Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Day 67-Sans! Piping Hot Pipes

THE HOOKAH, many believe, was invented by an Indian doctor, Hakim Abdul Fateh Gilani after the Mughal Emperor, Akbar picked up the bad habit of smoking tobacco from his Western friends.

The good doctor, mistakenly thinking that it would be less harmful if the smoke should pass through water to purify it first, invented the "water pipe" so that the Emperor could continue this fashionable and most addicting habit, without shortening his life.

Thanks to the hookah being the Emperor's constant companion , this new device of smoking soon became the status symbol for the Indian aristocracy and gentry, even with the women.

In the Maharajah's Palace, quite a number of the haram girls indulged in this habit, even the Maharani, although never in public. "Hooking" was such a rage that their pipes, like their saris, quickly became fashion items. Girls would try to outdo each other by seeing who amongst them, owned the prettiest, the most expensive or the best known.

Every week, someone would have acquired a new pipe, more elaborately carved than her last, definitely pricier and sometimes although rarely, more "gadgety". And if your pipe was from Turkey, you would be the envy of many. You see, although India invented the hookah, Indian hookahs were still fairly primitive with many constructed merely from coconut husk, see left pic.

And so, the Maharani, seeing as her last pipes were already 5 day old, sent word out to ex-Maharajah Ranjit Singh, better known as the "carpet seller".

"I am due for my annual portrait soon, Ranjit" Maharani whispered behind the curtained wall "but my pipes are so old ! I want only the best, you see, and I don't care how much it cost, just bring me back the best, you must! I think I will look young and attractive again, smoking from only the best, you understand?"

Huh? Hmmm, Ranjit scratched his head as he pondered the Maharani's incoherence. Then a smoking pipe went off in his head. Aha! Sans! She made me some nice table and chairs, he thought, maybe she can help me with this one.

And that was why I was summoned, a course that would change the fate of Sans!

Despite the Maharani 's rather limited vocabulary and Ranjit's very poor translation, I knew immediately what the Maharani wanted. I set to work immediately and after 7 hours of toiling, I made her these hookahs (2 1/8" tall (for the bigger one and 2" for the smaller, 1/2" at base)-.

Fashioned after the best by nargile craftsmen from Turkey, the base which holds the water are handblown glass (to borrow a quote from my 4 year old nephew, "pretend please") covered with the most exquisite cloisonne from China. The pipes, made from Persia's purest gold has been delightfully fashioned into little melon balls so that they match the sweet taste of the molasses. Little clay bowls, painted the colour of antique gold sits on top with the coal tray just beneath it.

Wooden straight hose have been used instead of gaudily decorated rubber ones to elevate the elegance, both of the implement and its owner. Just like how old ancient hookah pipes were made (see pic below).

After I completed the hookahs, I immediately sent them off by the fastest mode of transportation to Ranjit.
And they quite clearly reached Ranjit well and early. Ranjit however had other ideas. Instead of sending my hookahs straight away to the palace, he held on to them for a month, smoking himself half to death (see how his eyes are almost rolling back into his head in sheer giddy delirium).

Alas, the delay turned out fortuitously fortunate for me. For it created such a pent up demand for my pipes (thanks to Ranjit's daily sale puffs) that "Sans! Pipping Hot Pipes" became instantly "to-die-for" and remain so for the next 6 decades. No girl was more proud than when she held a Sans! in her hand. Murders were committed over limited edition San's!. It was rumoured that a young princess even attempted suicide by jumping into the garden well when she found out that she would be 72 years old before she got her 1st San's! thanks to the long waiting list.

The funny thing is no one cared that the hookah was not even really well made because the glue used was not strong enough. If anyone out there can recommend a really good glue for metal, Sans! will be eternally grateful.


MiniKat said...

LOL! What a great story. :-)

I really do think the mini hookahs you crafted are pretty.

Sumaiya Mehreen said...

can't stop smiling! :)

Pubdoll said...

Your hookahs are really beautiful! No wonder they have become "to-die-for" -lol! But I heard the reason the princess didn't jump, was that she realized she wasn't well dressed.

Texas Belle said...

Hee! Your stories have me in stitches, and I just love the pictures you choose to go with them. My favorite is probably still the origin of the Indian shoe-throwing tradition, but this is a close second!

Jean Day said...

LOL, just a little.... Things will be moving a little more slowly in your household. You did a beautiful job of the pipes, love the colours.
Mini Hugs, Jean

Sans said...

Thank you, Kat! I think they are pretty too. I probably will change the hose though, it was too late last night.

Sumaiya, :)!

Sans said...

Hahahahahaha, Helene. You know what, I bet you are absoultely right too. Girls rather be poisoned to death and die pretty than to jump into a well, all wet. What a mess to the hair too.

Belle, Raj with the shoe in his head is one of my favourite too! LOL. But I think my all time favourite is the one on Rosanna and her pillows, (if you haven't read it, its Day 53..*giggles)

Jean, thank you again :). You know this whole "Tobacco" smoking habit is gonna get worse at the palace.

Ara said...

What great pipes! I really love them... and the story as well of course! Those two paintings of the women with their pipes are gorgeous btw! Love it all, Ara

Sans said...

Ara, if you click on the pic, you will go to the site where the picture was. It's a 19th century painting of 2 tawaif (prostitutes) with their hookahs. When I was researching images of hookahs to make these, I found many great paintings of women with their pipes. There were a few for illustrations in Alice and Wonderland too! They say Lewis Caroll was a junkie lol!

dora said...

Me encantan sus historias, Muy buen trebajo.

Katie's Clay Corner said...

I was thinking about the caterpillar in Alice while I was reading this.....I have a cool picture somewhere that I made in highschool. LOL...The bf has a mini man room, and I have a 2 water bongs so far, but still looking for the perfect hooka! Yours are beautiful!! I didn't know the history behind them so thanks! Gets thoose wheels in my head turning a little more...hehehe

Meli said...

Sans they are very pretty!!! I like them!!!

Sans said...

Muchas gracias, Dora:)

Katie, you have just given me an idea!Thanks for turning my wheels!

Thank you Meli :). I rather like them myself although they are a little filmsy

Pubdoll said...

Earlier I've read your posts more randomly, but now have started reading your blog from the beginning, and am loving it!
I have now reached day 13 and have really enjoyed your gorgeous inspiration photos and seeing them converted first into your brother's and then your sister's fantastic drawings!
Also love the fantastic dolls of Sumaiya!

I'm so looking forward to read more of your journey. Too much, of course, to digest at once, but until I catch up to the present, reading this blog will certainly be my daily treat!

Liberty Biberty said...

Undeniabley the most beatifully crafted pipes on the planet. Well done my friend! Just how much research did you have to do for this one???

Sans said...

Helene, I am enjoying myself at your blog too as you can tell from the endless comments I have left :).

Mercedes, I have wanted to make a hookah for the longest time but only found the right material (base) the day I completed these. The melon beads for the pipes I bought on my 1st trip to Spotlight I think on Day 18. I own one and I have seen many of them in my travels.:). I agree that they are the most beautifully crafted on the planet...Mars lol! WELCOME HOME, DEARIE!!! You have been missed :)

Pubdoll said...

Thanks Sans, I have really appreciated your comments! I have left some at your blog too:)

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