Excerpt from the book ‘Qadir Yar Puran Bhagat’
will be his reception, for Luna
has vowed revenge. With perfect calm
he follows the men, and coolly
walks into the eye of the storm.”
-THE RAJAH SENDS FOR PURAN
Attend closely: A son is born
to Sialkot’s ruler, Rajah Salwan.
To look up the child’s horoscope
he at once calls the pundits in,
and is given the bad news —
a full twelve years seclusion
for the child. So, in a trice,
the rajah gains and loses a son.
That is what the pundits say;
the Veds would have it that way.
Puran exchanges one darkness
for another. A leper’s stay
in an outhouse, with the maids
and a wet-nurse. It’s a sad day
for the poor father, and the poor
infant so to be put away.
The most learned tutors troop in
to improve Puran. At six
he is versed in the scriptures,
and the arts, and mathematics;
a precocious child indeed. Now
the rajah’s bowmen come and fix
targets. But the growing boy yearns
to somehow leap this wall of bricks.
PURAN MEETS HIS FATHER
What with archery and the Veds
the long exile is at last done,
and to meet his anxious father
now prepares the anxious son.
The rajah is beside himself;
up and down he strides, up and down
stretching out his fond arms in
an ecstasy of expectation.
The rajah had married again
(while under a cloistered roof
Puran grew) a tanner’s daughter
with whom he had fallen in love,
a woman so beautiful some
swooned to see her, but who’s proof
against her charms when she is
all made up? One look is enough.
Puran is ready. He shakes the dust
forever of that prison floor.
The father leaves his chamber taking
fourteen steps to Puran’s four.
To Puran’s mother Ichhran the world
rallies with garlands. The sore
waiting is worth it when Puran
is announced at the Durbar’s door;
and as he stands there, obedient,
the rajah’s rapture is complete
as if the goddess of good fortune
had spilt everything at his feet.
Puran looks closely at all
around him as he takes his seat.
In excess of delight the father
showers more gifts than tongue can repeat.
To those present, the rajah
then announces in a loud voice
‘Start looking for a girl for Puran
at once, don’t delay your choice.
A gem-like son I possess,
let him have a gem-like spouse.’
But equally firm is Puran,
he shakes the walls of the house
as he says in loud cool tones
‘No. I will not marry, sire,
for the desire that compels some
to marry, I lack that desire.
I am a free spirit wholly
concerned with salvation, on fire
with the love of God. Father,
to nothing else I aspire.’
When he hears these words, the colours
in the rajah’s face come and go,
but the vizier is wise, he says
calmly ‘He’s too young to know
what is good for him. When the time
is ripe, time itself will show.
Let him be.’ The rajah regains
his humour and chortles ‘So, so,
well, we shall see. Now go
to your impatient mothers and pay
your respects. Make them happy;
long they’ve waited for this day.’
Hearing which Puran stands up,
and lets the servants lead the way.
He looks so beautiful that wives
forget their vows and are gay.
PURAN MEETS HIS STEPMOTHER
Without ado Puran starts out
to meet his mothers in a rage
to kneel before them and seek
their blessings. Steward and page
run ahead, and their first stop
is Luna’s palace. Listener, gauge
his fervour as he takes the steps
two at a time to pay homage
to his step-mother, kneel there,
and be kindly received. Look how
devotedly he halts before her,
hands joined in submission, so.
When Luna’s eyes light on Puran
his beauty strikes her like a blow,
and a tidal wave of temptation
overruns her from head to toe.
Such is the force of beauty. Luna
quite forgets in that fatal pause
the rajah ‘s face. The face she sees
is everything, effect and cause,
and in her heart he is lover
now, not son. Closer she draws,
spellbound. Desire makes a river
flow backwards. It defies all laws.
Puran just stands there, his one wish
is obeisance, he knows no other,
and with head bowed, hands joined
still, he murmurs ‘mother, mother’;
innocent words which bring the snakes
to her forehead. She would rather
not be reminded. All kinship gone
in a passion nothing can smother.
