood as an eight-year-old schoolboy, Roosi began walking towards the two men who were about 100 metres ahead of us. I stood on that spot again and began to gently thump it with my feet. This made me smile and chuckle. This was when I heard a voice (in Urdu) from behind where I stood: "Sain, are you trying to look for oil?"
I turned and saw the gazing man now gazing at me. I smiled at him and took out my pack of cigarettes (Gold Flake) and lit one. I then began to walk towards the crumbling old wall on which the man was sitting.
"Asalam o alaikum" I greeted him, shaking his hand. He must have been in his 60s, but his moustache was jet-black, most probably dyed. His head was covered by a grey turban and he was wearing a rose-coloured traditional Sindhi shalwar-kameez.
He responded to my greeting with a slight nod of his head as closely studied me. My longish, unruly hair blowing left to right, my four-day-old stubble, my dark glasses, my fading Lou Reed T-shirt, my dusty blue jeans and my beige Peshawari chappals.
"Are you from Karachi?" he asked in his heavily-accented Urdu.
"Yes," I responded. "Is it that obvious?" I chuckled.
He remained poker-faced and then began to gaze into the distance once again, as he lit himself another cigarette (King Stork, or 'Bagla Brand’ as it used to be known in these parts, a filter-less blast of unadulterated tobacco smoke).
"Are you from around here?" I asked.
He slowly turned his head towards me: "I used to be a guide here …" he said. "Nowadays there are more guides here than visitors," he added, expressionless.
I nodded my head: "Yes, looks that way. I first came here as a child in 1974. Were you a guide in those days?"
He just softly shrugged his shoulders: "My memory is not very good these days. My father was a guide here as well. Many people used to visit this place."
"Are you still a guide here?" I asked.
He finally managed to crack half a smile: "I can be if you want me to."
I smiled back: "I don’t have much money," I had said in a rather apologetic tone.
This made him laugh. Actually laugh: "Hahahaha … Sain, who asked for money? This is our motherland."
I nodded in agreement.
Watching me nod, he asked: "What did you understand?" The pokerface was back.
"Pakistan?" I almost whispered.
He began to laugh again: "Hahahaha … no, Sain, not Pakistan, but birthplace of Pakistan. Birthplace of India too. All this," he replied, gesturing with a jerk of his head and eyes towards me to look at the ruins around us. "Land of Sindhu."
"River Indus …" I said.
"Yes," he agreed (finally). "Sindhu gave birth to this place (Mohenjo-Daro), which gave birth to India and then Pakistan. What did you understand, Sain?"
"What about the Arabs?" I just had to ask this.
He was slightly taken aback. "Qasim?" He enquired.
"Yes." I said. "Bin Qasim."
"He was our guest," he said, matter-of-factly.
"But he invaded Sindh (in the 8th century) and defeated its ruler," I informed.
He gazed towards me again, but this time with more intent. He then shared a rather remarkable little tale. He said back in 1979 when one of his younger brothers travelled to Oman as an electrician, he was once badly insulted by his Arab employer. He said his brother told his Arab boss off by saying that he (the brother) came from the land of Sindhu which had taught the Arabs many things that they did not know.
"So what did his Arab boss say?" I asked.
"His boss actually began to respect him! He started to call him ancient Pakistani!" he laughed.
"Wasn’t your brother insulted?" I probed.
The man stared at me with a most unconcealed what-the-heck expression: "Sain, why would he be insulted? The ancestors of you and I were all from here. We are ancient people. What did you understand, Sain?"
I nodded and offered him a cigarette from my pack. He took one and I lighted it for him: "Where have all the visitors gone?" I asked.
He took an intense drag from the cigarette. Then exhaled as intensely. "Good," he said, praising the cigarette.
"Gold Flake," I said.
He nodded and then began to gaze at the sun which was about to set behind the ruins.
"You know what my brother began to call his boss?" he asked. "Camel driver!"
I laughed: "Really? And the boss did not mind?"
"I don’t know. I haven’t seen my brother for the past three years," he said, now gazing at the sunset.
"Why?" I enquired.
"He called his wife and children to Oman and then never came back. He thought this was not a suitable place anymore for his children."
"How come?" I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders: "Only Allah knows. But he began to look at us as if we were from some other land. He also stopped coming here (Mohenjo-Daro), even though he once used to love this place. So he went, and so did the visitors. Maybe they (the visitors) too began to see this place as some other land."
"Strange," I chuckled.
"Your friend is a Sindhi?" he asked, watching Roosi walking towards us.
"Yes," I said. "He is from Khairpur, but studies with me at a college in Karachi."
Addressing the approaching Roosi, he loudly asked him (in Sindhi): "Sain, what did you learn?"
"I learned that there is not a single cigarette shop here!" replied Roosi, equally loudly.
I laughed out loud. So did Roosi. But the man remained serious: "It’s not good to smoke at the burial site of one’s ancestors," he said to Roosi, who was now with us.
"But you were smoking," I immediately reminded him.
He smiled: "Like my brother, I too have lost the respect of our ancestors." Then addressing both Roosi and me, he added: "But you two are still young. You should not lose what we have lost."
And then it happened. In a blink of an eye, Roosi swooped down and touched the man’s feet: "BhaliSain (sure, sir)," he said in Sindhi and then softly reminded me it was getting late. We bid farewell to the man whose name I never got to know, nor asked. We were soon riding back to Larkana. Silently.
From that day onward, till I last met him sometime in the early 1990s, I never saw Roosi smoke a cigarette again. He quit. Just like that.