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huma_xceptionTHE AROMA OF INDIAN RICE, ghee and spice isn’t the only thing that lingers on Persian soil. Humayun, trotting away after Tahmasp’s grand send off, decides almost as soon as he is out of sight and reach, that he’d like to look around Persia a bit more. He takes an unabashed sightseeing tour of the bazaars at Ceasarea, marvels at the famed ‘Syrian’ domes and even takes a look at the Caspian Sea. It isn’t long before his peregrinations come to the attention of one of his erstwhile Persian minders.

Tahmasp, on a routine horseback inspection of his country, chances upon new tents on a certain stretch of clearing. To his shock, he is told that they are Humayun’s though he isn’t in at the moment. It’s a good thing too because Tahmasp is first flabbergasted and then incensed and at once sends a messenger to show Humayun the right way out of Persia and hopefully to his eventual destination in Hindustan.

18th-Century Mughal Painting of A Prince on a Brown Horse

Have horse, will jaunt. Image: Humayun takes a carefree tour of Persia. Image: 18th C painting of a prince on a brown horse (© Burstein Collection)

This done, Tahmasp continues to ride along still at a loss to comprehend Humayun’s alarming levels of dissolution and complete disregard for propriety. Tahmasp hasn’t ever had the luxuries of time and indulgence Humayun has enjoyed in childhood and adolescence. He’s has after all been ruling Persia since the age of 10. Since then, he has been holding together a tinderbox of supporters and rivals and staving off external threats from the Ottomans and the Uzbeks. Coming from the line of the Saffavids, he is also a ‘mystic king’ and regarded as such by his people who regularly gather to perform ritual songs, dance and acts of piety in his presence. Only rigour and discipline have seen him rule this long.

Right now as Tahmasp moves around at a slow trot atop his speckled white horse, he thinks again about the many episodes of Humayun’s luck. Something tells him that Humayun’s in line to stage quite a coup on his return to Hindustan. What Tahamsp knows with greater certainty is that his tastes have taken a shining to certain Indian ingredients. The Hindustani feast created an unexpected buzz in Court and Tahmasp is losing not time in initiating the import of that particular variety of rice, ghee (a novelty for the Persians) and that curious spice that rivalled saffron in the intensity of its hue.

There is also the matter of the serviceware Humayun’s men had laid out at the banquet – beautifully crafted vessels of novel moulding and intricate engravings made of not only silver but also bell metal. He has already sent a message to Humayun on the subject of initiating regular despatches of these commodities on his return to Hindustan, even as Tahmasp’s men are showing the wandering sovereign the way over the border.