Monday, January 15, 2018








Presently, tobacco smoking remains the most widespread addictive habit with human beings. Despite aggressive publicity about serious health risks of smoking, at the moment, we have about 2 billion people as smokers the world over. During my recent visit to the US, I found smokers in every segment of American society. You can see Men and women standing close to shops on pedestrian paths inhaling the harmful smoke in spite of so many notices displayed to the contrary. I found them smoking near notices that read :


In India, Portuguese introduced tobacco during the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. Some historians say that tobacco in India was introduced by Portuguese during the reign of Akbar. In Kashmir, it was occasionally brought by traders from India. But during Afghan rule, the consumption of snuff and tobacco became widespread in the Kashmir valley. While Afghan governors were busy in collecting revenue by all cruel means, traders from Kabul brought snuff and tobacco to Kashmir and carried horse loads of Pattoo cloth, shawls and Shahtoosha. An entry in the diary of *John Nicholson dated 19th November 1847 reads as under:-

“ Had some conversation with a group of Afghan merchants from Kabul who were carrying snuff and Tobacco to Kashmir wherefrom they would bring Tosh( Shahtoosh ) and Pattoo ( Woolen cloth ) which fetches a very high price in Kabul. ”

Once Hookah or hubble bubble entered Kashmiri household, men and women got addicted to it. The elite class and the common men from the valley were captivated by the gurgling sound and the smoky puffs of Hookah. Kashmiris became great smokers. First, the Hkooah and later cigarettes became a common attraction in Kashmir. We had and continue to have so many shops selling tobacco and molasses (Raab). 

Quite often Kashmiri Hookah addicts shared Hookah in shops, get-togethers and marriages. Some addicts smoked alone. Hookah smokers ( men and women ) in Kashmir would inhale a good amount of nicotine and accordingly, they had strong urges ( Tyath in Kashmiri ) to smoke. They also experienced usual withdrawal symptoms after not smoking for some time.

It is a well-known fact that Maharaja Partap Singh spent about two to three hours per day puffing his Hookah. 
For some time Kashmiri farmers also cultivated tobacco crop sowing the seed in April and harvesting it in August. Kashmiri farmers cultivated two varieties of tobacco called Chilasi and Brewari. 

A Kangri, a Hookah, tobacco box and also a pot for spitting is what every Hukka smoking elder used to keep close by. In a Kashmiri pandit family, a Hukka was the first thing that was kept ready in the morning by the daughter in law generally for her father in law. Sometimes the son would perform this duty. It had to be cleaned and a kangri had to be kept ready with burning charcoal. The tobacco box had to be kept full for the tobacco session of the elder in the family. A measured quantity of water had to be put inside the Hukka water tank to produce proper gurgling sound. Excess water would never produce the gurgling sound but would invariably enter the mouth on puffing.
Once The eldest family member had his puffs, he would keep the Hukka aside and leave for his daily work. Young boys would also take a puff secretly. It was followed by the womenfolk in the afternoon. Elderly women also maintained Nicotine levels by using Hookah. Women who could not find Hookah smoked cigarettes secretly in the presence of children or other ladies. 

Quite often, we young boys were sent to buy tobacco from and the shop keeper would customarily ask:
 ‘ Kyuuth gatchhi? Lotah ya gobb’ or ‘What type you need? Heavy or light .’

 A common communication among friends began as under :

‘ Chaav cigarette’ or ‘ Give me a Cigarette to smoke ‘

A common demand from clerical / sub staff in offices for getting things done would begin as under:

 ‘ Traav kenh tresha tamoukaa ’ or ‘Give something to drink and something to smoke’

 Through films, cigarette smoking became a fashion. During youth, we tried to copy the smoking style of many film stars. Many youngsters tried to copy the style of throwing up smoke rings by many actors as they exhaled the smoke. Equally attractive were the styles of lighting a cigarette with a lighter or matchstick.

