The Telegraph
Tuesday , December 27 , 2011
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Just a thank-you won’t do

- Why Bruni, Sarkozy and baby need to visit India

New Delhi, Dec. 26: The last time her parents were in India, she was just a wish. Now little Giulia may have to accompany her mère and père on a return visit — as a wish fulfilled.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and First Lady Carla Bruni have sent word of their “extreme gratitude” to the caretaker of Fatehpur Sikri for prayers answered, the priest’s family told The Telegraph.

Sarkozy, 56, and Carla, 43, had visited the grave of 16th-century Sufi saint Salim Chishti last December, walked barefoot, heads covered, and prayed for a child just like emperor Akbar did centuries ago.

Their daughter Giulia (the feminine form of the Latin Julius) was born this October, some three-and-a-half years after the couple married in February 2008.

Arshad Faridi, son of the shrine’s caretaker Peerzada Rais Mian Chishti, said an official from the French embassy in Delhi had recently contacted them with the “good news”.

“He said the first couple had sent a thanksgiving message to be conveyed to the caretaker of the Fatehpur shrine. He said he was a messenger of the President, who had expressed extreme gratitude,” Faridi said.

He added that the embassy official wanted to know what a person whose wish had been fulfilled was required to do.

“I told him a return is a must and the blessed should revisit the dargah for a prayer of thanksgiving,” Faridi said.

“He said he would convey the message to the first couple and added that there was a possibility that they might visit the dargah next year but nothing had been finalised yet. They are in touch with us and have asked us not to reveal anything to anybody as it is a private matter.”

During their visit last year, the Sarkozys had placed on the grave a chadar of roses (a shawl decorated with roses) and tied a kalava (red thread) on a jali (latticework) inside the dargah so that their wish would come true.

Chief priest Rais Mian said Sarkozy and Carla should revisit the dargah as their wish for a child had been fulfilled. “They should come along with the child as a gesture of thanksgiving for Allah’s blessings... they should also offer prayers and a chadar at the dargah… I will be very happy to bless the child. This has been the tradition here.”

He added: “They have to untie the red thread as their prayer has been answered.”

Carla, who whispered fervent prayers, had apparently prayed for a son but few First Couples are expected to make that an issue.

“I still remember she was deep in prayer inside the dargah for a child. She requested me to pray for a son before leaving the shrine,” Rais Mian recalled.

The chief priest said he told the couple that Akbar, then childless, had prayed at several dargahs and temples before coming to Sikri, near Agra, where Salim Chishti, sitting on a rock, blessed him with three children.

Akbar named his eldest son Salim after the saint. Salim later became emperor Jehangir. “It was then that Carla asked me to pray for her…. She said she wanted a baby boy,” Rais Mian, a descendant of Salim Chishti, recounted.

Carla has a son from a previous relationship and her husband has three sons from two previous marriages.