In quick succession plans are made
and discarded in her head,
all to one end, how soon she can
get the beauteous Puran to bed,
‘If you agree to what I say
I will be in heaven indeed’
she says. Like corn, popping from
a sand-filled pan, each word that’s said.
THE DISCUSSION BETWEEN LUNA AND PURAN
She says ‘Do not call me mother
again. Let this false veil of shame
be rent. It is hypocrisy, for
I’m only your mother in name,
and far nearer in age to you
than to your father. If any blame
must attach to this, it is yours,
for you have set me aflame.’
Puran blushes, stammers these words
‘Mother, what kind of talk is this?
Would you turn the world’s order
upside down with one unholy kiss?
Come to your senses. I’m your son
Puran; like a mother embrace
me.’ Sharp words are exchanged
in a room empty of witnesses.
But Luna is not to be denied.
She imprisons Puran’s hand
and says ‘Darling, come to bed
for a moment. How can you stand
there, and make me beg? Either
you’re a fool, or not a man.
Be good to me. Oh just one hug,
sweet one, please try to understand.’
Puran is furious now. He says
‘Mother, what has come over you?
You are my father’s wife, were born
like me,you had a mother too.
If such things begin to happen
the sky will be rent, stars fall through,
and chaos reign. Puran is young,
mother, but what he says is true.’
She argues still, ‘If you know what’s
good for you, don’t break with me.
Look, I’ve lifted my shirt? Can you
bear to be cruel seeing what you see?
How am I your mother? Have you
sucked these breasts for milk? Silly
boy, if these bad arguments lead
to bloodshed, on your head be
it.’ He’ll have none of it, and says
‘Your bed will never know my weight.
I am going now. I would rather
be crucified than desecrate
my father’s bed, for death is better
than such a sin.’ Now violent hate
bubbles up in her, and she vows
revenge, as he makes for the gate.
THE RAJAH COMES TO LUNA’S PALACE
Now it is evening. To Luna’s palace
the rajah comes. What meets his sight?
A sprawling rani, and the palace
halls not showing a single light.
‘What means this?’ he asks. ‘In bed,
sweet, when it is not yet night?’
Hearing which the cunning Luna breaks
into sobs. ‘Leave me to my plight
rajah, and ask no questions’ she cries
‘for I do not know what to say.
Better question that circus horse,
your son. That I would see this day
I never imagined. Ask him, ask him,
and see if he can explain away
what troubles me.’ With such lies
she feeds the lovesick rajah. Grey
grows the rajah’s face as he hears
‘these words. ‘Out with the truth, be done
with weeping’ he says ‘I’ll puhish
him, even if it is my son.
What, saucy with his mother? And
I so fondly waiting upon
his arrival? Who will be spared
the pranks of such an insolent one?’
‘True’ says the shrewd rani ‘for see
what a sorry state I am in.
My son, my son, I said, while he
looked at me with a husband’s grin,
disordered my dress, and snapped
my bangles, see the broken skin.
But he ran from the palace when
I resisted, and made a din.’
Up springs the simple rajah, trembling
with outrage, saying ‘Enough, enough!’
His heart hardens towards his son,
and gone every vestige of love.
A terrible night he passes,
now lying down, now starting up,
utterly convinced that such a crime
only the death of Puran can absolve.
Some women are like this; their deeds
can lead to murder, lay waste towns,
and break a million hearts. It
was ever so. Now it is Puran’s
turn to suffer. When the dark night ends
for a dark day, his father begins
his toilet. Tranced, he sits on a
bathroom slat for his ablutions.
THE RAJAH SENDS FOR PURAN
Later, he sends for his messengers
to fetch Puran, then go towards
the vizier, bring him along too.
He showers curses on their heads.
‘I want them both here, even if
you’ve to pull them out of their beds;
and if they ask the reason, say
these are my orders, waste no words.’
