Amir Khusrau, the legendary poet of the 13th century, was the son of a refugee from Uzbekistan. Khusrau was born in modern day Uttar Pradesh. Though he called himself an ‘Indian Turk’, his grasp and love of India’s languages and culture made him a key figure in India’s pluralist legacy – as the following verse demonstrates.
The people of Khita, Mongols, Turks and Arabs
In (speaking) Indian dialects get sewn lips
But we can speak any language of the world
As expertly as a shepherd tends his sheep
(Source: Idea of India in Amir Khusrau)
His guru, Nizamuddin Auliya, introduced him to Sufi mysticism. Khusrau, accustomed to the good life of Delhi’s Sultanate, began to disregard the material world for the spiritual.
Since we’ve pulled our skirts back
From the spread of worldly wares,
We’ve rolled up our clothes
And moved to Mendicant Alley.
Sāqī, pour out the wine
From the flask, for we have
Drunk too many tears
Of blood from sky-blue bottles.
Since the cup of black-and-white dice
That roll across the earth’s green baize
Is loaded full of trickery,
We have quaffed dark-red wine.
Now it’s poverty and the myriad
Meanings it contains like threads
That we’ve woven into a blanket
And pulled over our head.
We’ve pulled back the skirts
Of ambition from all the world
Yields since it could never fill
The pockets of greed.
Smash the assayer’s touchstone
Against a rock. Gold is just
Yellow clay when we have
It weighed in wisdom’s scales.
Khusrau, we are not children
To seek out shiny yellows and reds.
Like adults, we’ve pulled back
Our hearts from gold and pearls.
Madras Courier originally ran as a broadsheet with a poetry section. It was a time when readers felt comfortable sharing glimpses of their lives through verse. If you too have a poem you’d like to submit, do mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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