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October , 2017
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Hookah1

An intoxicating smoke hovering all around, dim lit surroundings, a bunch of youngsters trying some ‘smoky stunts’ and sink-in couches beckoning you. If this whole ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ description doesn’t ring any bells, you probably haven’t been to the hipp(i)est places, at present, in Hyderabad – the hookah cafés. The hookah is soon finding its place in the average hyderabadi student’s lifestyle.

The history of the hookah is quite fascinating, which not even many a hookah-lover is aware of. Contrary to the impression that the hookah was discovered in an Arabian country, it was first developed in India, about 600 years ago. The objective behind the conceptualization of this, was the need to filter the smoke from tobacco, as smoking was becoming a common phenomenon among the elite. It then became increasingly popular in the other countries to where it spread. Soon, the hookah, which was originally exclusive to the elite, was affordable to the common man as well. There haven’t been any major changes in the construction of the hookah, for its working is very simple. When smoking hookah, the hookah smoke, which is formed due to the burning of coal, travels thtough the holes on the head at the top of the hookah. The smoke then enters the water, which cools down the smoke. This smoke is first inhaled and then let out by the person smoking it.

A professional, creating smoke rings.

A professional, creating smoke rings. Credit: Sircaustic

The demand for hookahs in Hyderabad has been increasing in the last 2 years, to which the rate at which new hookah cafés and bars are springing up in Hyderabad, bear a testimony.  There are at least 30 places in Hyderabad, where you can smoke hookah. Most of these cafés are located in and around Jubilee Hills and Banjara Hills. “I love the hookahs at CCD at Madhapur road. The flavours you get are awesome there. The hookahs at Mocha are okay”, says Rahul, an employee of Resonate Software Solutions and a regular at CCD. While most people still swear by the good-old M’zuri Sana, Bottles and Chimneys, Koylas and Irani Chai, the newer cafés like Voodoo Lounge are also becoming some of the hot favorites of Hyderabadis.

Gone are the days when birthday parties were only about a samosa / curry puff and a coke. Hookahs are soon becoming indispensible elements of birthday parties and informal get-togethers. “The first time I smoked hookah was at a friend’s birthday party. Cafés and Eat Street were getting boring so it was a refreshing change. I’m addicted to hookahs now”, recalls Varun of Vasavi College of Engineering. Hookahs are a bit expensive, with one hookah costing a minimum of Rs. 250 but the youngsters are ready to dole out even their meagre pocket money because it works out to be cheap when calculated per head and it lasts for about an hour at least. Another reason for its popularity is that girls have no inhibitions trying it out because it is not as strong as a cigarette and some of them have always had an unavowed desire for trying out smoking. “My group of hangout-buddies consists of both girls and boys. Some of the guys, who smoked in our group, would feel awkward and so would we. But after we got introduced to hookah it’s become a necessity at all of our birthday parties”, says Pratima, a regular at Irani Chai.

Bla-Blah, a popular hangout.

Bla-Blah, a popular hangout. Credit: Sircaustic

It’s a popular myth that hookah contains tobacco and is more injurious to the health because one exhales more smoke. “The hookahs in Hyderabad contain just about 0.5% of tobacco. So there are hardly any health risks caused by hookah smoking. They are far less injurious to health than cigarettes. But it’s advisable not to do it very often as it may affect one’s lungs because of the smoke inhaled”, says the hookah expert at Bla-Blah.

The craze for hookahs seems far from dying down in the next few years, for there is so much to experiment with. One can mix two flavors with each other and try a host of bases apart from water, like red bull, vodka, milk and juices. There is a huge variety of flavors available, ranging from fruity flavors like apple, strawberry, banana and orange, herbal flavors like rosemary and there the others like chocolate, mint and cinnamon. “Though new flavors are introduced nearly every month, double apple and blueberry remain my favorites. I generally prefer the juice base or the red bull base, which is quite strong”, says Nikhith Reddy, a student of CBIT.

There is a large section of people, who are completely in awe of the hookah and are totally addicted to it, but there is considerable amount of people who are not at all fascinated by it and some of them, who have tried it think it gets boring after a while. “I tried it once because everyone around me was raving about it. But after I tried it out I swore to myself that I’m never gonna smoke hookah again! You pay 400 bucks just to take out some smoke from your mouth and your friends telling you, ‘Wow! You are getting better!  Keep trying’. It was not at all as fun as my friends said it would be”, says Nivedita (name changed) of GRIET.

 A typical hookah.

A typical hookah. Credit: Sircaustic

While some look at it as the best alternative for a cigarette, some don’t find it to be as good as a ciggie and while some may do it just because it is cool and some may be addicted to it, the hookah cafés are making the most of this situation. 70-80 hookahs are ordered per day from Bla-Blah, though it was established quite recently. Like it is said that there is no smoke without fire, the hookah surely has some ‘fire’ in it which will continue to burn till many more years to come.

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