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THE MEN OF MIRACLES

Shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia in New Delhi

I first met Sadia Dehlvi at an exhibition of calligraphy in Arabic and Urdu. She was sitting on a moorha at the centre of the room. I was bowled over by her looks — and told her so. She became a regular visitor to my home. She belonged to a prosperous Muslim family that lived in a sprawling mansion on Sardar Patel Marg. Sadia had a set of rooms to herself. The family met at meal times. They ate the best of Mughlai food. Then, suddenly, the family broke up as her parents decided to live apart. Sadia was on her mother’s side. They sold the mansion to Mayavati, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. From their share, Sadia, her mother and brother bought three flats on a quiet road alongside Humayun’s tomb. Sadia met her second husband, Raza Parvez, in my home, where their marriage also took place. Giani Zail Singh and I signed her nikahnama.

She moved to Pakistan for a year or so. Her aggressive Indian attitude did not go down well with the Pakistan government. Her husband was fired from his job and was forced to return to India. We resumed our relationship. I became her loco parentis. She divorced Raza and married a married man with a wife and five children. Before the marriage, she brought her fiancé to meet me and asked for my approval. I refused to approve of him. He was illiterate and without a proper job. He lived off protection money from shopkeepers and roughing up people on payment of a fee. Despite my strong disapproval, Sadia married him. When I told her that she was making a mistake by marrying a man with a family, she replied: “Islam mein vajib hai — it is allowed by Islam.” I admonished her, “Is zamaaney mein vajib nahin — it is not allowed in present times.” The marriage lasted for a few months. She has finally decided not to marry again.

She also resolved to cease being a social butterfly and became the Muslim community’s voice on national issues. Her articles are published in India’s leading newspapers. She has also published a book on Sufi Islam that became a bestseller in India and Pakistan. Now she has compiled a book on Sufi shrines in Delhi. These are to be seen in different parts of the city. They are not of architectural excellence but each of them has a tale of miracles performed by the man buried there. It makes fascinating reading.

Lata in London

Many years ago, I happened to be in London at the same time as Lata Mangeshkar, who was scheduled to sing at Albert Hall. It was an unforgettable experience.

The hall was packed with Indians and Pakistanis. She opened the programme with her most popular duet, “Savan ka maheena.” As she sang the first line, there was a thunderous applause. It was exactly what the audience had expected as a starter.

After the applause died down, she began again “Savan ka maheena, pavan karey shore.” A male voice corrected her, “Shore nahin, sore.” She started all over again and repeated, “Savan ka maheena, pavan karey shore.” The male voice admonished her, “Shore nahin, sore, sore, sore. The audience also scolded her, “Shore nahin, sore.

Lata had to start all over again: “Savan ka mahina, pavan karey sore/ Jiya rarey jhoomey aisey ki bun ma naachey more.” This time, the audience joined her, singing and clapping to keep time till the song ended:

It is the month of Savan
The gale blows with loud noise
The heart, dear heart, be good
Peacocks dance in the woods.

Topsy turvy

Mother-in-law (in India): A woman capable of making your life miserable.

Outside India: A woman you never fight with, because where else will you find such a dedicated babysitter for free?

Husband (in India): A boring human being who listens more to his mother than to you, and orders you around, making you serve him, his parents and siblings.

Outside India: Still boring, but now a useful human being, who comes in handy when the house needs vacuuming. Also useful in taking the laundry, for babysitting, and for shopping at times.

Friend (in India): A person whose house you can drop in at any time of the day or night and you’ll always be welcome.

Outside India: A person whom you have to call first to check and make sure he is not busy.

Wife (in India): A woman who gives you your underwear and towel when you take a shower and also cooks for you.

Outside India: A woman who yells at you not to leave the tub dirty when you go to take a bath.

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