The Parrot of India

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with Amir Khusraw (1253-1325). What would you ask him? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below:

Q: Can you tell us how you started as a poet?

A: One day my teacher Khwaja Asaduddin was asked to write a letter for Khwaja Asil. My humble self and my respected teacher, together with the inkpot and the pen-case, reached the house of Khwaja Asil. My teacher then said to him: ‘This small boy, my pupil, soars high to the very stars in his poetic skills. Let him recite a verse or two’. I then recited some verses in a tremulous and modulated accent, so that my melodious recital rendered all eyes tearful and astonishment surged on all sides. My teacher then said: ‘The recitation of verses is easy’.

Q: What happened then?

A: My teacher then remarked that I should be tested with the composition of a verse. He then at random named four things, namely hair, egg, arrow and melon, and asked me to compose a verse wherein these four things should be appropriately mentioned. In the presence of all the people in the assembly, there and then I composed the following verse:

Har mu’i ke dar do zolf-e aan sanam ast
Sad baize-e ‘ambarin bar aan mu’i zamm ast
Chun tir madaan raast delash raa ziraa
Chun kharbuze dandaanash miyaan shekam ast

Every hair in the two curly tresses of that beauty,
Has drawn to itself a hundred eggs (i.e. grains) of amber.
Do not consider her heart to be as straight as an arrow,
For like the melon the choice part is concealed within.

As soon as I recited this quatrain I was praised abundantly’.

Q: Are you proud of your poetry?

A: Do not be proud of your poetry, Khusraw,
There are many poets, of the past and future.
If you want your words to be without fault,
Regard them from the point of view of your enemy.
Everybody thinks his words are great,
And a friend will praise them even more.

Q: Several Chishti Sufis have shown a sincere attachment to their mother. You have composed a poem on the death of your mother in 1299, the year in which you have also lost one of your two brothers. Please recite this poem in English to us.

A: Here is part of it:

This year two lights departed from my star,
My mother as well as my brother left me…
One head cannot endure two hangovers,
Since my mother is under the earth,
What is there to fear?
O my mother, where are you?
Why don’t you show me your face…?
Today my lips are sealed,
As your silence gives me counsel.

Q: What advise would you give to your son?

A: If you want to be happy in your manhood, you should serve your teacher well.

Q: You have been very attached to your pir Nizamuddin Awliya. It is said that you have been his most beloved companion. What happened when you met him?

A: The unseen lovers’ hearts became joined. The two strangers came together.

‘Eshq aamad-o shod chu khunam andar rag-o pust
Taa kard maraa tahi-o por kard ze dust
Ajzaa’-ye-wojudam hamagi dust gereft
Naamist maraa bar man baqi hama ust.

Love came and spread like blood in my veins and the skin of me,
It filled me with the Friend and completely emptied me.
The Friend has taken over all parts of my existence,
Only my name remains, as all is He.

Q: The Chishti Sufis have strict rules regarding the participation of Sufis and the lay people while listening to Sufi music. As you have been both a Sufi as well as a courtier has there been a limitation in your participation in the practices of the Chishtiyya order?

A: Once at a musical gathering presided over by my shaykh I threw up my hands in ecstasy and began to dance. Shaykh Nizamuddin summoned me to him, saying: ‘You are connected with this world. You are not permitted to raise your hands when dancing’.

Q: Was that a difficult experience to you?

A: The path to the well is hard.

Q: Have you experienced separation?

The cloud rains and I am separated from the Friend.
How can my heart be separated from the Friend
On such a day?
The cloud, the rain, I – and the Friend taken away.
I am alone, crying, the cloud is alone
And the Friend is alone.
Greenery, newly-sprouted, joyful air, a green garden.
The nightingale, disgraced,
Remains separated from the rosegarden.
O, what are You doing to me,
With the root of every hair of Your tresses,
Bound together?
I am enchained by being tied up,
And all of a sudden, alone…

Abr mibaarad-o man mishawam yaar jodaa
Chun konam del bechonin ruz ze deldaar jodaa
Abr-o baran-o man-o yaar setaada budaa’
Man jodaa keria konaan, abr jodaa, yaar jodaa
Sabza naw-khiz-o hawaa khorram-o bostaan-e sarsabz
Bolbol-e-ruye-siyah maanda ze golzaar jodaa
Ay maraa dar tahe har mui ze zolfat-e bandi
Che koni band ze bandam hama yakbaar jodaa.

Q: The Chishti Sufis have often accepted local practices. The Chishtis also celebrate basant, the Indian spring festival. It is said that one day you saw some Hindu women singing and carrying mustard flowers to offer to their deity on the festival of basant. In order to cheer up your pir who was depressed about the death of his nephew, you dressed up like a Hindu woman and went to your pir singing the song you had heard. This brought a smile to his face and the ritual of basant became part of the Chishti tradition. Is it true that you have composed poetry in the local language, i.e. Hindawi?

A: I am a parrot of India if you ask me candidly,
Ask me in Hindawi, so that I may answer you correctly.

Q: When your pir died you were on a trip to Lakhnawti. On your return you blackened your face and approached his grave with torn clothes and with weeping eyes…

A: O Muslims! Who am I to grieve for such a king? Rather let me grieve for myself for after the death of the king of spiritual elders, I will not have long to live.

Gori sovay sej par, mukh par daaray kes,
Chal Khusraw ghar aapnay, saanjh bhayee chahu des.

The fair maiden rests on the wreath (of roses),
Her tresses covering her face,
Let us, O Khusraw go back now,
The dark dusk settles in four corners.

Q: Anything else you want to say to us?

A: Safar-e mubarak! May your journey be blessed!