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.