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SAHIRAH ZULAIKHA
- A tale of many names

Zulaikha was Qainah in the palace of Suhrab Kaiqubad and Malika Drvaspa. She was Hirkil and Chamani. She looked Nazuk, Shirin and Lamis. She had Surayya. All the Ramishin were Mashuf about her. The Shahbano's Duruz dressed her in Munir garments. The Gavan crowded on the back seats when she went to Kanisah with her Khushkhal Hur friends ' Mehrunnisa, Shahrnaz, Arnawaz and Armaiti. But she was Rohini. No one had drunk her Nush. She waited for her Shabab.

Then one day, Rustahm sent the Marzuban of Khurasan to King Kaiqubad and his Shahbano with a Risalat inviting them to visit his Imran. He wrote, 'Dawud Hvazata Nausherwan Talyarkhan! I send you my Nawwab Ruknudduniya with a Munim Nazr of a Tigh and an Ispar made of Timur. It is the month of Farwardin, Mitra is no longer so hot, the Shihab of Shi'ra has risen again in Mashriq, and Manzum are about to set. Hamza and Namir are stalking the Gao and the Ghazal again. Why don't you be my Mahman at Maidhyomah' We will go and catch Ninan and do Shikar of Iyyal. By the way, I understand you have a Srira Shaira in your harem who composes Nazm and sings like a Parindokht. She is a Farid Mufliq of Marghul. Why don't you bring her, and we will enjoy ourselves in my Gulbagh'

When Padsrob received the Paigam, he went to his Malika's Bostan, was Hamkinar, gave her a Bosak and asked her for a Paighalah. He then called Kanisah Zulaikha and told her, 'My Nastaran! My Nilofar! My Nargis! My Shaqirah! Methinks this Kisra is Dilresh about you; he wants to be your Saqi-e-Kausar. I will be Farhan to take you to his Riasat, but I won't unless you are going to be Naushad with him.'

Zulaikha replied, 'Shah Jehan! You are my Haris. Rustahm may be Kaizad; but I have heard he is Pilsam. Give me a Hafta, and I will give you Jaibat.' Then this Mauji Mazda went to Kanisah with her friends, and sang an Ilhan full of Tashbib. It drew all the Azib Parwanahs of the Shahr. The Buham swayed in Farah as if they were full of Sabayat; each of them dreamt of a Nigar, Kulsum Hambaz. Every Shabbat found herself with a Naushah. There was much Shokhi; by the end of the week, every Salil and Raudah had become a Kardan of Ishq.

At the end of the week, Zulaikha went and did Taslim to the Tajbano, and said to her, 'Mihrbano! Your Damik has now become Shalimar. I do not want to go to Shahrukh Rustahm even if he gives me a hundred Satvesh Sariyya.'

Rustahm was Lajlaj for a Saniyah when he got Zulaikha's Payam; he felt like a Bashutan. But then Tamiz dawned on him. He was Saudagar; he thought her Rikaz was bigger than his Khazanah. He took off his Daihim and Qiliq, drew Nuzar from his Qusta, got into his Khuniras, went to the kingdom of Kaiqubad, and became Zulaikha's Isshiq and a Mujib Ustad of Shaftaluj. Zulaikha became his Qutb-i-Jahan. His Khushi reached its Qimmat.

That is to say: The wondrously beautiful one who made men slip was a singer in the palace of the illustrious, exalted king and the queen with two horses. She had a proud and graceful walk. She looked elegant, sweet and delicate. She had beautiful teeth. All the musicians were in love with her. The Queen's tailors dressed her in glittering garments. The valiant warriors crowded on the back seats when she went to the church with her black-eyed, black-haired friends ' Woman of the Sun, Pride of the City, Speaker of Truth and Archangel of Wisdom ' on whose skins moles looked good. But she was made of Indian steel. No one had drunk her lips. She waited for her young man.

Then one day, Lord of Steel sent the governor of the City of the Rising Sun to the Exalted King and His Queen with two horses and a message inviting them to visit his civilization. He wrote, 'Dearest High-born, Everlasting King, Lord of good fortune! I send you my deputy, Pillar of the World, with a generous present of a steel sword and shield. It is the month of the guardian angel, sun is no longer so hot, the star Sirius has risen again in the east, and Pleiades are about to set. The lion and the leopard are stalking the cow and the deer again. Why don't you be my guest in the middle of the month' We will go and catch fish and hunt stags. By the way, I understand you have a beautiful poetess in your harem who composes songs and sings like the daughter of an angel. She is a unique producer of masterpieces in rising and falling tones. Why don't you bring her, and we will enjoy ourselves in my flower garden'

When the Exalted King received the message, he went to his Queen's perfumed garden, gave her a hug and a kiss and asked for a goblet of wine. He then called the slender, slippery beauty and told her, 'My white rose of India! My red or white water-lily! My narcissus! My anemone! Methinks this monarch is mad about you; he wants to give you a drink from the river Kausar in paradise. I will be happy to take you to his dominion, but I won't unless you are going to be happy with him.'

The slippery beauty replied, 'King of the World! You are my protector. Lord of Steel may be royally born; but I have heard he has an elephant's legs. Give me a week, and I will give you an answer.' Then this happy-go-lucky wise woman went to the church with her friends, and sang a song full of feelings of love. It drew all the single butterflies of the town. The gallant heroes swayed in happiness as if they were full of wine; each of them dreamt of a beautiful, rosy-cheeked companion. Every girl found herself with a bridegroom. There was much playfulness; by the end of the week, every young man and woman had become a Prime Minister of love.

At the end of the week, the slippery beauty went and did an obeisance to the Queen, and said to her, 'Lady of love! Your territory has now become the abode of love. I do not want to go to royal-faced Lord of Steel even if he gives me a hundred palaces, each with a hundred servants.'

The Lord of Steel was perplexed for a minute when he got the message of the slippery beauty; he felt like a monkey. But then sense dawned on him. He was curious; he thought she had a bigger hidden treasure than his. He took off his crown and sword, drew gold from his banker, got into his shining chariot, went to the kingdom of the Excellent King, and became the lover of the slippery beauty and an admirable master of the kiss. The slippery beauty became the centre of his universe. His happiness reached its peak.

If you want to know how this story continues, make it up with The Complete Book of Muslim and Parsi Names of Maneka Gandhi and Ozair Husain (Penguin, Delhi).

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