Thursday, 8 January 2015

British Sahibs and their hookah smoking!! - British Raj

British officer smoking hookah/ burdar before his servant-
 A ''hookah'' (Persian) is  a single or multi-stemmed instrument for vaporizing and smoking flavored tobacco called ''shisha'' in which the vapor or smoke is passed through a water basin ‒ often glass-based ‒ before inhalation. This custom of smoking hookah originated in Persia  was popular during the Mogul period, It was in vogue in India even after independence. In India it was more a Muslim social custom than  Hindu custom and was quite prevalent among royal family members.  Hookahs come in different shapes and sizes and rich and affluent people had decorative hookah embedded with costly gems.

The  English in India  were actively involved in mercantile trade initially in 1600s. Having firmly set their foot here, later  they went after the task of land grabbing from Maharajahs and Nawobs; a subtle  expansion of imperialism. In the course of their long official meetings and deliberations with the Muslim rulers, in particular, they were introduced to the custom of smoking hookah  and over a long period of time adopted some Indian customs to be at ease with the natives, such as smoking  hookah  while remaining distinctly British without shedding their 

A hookah en.wikipedia
 brass Britishness. In order to  take the hookah stand wherever they went, they had employees for this purpose, often referred to as hookah or pipe bearers or hookah burdars.

Many Europeans  who had been in India for some time, became "absolutely slaves to their hookahs; which, excepting while sleeping, or in the early parts of meals, were ever at hand." It was a way of relaxation in the midst of their hectic official work in a strange, hot country.

The frequent use of the Indian word "hookah" in the English language is a result of the British dominion of India (1858–1947), when large numbers of expatriate Britons first sampled the water pipe. William Hickey, shortly after arriving in Kolkata, India, in 1775, wrote in his Memoirs:
Woman Honor Thyself 

The Sydney Morning Herald

'The most highly-dressed and splendid hookah was prepared for me. I tried it, but did not like it. As after several trials I still found it disagreeable, I with much gravity requested to know whether it was indispensably necessary that I should become a smoker, which was answered with equal gravity, "Undoubtedly it is, for you might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion. Here everybody uses a hookah, and it is impossible to get on without ... have frequently heard men declare they would much rather be deprived of their dinner than their hookah.'
According to 2005 WHO report  smoking using a water pipe poses a serious potential health hazard and is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. The average hookah session normally lasts more than 40 minutes, and consists of 50 to 200 inhalations that each range from 0.15 to 0.50 liters of smoke. In an hour-long smoking session of hookah, users consume about 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke of a cigarette. The chemical compositions of cigarette smoke and hookah smoke may be different, but there is no denying the fact that  smoking hookah is equally hazardous to health.