In rotation, two people moved next to the fire pit, one smoking, the second one holding the burning charcoal above the opium lump placed atop a tiny hole, while the smoker blew air into the pipe to blaze the charcoal; then sucked the air in, and, consequently, the fume through the end of the pipe. The aroma of opium and tea filled the space. The light was magical. The faces were glowing red under the burning charcoal.
I was invited to try one shot; I politely declined. When the second round began, again I declined. One of them said. "It's a pity you resist to enjoy yourself. Tonight will not be repeated in your whole life. Have one shot and see the effect of this miracle drug. I defiantly rejected the offer as having no effect on me.
However, I enjoyed watching them closely. They were really hilarious. They did not act like people drinking liquor. They laughed but did not shout; they did not look with bulged red eyes; they looked with eyes half-open. They did not resort to physical movements; they behaved very gently. They again and again reprimanded me for discarding the pleasure.
First thing that attracted my attention was the behavior of the shepherd boy. He acted like someone watching a great movie or play. He was all eyes and ears. At the same time, he was required to serve his boss's guests. He was not invited to smoke. I ventured to ask my reprimanding friend why the shepherd boy was so happy; I was told that he too was enjoying the effect of the opium as a passive smoker. Round four, the shepherd boy was allowed to have one shot, after which the shepherd boy continued doing his errands in sitting position, using his hands as feet to move.
Now, everybody in the tent insisted that I should try just one single itty bitty shot for the sake of trial. I yielded to the pressure. Being an amateur smoker, I was assisted by someone who held the pipe and the burning charcoal for me. I was told to blow hard and then to inhale hard. I performed as told. Then, they like dentists, busied themselves with smoking and joking, and waited for the drug to take effect, totally ignoring me. Now, in the new round, the pipe reached my position. Half-sleepy eyes scrutinized me to evaluate the effect; one said my body was showing some sort of resistance; another one suggested I did not inhale properly; therefore, it must be repeated. Being curious, I was intrigued to experience the effect. The second shot was given in a better manner. When the round completed, I was asked how I felt. I truly said that I felt a throbbing in the sideburns. Someone more expert changed his place and moved next to me to handle the feeding. This time, I was dealt with just like one taking an x-ray. I was ordered to blow the charcoal harder and harder. Next, I was told to inhale deeper and deeper; then, I was ordered to hold my breath and not to release it until told to do so. I obediently followed the instructions.
(to be continued)