The many hues of love

The many hues of love

Jalaluddin Rumi. It is a name that evokes sublime emotions in the lovers of Sufi mysticism. Born in Persia in the thirteenth century, Rumi made Turkey his home from where the fragrance of his love and longing for the divine spread to the world and intoxicated the souls affected by similar yearning.

Kamla K Kapur’s Pilgrimage to Paradise is a collection of 30 Sufi tales that have been sourced from Rumi’s six-volume Mathnawi written in Persian, edited and translated to English by Reynold A Nicholson. Kapur admits in the preface that she is a lover of Rumi rather than a scholar of his work. And this intimate connection of the author with the mystic poet lends a heartwarming freshness to the book. Each of the 30 stories in Pilgrimage to Paradise echoes Rumi’s earnest call to men to “leave the fragment and come to the whole.” For Rumi, life is nothing but love expressing itself in thousands of hues and shades. “The Way is love then, not knowledge.”

Though Rumi is highly regarded for the magical quality and impact of his words, he knows that words can go only so far in communicating the soul’s language beyond which one is left with the strength of their own inner light to lead them. All his verses therefore speak very personally to the reader who is their ultimate interpreter. For a writer who tries to explore Rumi, the greatest challenge lies in giving shape to this abstractness without altering the essence that it carries. The credit goes to Kamla Kapur for managing this balancing act deftly in her book. A brilliant preface where Kapur delves into the phenomenon called Rumi, assures the reader of her credentials as the teller of Rumi’s stories and never does she falter in fulfilling this promise.

While the original stories in Rumi’s Mathnawi are multi-layered, meandering in as many directions as the mystic storyteller’s rich, piercingly alive mind takes him to, in Pilgrimage to Paradise, Kapur recreates the stories to suit the modern reader. An accomplished poet and a playwright herself, her delightful style of writing pays a fitting tribute to the poet, mystic, storyteller — Rumi. In the story ‘The Gift’, when Mark asks his friend Joseph how one prepares to meet God, the latter says:
“Sleep and eat little. Stir a little like the embryo, so you may be given the senses that behold the light of the unseen world. And when you emerge from this womb-like earth into the vast expanse into which the saints have entered and go to the court of the friend, go not empty-handed, but take the gift of this stirring.”

“I prefer my fruitful madness to their barren intelligence,” says Daquqi in ‘The Eye of the Heart’ referring to the people who are blind to the divine grace dancing in front of their eyes.

The Sufi mysticism celebrates life’s agonies and ecstasies with equal passion and strives to find the ‘Way’ amidst the chaos in the world. The feverish spiritual cravings, the grandeur of soul friendships, the dance of love in human relationships, the madness, the humour — Kapur’s book celebrates all flavours of Rumi’s stories with fervour.

Rumi is that eternal fountain from which everyone is free to quench their thirst for the divine. Though there have been controversies regarding the way Rumi’s works are interpreted outside the Islamic world, especially in the West, books like Pilgrimage to Paradise only build bridges between the ordinary reader and the rich spiritual treasure of the Sufi tradition. A book definitely worth indulging in.

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