Hookah sellers in Delhi are doing good business this month. No, not because it is hip or up-market to take a puff from those long-stemmed water pipes, but because it is election time.
In Gujjar villages around Delhi, a person sharing a hookah with the villagers is considered one of their own.
And politicians, with Lok Sabha polls ahead, are making the most of it by attending the chaupal where smoking hookah is a tradition and regular affair.
Such meetings offer political leaders a platform to interact with villagers, albeit only men, informally and campaign. Decisions are taken and judgments are passed over hookah and tobacco at village chaupal on important matters.
Ashok Tanwar (40), a farmer and real estate dealer, of Bhopa Mohalla in Fatehpur village, South Delhi, said, “Even today, everything is decided here at the chaupal. Be it resolving a dispute or a decision on some exchange in marriage, everything is taken up during a chaupal.”
This kind of campaigning during the Delhi Assembly election in 2008 had seen a daily average demand of almost 50 kg of tobacco and sale of about eight to 10 hookah per month as against the average of four per month in other times.
“This year, the sale of tobacco has seen about 25 per cent increase in Haryana. (But) in Delhi, the sales will pick up only now as the campaigning will gather steam after nominations are filed,” said Narender Bhavit, a supplier of tobacco and hookah.
Bhavit, who operates from a shop-cum-godown at Mehrauli, claims he is the wholesale supplier of tobacco that is sourced from Kalwadi in Haryana and hookah in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. He said he also rented out hookah for Rs 100 per day.
There are a couple of other shops in the Mehrauli main market that sell hookah and tobacco. One of them is Baseshwar Nath Tobacco Shop, which has a range of hookah starting from Rs 250 per piece. “Many people have hookah at home and they last for three to four years. Demand for tobacco increases by about 15-20 per cent during election campaign,” said Nath, owner of the shop.
In villages like Fatehpur, Aya Nagar and Badarpur, chaupal meetings are becoming more frequent with the rising political din. So, hookah and tobacco too are in big demand.