JAHANGIR HAS A CHOICE of many summer homes like the Neelkanth summer house at Mandu built into the fort many decades ago, on his father’s orders. He still remembers his first sight of the hill fortress when he arrived there to make it the next capital. It called to mind the words of a poem:
Seen from afar, amid dust-laden clouds
The citadel loomed forth, severe and grand
Like a mountain overspread with shadowy knolls
Whose tracery the setting sun scarce limned.
Jahangir recites the same lines on his visit to the Garden of Gulfashan on a brief visit to Agra towards the end of summer. He is quoting from Diwan, a work by a poet called Anwari; a work well loved by his father. But right now as he sees through the last appointments for the day and has his meal brought in, he is preoccupied. His failing health and Shah Jahan’s repeated open rebellions have made it clear that matters have a reached a point beyond repair.
Right now, having dined on a few items of rich dishes, it is a different kind of poet that mirrors his mood. A poet he had the privilege of knowing while he was still a prince. This was a Sufi Saint of Punjab who created the style of poetry known as kafi. He set the streets of Lahore on fire with his unfettered verses.
As Jahangir looks out over the terrace and ponders the decisions of Shah Jahan, verses by the poet Madhu Lal Shah Husain come to mind:
Dukhan di roti, soolaan da saalan,
Aahen da baalan baal
(Bread of sorrow, sauce of thorns,
Creates a fire of laments)
These are one of many verses by the Sufi poet who will for centuries to come, be celebrated in his home town at the Mela Chiraghan, the Festival of Lights that marks his death anniversary (urs).