The younger generation is surprised when I tell them that cigarettes were served to guests in a marriage. I have personally offered a cigarette to Kashmiri poet Dina Nath Nadim in a marriage. He had come to that marriage for the reception of the Baraat. Before anything was served, cigarettes kept tastefully in a plate, were taken to the guests.

Cigarettes were served to men coming for condolence. Cigarettes were sold inside cinema halls. From cinema halls, you often returned with a headache due to widespread smoking. This applied specifically to Shiraz, Naaz, Firdous, Neelam and Khayyam cinema halls. Third shows or the late-night show in Palladium cinema, Lal Chowk was the worst of all. Entire hall used to be full of smoke. Some people in the lower stalls threw burning cigarette bits towards the screen.
Smoking in buses, Smoking in parks and smoking in hospitals was a common sight. And during winters, when the bus doors were closed, the smoke inside the bus gave a headache to every passenger. The drivers generally smoked while driving. A busy barber passed on Hookah to his waiting customers and in between, he would join to have his puffs. Smoking in colleges. Smoking inside Tagore hall by men who were witnessing a play or musical item. None could escape the smoke. Everyone had to inhale the smoke directly or indirectly. 
 Gold Flake, Panama, Charminar, Cavenders, Passing Show, Red Lamp, Scissors, Four Square, Charms and Wills Navy Cut were some popular brands of the common man. The elite smoked India Kings. The migratory labour from plains brought **Beedi to the Kashmir valley. Many Kashmiris got hooked to cheap Bidis. ‘ Ganesh 501" brand was the most popular Beedi sold in Kashmir.

My friend Adarsh Azad Arora ( son of well known Urdu poet Jagan Nath Azad) has informed me as under:-
‘ I may narrate an incident which father once told me. He was travelling by car with Hafeez Jalandhari in Pakistan on a visit connected with a Mushaira when the elder Hafeez sahib felt like having a cigarette. He needed to borrow one from younger Azad sahib ( Jagan Nath Azad). So, Hafeez Sahib said in chaste Punjabi ‘Leya mundeya, tainu ik cigarette pi dayiye ‘ or ‘ Bring one boy, let me smoke a cigarette for you .’ On his visit to Delhi, father said the same line when he wanted to take a cigarette from me. I loved the sentence so much that I used it in the office. People did not know the literary depth of this sentence which had Hafeez Jalandhari as its source.’

 Have we forgotten the Kakear or Kakouris ? Sometimes only Dua Salaam, sometimes a handful of rice and sometimes a coin . That is what a Kakear ( roadside mobile Hookah owner ) got who offered people Hookah puffs in the Bazaar. Kakear was a part of the Kashmiri society. He carried a bag across his shoulder in which he would keep three or four tongs, a pouch of fresh tobacco and some charcoal in a Kangri nearby. A Kakear would also be seen in fairs and gatherings outside shrines. He would cater to poor and the working class who could not carry the Hukka along with them. With the arrival of cheap cigarettes, overall development and progress in many spheres,Kakears or Kakouris (as some people called them ) suddenly became non-existent from the Kashmiri society sometime around the 70s of last century ( around 1970 ).

And thanks to aggressive negative publicity in India, the great humanity that smoked endlessly has changed for better now. Smoking in the buses, offices, cinema halls and other public places has come to halt.

( Avtar Mota )

 * John Nicholson( 1822- 1857 ) was a very senior political official in British India who rose to the post of a Brigadier General. He was instrumental in the settlement of the north-west frontier province.He was stationed at Peshawar, Moradabad ,Benaras , Ferozepur and Delhi. He died suddenly at a very young age and played a major role during the mutiny of 1857. He was buried in a cemetery in Kashmiri Gate Delhi and his tombstone reads as under:

 ‘Gifted in mind and body, he was as brilliant in Government as in arms. The snows of Ghazni attest his youthful fortitude; the songs of the Punjab his manly deeds; the peace of this frontier his strong rule. The enemies of his country know how terrible he was in any battle, and we his friends have to recall how gentle, generous, and true he was.’
**A Beedi is a flavored cigarette made by rolling tobacco in a dried leaf from the tendu tree .

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