‘A Mirrored Life: The Rumi Novel’ by Rabisankar Bal


You have not read this particular kitab of mine before, though some of you may have read my account of thirty years of travel. People refer to it as my travels now, but actually I was on a pilgrimage. Wandering from one land to another over thirty years, it struck me that there is no end to pilgrim spots on this earth; you could even say that the world itself is a place where pilgrims gather. Shaikh ibn Battuta salutes the earth and wind and air and water and fire, again and again.

Touch me if you don’t believe me, I am indeed Ibn Battuta. I do have a longer name, of course. Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Lawati al-Tanji ibn Battuta.
I left Tangiers in the Hijri year 725, 1324–25 by the Christian calendar. Passing through a succession of towns, the first city I was astonished by was Alexandria. I felt I had arrived in a blue city. This was where I met Imam Burhanuddin al-Arz, from whom I heard of Maulana for the first time. The secret manuscript that I am about to read out to all of you features Maulana as its principal character. Forgive me if my idiom seems ragged rather than the language of literature. From what I have seen and understood of Maulana, he cannot be captured by the language in which books are written. Can you put the strains of a flute in words? But still I have tried, if only for myself, to create a halting narrative of this radiance.
Maulana’s life is like a patterned quilt. I shall be gratified if I can present even one or two of these patterns here in this majlis to all of you. Allah be merciful. All praise to the Almighty, the Keeper of the World, the Supreme Lord of Judgement Day. We pray only to you, we seek help only from you. Show us the simplest path. Show us the path of those whom you have blessed, not the path of those whom you are furious with, or of those who have lost their way.
‘You want to travel in different lands, don’t you?’ Imam Burhanuddin asked me one day.
— Yes, such is my desire.
— When did this fancy overtake you, my friend?
— I had been to the hamam for a bath late one night.
There was no one there. It was the night of the full moon, which floated in the water of the hamam. I played for a long time with the moon in the water. I’ve never wanted to live at home since then.
The Imam burst into laughter. — No one can stay home once the moon has struck them. Now that you have left, travel the world.
To tell you the truth, I had no intentions of travelling far and wide at that time. My only desire was to visit Mecca.
But the Imam sahib stoked my fire. ‘Off you go, then,’ he said, ‘Go and meet my brother Fariduddin in Hindustan.
I have another brother in Sindh, Ruknuddin ibn Zakaria, and one more in China. Tell them about me.’ At once I determined to visit all these places, and to take news of the Imam sahib to his brothers.
That was the beginning of thirty years of wandering.
This is an excerpt from A Mirrored Life: The Rumi Novel by Rabisankar Bal


The Penguin India Blog

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