My life isn’t full of novel episodes. Friends say I’m adventurous but that is in relation to their sedentary lifestyle. Truth is, I am pretty consistent, but every now and then, I break the chain of routine to do something new. Two weekends ago, after watching Angelina Jolie’s new action flick, “Wanted”, I felt I was ready for a new experience.
After dinner, a friend and I strolled around Greenbelt to burn-off calories. I noticed some Arab-looking patrons in Café Havana smoking through a hose attached to a glass vase. I remember an episode of “Pinoy Meets World” a few months ago, the show host, Paolo Bediones, traveled to Turkey and featured this water pipe called Hookah or Shisha. A Hookah operates by water filtration and indirect heat. From the first time I saw hookah, I’ve been curious about it but was a bit shy of trying it in an expat-filled Café Havana.
At Bollywood, an Indian bistro on the 3rd floor of Greenbelt 3, I learned from the waiter that their shisha doesn’t contain tobacco but herbal fruits like mint, strawberry, orange, I decided to try mint. They charge P370 an hour. If you had seen us smoking hookah that Saturday night, you’d think that we were smoking marijuana! Haha! We were laughing like a pair of escapee from a mental asylum because we couldn’t get smoke out from the hose. The two ladies sitting in another table asked us “kung may tama ba?” Haha! Walang s’yang tama but we kept on giggling like schoolgirls. It took us a few minutes, and some coaching from our next table neighbor before we exhaled smoke. It was a pleasant experience, the mint flavor was relaxing...it also made me hungry!:-D
Hookah (a.k.a. shisha, or sheesha) has mysterious origins. It is quintessential in Arab culture, but strangely enough, the hookah is believed to have originated in India, and another version traces its origins in China. Under the British rule, opium from India was smuggled into China and was smoked through the hookah which consequently became a symbol of luxury and affluence. It gained popularity in Turkey particularly under the Ottoman Empire where its contemporary shape also evolved 500 years ago. Smoking hookah (called narghile in Turkey) symbolizes familial conviviality, serenity and harmony.
I love the design of hookah. The glass vase reminds me of my lola’s antique glass lamps, the silver slender stem gives it elegance---it’s a beautiful piece of work.
Some smokers believe that the water used in hookah makes the tobacco less toxic. But experts say it’s a myth---tobacco smoked through hookah is no less toxic than tobacco from cigarettes. Even after passing through water, tobacco smoke still contains high levels of toxic compounds, according to WHO. In Egypt, doctors believe that the smoking of the traditional hookah is increasingly emerging as a significant health risk, due to air-borne tuberculosis transmission from pipe sharing and uncontrolled manual preparation of the pipe. After reading this article, my desire for a repeat suddenly vanished. Although the mouthpiece we used was wrapped in foil, I couldn’t help but think of bacteria that may reside in the tube. Oh well, at least now I can say that I’ve tried it.
To digress a little, beginning July 1st, cigarette advertisements are banned on TV, radio and print in accordance with the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 or Republic Act No. 9211. The total ad ban on cigarettes would be a tremendous help to health advocates who are working to discourage teenagers and young adults from smoking. I hope young smokers would think twice before making Hookah an option to cigarette smoking---think of TB, kids!