There are many lessons to be learnt from the teachings of Jalaluddin Rumi’s (1207-73) Mathnawi. The same applies to the impact of his teachings, if any, on the people. I refer specifically to his utterances on the need for respect of religions besides the one a person is born into. I was reading a translation the Mathnawi for the fourth time. In my first reading, I had underlined the following lines:
“Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi or Zen/ Not any religion or cultural system./ I am not from the East or West, not out of the ocean or up from the ground, if not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all./ I do not exist, am not an entity of this world or the next,/ I did not descend from Adam and Eve or any origin story/ My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless, neither body or soul,/ I belong to the beloved, have seen the two worlds as one and that/ One calls to know, first, last, outer, inner, only that breath-breathing human.”
According to his translator, Coleman Barks, when Rumi died in Konya (Turkey) in December 1273, representatives of every major religion came to his funeral. In the midst of the crusades and violent sectarian conflicts, he said, “I go to the Muslim mosque and the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church and see one altar.”
It is not surprising that Rumi won the respect of people of all religions. To this day, the Christian church in Shiraz (Iran) has a tablet with the following lines of Rumi:
Where the Jesus lives, the
We are a door that’s never locked.
If you are suffering any kind of
Stay near the door. Open it.
What is love?
A young lady, Shalini Mukherjee, of the monthly magazine, First City, put me up through a detailed questionnaire on my past and asked me about my views on different topics. When I wanted to terminate the interview, she pleaded, “One last question: What are your views on love?”
I pondered over the matter for a while. She evidently did not mean love for god, parents, country and the like but earthy love between men and women in approximately the same age-group. Then I blurted out, “Lust, I understand, love, I do not. Lust is a natural instinct to ensure reproduction of our species. It knows no racial, religious or class barriers. Love is the gloss human beings put on it to give it respectability. To start with, lust and love co-exist. As lust begins to abate, love begins to lose its shine. Both become routine affairs. Both seek new pastures beyond the limits imposed by man-made laws of monogamy and marital fidelity”, and so on.
The Patels’ Valentine
In spite of what you have been told by everyone, the truth is that Valentine’s Day originated hundreds of years ago, in India, and to top it all, in Gujarat!
Gujarati men, especially the Patels, continually mistreated and disrespected their wives (Patelianis). One fine day, it happened to be February 14, one brave Pateliani, having had enough ‘torture’ from her husband, finally chose to rebel by beating him up with a velan (rolling pin). Yes, the same velan which she used daily to make chapattis for him — only this time, instead of the dough, it was the husband who was flattened. This was a momentous occasion for all Gujarati women. A revolt soon spread like wild fire, with thousands of housewives beating up their husbands with their velans.
There was an outburst of moaning by ‘chapatti-ed’ husbands all over Anand and Ahmedabad. The Patel menfolk quickly learnt their lesson and started behaving respectfully with their Patelianis. Thereafter, on February 14 every year, the women of Gujarat would ceremoniously beat up their husbands to commemorate that eventful day. Soon the Gujarati men realized that in order to avoid this ordeal they needed to present gifts to their wives... and so they brought flowers and sweetmeats. Hence the tradition began.
As Gujarat fell under the influence of Western culture, that day was called ‘Velan-time’ Day. The ritual soon spread to Britain and many other Western countries, specifically the catchwords “Velan time”. Of course, in their foreign tongues, it was first anglicized to ‘Valantime’ and then to ‘Valentine’. And thereafter, February 14 came to be know as ‘Valentine’s Day’!
(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, New Delhi)