(The following passage is from the book ‘Dozkhnama’ by Rabisankar Bal. An imaginative meeting of Ghalib and Mevlana Rumi)
There come certain times of misfortune in the world, when poetry dies. I seemed to be keeping a vigil by the grave of the ghazal, counting the hours. I could think of nothing but the time when death would come to take me beyond this worldly life. Entire nights would pass in wakefulness. One day I saw a shadowy figure standing in my cell.
Who was he? How had he got into my room? My throat ran dry at the sight of this tall man.
‘Who are you?’ I asked. ‘Where are you from?’
— I am Jalaluddin Rumi, huzoor.
— Maula Rumi! I threw myself at his feet. —Is my Judgement Day here, then?
— No, huzoor.
— Why do you address me as huzoor? There can be no greater sin on my part, Maula.
— Each of us is a huzoor, Mirza. Huzoor has said that the only happy existence is that of the grass. Seasons will come and go, leaves will fall and sprout again, but only the grass will survive on every field. Only the grass knows how to spread from the centre to the sides.
— What can I do for you, Maula, tell me.
Maula sat down, facing me, and put his hand on my shoulder.
— I came to tell you a story, Mirza.
— I have been reborn today, Maula. How many people have the fortune of listening to a story from you?
— I have been reborn too, huzoor. The lord has given me the opportunity to tell a story to the finest poet of Hindustan.
— I am insignificant in comparison to you.
— We are all stars scattered about the sky. No one except the lord knows how far away each one of us is. Some of us are dead, some alive. But still our dialogue continues, by the grace of God.
Prophet Muhammad was sitting beneath a date palm tree one evening. He was surrounded by his disciples and nearby villagers. Pink and blue were at play in the sky as the sun set. Suddenly Zawhl stood up, shouting, ‘Muhammad, there’s never been anyone as ugly and filthy as your ancestor Hashim. Even his children have given birth to a succession of hideous offspring.’
Haider, Hazrat Muhammad’s most devoted disciple, unsheathed his sword at once. Calmly, Muhammad said, ‘You are right, Zawhl.’ Haider was deflated. He had been ready to behead Zawhl.
A little later, Abu Bakr knelt before Muhammad, saying, ‘Pardon Zawhl, O Prophet. There has not been another man more courageous or beautiful than your ancestor Hashim. You are the same.’ Smiling at Abu Bakr, Muhammad said, ‘You are right, Abu Bakr.’
There was a long silence. Suddenly an agitated Haider said, ‘The two of them are saying two different things, prophet. Both of them are right, you say. How is this possible?’ Muhammad smiled at Haider. —You are right too, Haider.
— I am right too?
— Yes. I am only a mirror, Haider. The lord has long been polishing me. Everyone sees himself in my mirror. If you look at the world through a blue-tinted glass, the world appears blue; if you see it through a red glass, it’s nothing but red. What people see is their own reflection.
— Then there is no such thing as truth in the world?
— You seek truth?
— I do.
— Then free yourself of all excitement and emotions, Haider. Keep polishing the mirror within yourself till all the colours are worked off and it becomes completely transparent. Only then will you see him, Haider.
— See whom, Maula? I clung to Jalaluddin Rumi’s feet.
— Let go of my feet, Mirza. You are being extinguished … you are merging into the depths of creation … there is no greater joy or truth. I pray that you die like a cat.
— Cats can sense their hour of death and isolate themselves. They do not bother anyone, do not seek anyone’s pity. They face death alone.
Solitude is the only truth, Mirza. Why do you fret? Everything will be swallowed by the black hole one day. You have been born in this world, you will leave it … such an effortless voyage, like a feather … this joy alone shall be your companion in solitude.