Hookah bars are a recent addition to the nightlife of Indian towns and their coloured glass “sheesha” a recent import from West Asia. But in the Deccan, hookahs have been a part of local life for a long, long time. Some 500 years ago Portuguese traders brought tobacco sourced from the Americas first to Bijapur. The invention of the hookah is, in fact, credited to a hakim in Bijapur. As tobacco found favour in the Deccan, local manufacturers turned out thousands of silver or gold inlaid Bidri work hookah bases for the well-heeled smokers, while those with shallower pockets made do by fashioning the bases out of coconut shells. Public hookah shops, the medieval equivalent of today’s hookah bars, became a real draw.