Suf, Tasawwuf aur Mausiqi: Episode-1 (Fariduddin Ayaz)

We travelled by an auto rickshaw in the streets of Old Delhi, people from air conditioned SUVs rolled down their window to wish him with the humblest of salaams, he responded to them with his folded hands. Some strangers from the pavement recognized him at Connaught place and requested him to pray for them. He obliged each one of them with friendly nods. We arrived at the Saket hotel where we were planning to have a lunch, Farid Saab got down from the auto rickshaw and slapped the driver on his face. He pleaded with him for forgiveness and Farid Saab advised him to forget ‘her’, which he happily agreed to. We entered the hotel for a quick lunch. He had a tea there and decided to visit my Gurgaon home and have a home-cooked lunch. I called up Tuhina, my wife, so she could rustle up a quick meal of mutton curry and rice (his favourite), followed by Farid Saab’s favourite dessert, a jaggery-sweetened rice pudding. He would loosen up his leather belt and push his insulin shot on his stomach and sit for a small meal at our four-sitter dining table (Sufis eat, talk & sleep less), and would recite Sufi poetry for hours. Once he had told me, “Arun, Gudri (The Faqir’s tattered, torn blanket) jahan bichha di wohi taqt-e-saltanat. Shaho se bhi badh ke thaath hain Tere Faqir ke.”

He pointed his index finger to the azure blue sky clearly visible from my seventeenth-floor balcony. His ensemble has travelled to dozens of countries to perform, from embassy to private mehfils and festivals. Qaul Man Kunto Maula and popular Qalams like Dama Dam Mast Qalandar, Chhap Tilak Sab chhini, Aaj Rang hain ri, Mera Piya Ghar Aaya have ruled his flow in most of his concerts. Audience never bothered to the poetry of Hazrat Amir Khusrau or Baba Bulleh Shah, they sipped on to their single malts, nibbled on the succulent kebabs, showered ‘Wah Wah’s and currency notes in rapid succession while listening to the melodious strains of Harmonium & powerful dholak (one handed Hand drum) and Taali (rhythmic clapping).

Faridsaab and I were discussing poetry on our way to Gurgaon. I quoted Mir,

“sirhāne ‘mīr’ ke koī na bolo

abhī tuk rote rote so gayā hai”

He quoted Iftikhar Arif,

“mire ḳhudā mujhe itnā to mo’tabar kar de

Maiñ jis makān meñ rahtā huuñ us ko ghar kar de”

Our discussion was interrupted by a friend of mine, a cabin attendant from a leading airline. Faridsaab snatched away my phone and started a conversation with her. He gave me the phone back after ten minutes with a mischievous, “Arun, kisi ko daldal se nikalna ho toh hamesha bal pakad ke khenchna hota hain, seene se laga kar nahin.” I laughed my heart out saying mock seriously, “ Hum ek doosre ke razdaar hain, aur aap mujhe itna bhi yakeen nahin karte hain?” He joined me in the laughter and broke into an impromptu “Mose bol naa bol, meri sun ya na sun.”

We arrived at our Gurgaon home. The smell of mutton curry had reached till the living room. Tuhina opened the door and gave a bear hug to Faridsaab, and within minutes Faridsaab had started reciting a dua in chaste Farsi to ward off all evil “nazars” for his bitiya. He sat down instantly on the dining table and settled for a small portion of the curry and rice followed by two spoons of dessert. He retired in our guest room for a nap.

The background story of smuggling him to Gurgaon is not easy. The SHO at the local police station had mumbled, “Sir, aap sarhad paar ke nagrik ko kyon boolate hain, ghar?” I played “Kanhaiya yaad hai kuchh bhi humari” on my phone and he nodded in agreement. Faridsaab had a three city visa, Delhi, Gurgaon and Mumbai where he had a stream of private mehfils lined up for the following weeks.

His son Baleeg was supposed to get married during that month. Tuhina packed a small silver souvenir in his bag carrying passport and medicines. Later when the new bride came home, Farid saab had reportedly paused the ‘Muh-dikhayi ka rasam’ by claiming that his daughter from Gurgaon had sent something for the bride, and that would be the first gift to be handed over to her during the ceremony. He had sighed, “kaash tum dono yahan hote aur main tumhe receive karne airport aata!”

To lighten the mood I asked him to share the song he would have sung in the airport for us. He sang a beautiful “Aaya bana aaya, hariyala bana aaya, Arun-Tuhina aaya” with a little twist in the lyric.

2015 November was the last time he had visited Delhi.

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