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huma_xceptionTHE GIFT OF JEWELS SUCCEEDS in purchasing a two month reprieve from Tahmasp’s discomforting visits. When he does resume interaction, it is to demand an explanation for a troubling rumour that has reached his ears – to get an inkling of what the future held out for him in the region’s power stakes Humayun had laid out arrows to practice divination; as part of the preliminary arrangement he had ranked himself higher than Tahmasp. When Tahmasp summons Humayun to explain himself, the Indian sovereign gamely admits to the truth of the report is and that he had ranked himself higher because his territories are were in fact larger than Tahmasp’s. As soon as Humayun leaves, the unnerved Persian king broaches a plan to liquidate Humayun.

News of the plan reaches the ears of Tahmasp’s sister and though she cannot quite understand why, she is overcome with emotion. She ask his brother to consider his position – that he has managed to make enemies of every neighbouring territory; that he will gain nothing by harming the Indian sovereign; that Humayun is their guest and if he really can’t stand another minute of him, he should at least let him leave. Tahmasp is chastened and at his next encounter, makes kind gestures to Humayun and assures him of assistance on his journey to India. He also tells Humayun that before he leaves he would like to have the pleasure of a Hindustani-style feast if Humayun can arrange one.

Food officials

A farewell feast. Image: From 16th C painting, Reception for the Ambassador of the Grand Moghul at the Court of the Shah Tahmasp (© Bridgeman Art Library)

Shortly after a lavish three-day farewell feast organised by Tahmasp in honour of Humayun, the Indian ruler has his cooks prepare a feast worthy of their name. Festivities open not far from Persepolis with the opening of a fruit before the train of dishes is brought out. In spite of the profusion of impressive meat dishes on offer, it is a deceptively simple vegetarian dish that catches Tahmasp’s fancy – the dal-and-rice dish of Dal Khuska. This in fact is the first time the Persians are getting a taste of a certain fragrant long grain rice. The aromas and colours they will carry away from this feast will linger for days on their fingers, tongues and no doubt in their memories. A notable revelation is turmeric which, like saffron, invests every dish with gold but also a certain ephemeral, peppery tang. The Persians are not aware of it at the time, but this encounter with the tastes of India begins Persia’s affair with turmeric and Indian rice which they will import from India hereafter.

The feast ends well. The next morning, the Shah presents Humayun with two apples and a knife and bids him farewell on his journey to back to Hindustan. The promised Persian contingent of horses under the Shah’s son is already awaiting ahead in Sistan.