Within seconds they are gone
their dreadful errand to perform,
and when they tell Puran, panting,
he knows why he is sent for. Warm
will be his reception, for Luna
has vowed revenge. With perfect calm
he follows the men, and coolly
walks into the eye of the storm.
THE DEATH SENTENCE
No sooner is Puran before him
the rajah breaks out in abuse.
‘Why were you ever born?’ he says
‘l should have killed you when the news
of your birth reached me. Your crime
has broken my heart. What excuse
can you offer for the misdeeds
enacted in your mother’s house?’
He can hardly utter the words
in his wrath. Like a ruby glows
his forehead. ‘Begone from my sight
hypocrite. You and your pose
of innocence! When I mentioned
marriage, you blushed and whined. God knows
it was all a ruse that boldly
you could pluck your father’s rose.’
At this false allegation, Puran
bursts into tears (he’s still a lad)
saying ‘It’s not true, it’s not true.
Oh my parents have gone mad.
Kill me, father, to satisfy
your wrath, but do not call me bad.
I know I cannot convince you,
there are no witnesses to be had,
but if you’d put me to the proof,
send for a full cauldron of oil
and light a fire under it till
it begins to bubble and boil,
then direct me to dip my hand
in it. If I flinch, if one small
mark of burning show, then say
I’m a liar, show no mercy at all.’
This adds fuel to flame. Salwan
slaps his son again and again
saying ‘Will you talk like an equal
now? I have seen all the stains
I wish to see on your mother’s
wrist, and other marks.’ Nothing remains
for Puran but sobs, for with hate
the foolish rajah is insane.
Not a man dares intervene.
All stand helpless in amazement
trembling like pipal leaves to see
the rajah on this wild course bent.
He curses the vizier for his wrong
advice. Now messages are sent
to the executioners, and all
the town apprised of the event.
RANI ICHHRAN LEARNS OF THE SENTENCE
When rani Ichhran hears the news
about the one from her belly born,
she flings the necklace from her breast,
pulls her hair, throws ashes upon
her head, and wild with love, she runs
to her husband. ‘What have you done?’
she cries, ‘Is this the way to treat
your flesh and blood, your only son?’
‘Look Ichhran’ he says ‘a fine boy
you gave me, the apple of our eye!
Because of his deeds and because you
gave him birth, you too should die.
Son? You call him son? Not a dram
of shame in him. He’s evil. Why
the only pleasure he gets is
in seducing his mother?”A lie’
she shrieks ‘How can you believe
such nonsense? Have you no use
for your brains? These accusations
even a child would refuse
to swallow. An artful wife misleads
you. In one throw you will lose
your faith and your son, so choose
wisely while you still can choose.’
Impatient at her arguments
the rajah shouts ‘Now what is keeping
the executioners?’ hearing which
all present begin loudly weeping.
‘Off with his lusty hands!’ he roars
‘Are all my messengers sleeping?’
Now that the end is near, Puran
kneels to his mother.’No whipping
can be worse than these harsh words.
I am innocent as you know’
he says, ‘how can I uncover
my heart and its purity show?
Who can fight against fate? This was
ordained, so I can only bow
and obey. If my father says
I am a thief, it must be so.’
Nothing left now but to beg,so
Ichhran begs: ‘Rajah, for God’s sake,
relent. If you cut down the tree
in a spasm, it will never take
root again. With your own hands an
everlasting wilderness you make.
Who will call you father if you
tie your son Puran to the stake?’
The rajah is beyond all mercy.
He turns a deaf ear to the pleas
and orders the sweepers to hone
their instruments and earn their fees.
‘Cut him inch by inch’ he directs
’till the pain brings him to his knees.’
At this, the executioners move
and the helpless youngster seize,
and tying his hands behind him, for
the place of execution leave.
All shops are closed in protest,
and openly the citizens grieve.
Ichhran swoons. The servants wonder
if the poor woman will survive
the day. False Luna, you have downed
mother and son with one foul heave.
But Luna is not yet done. She sends
Puran secretly a letter, rife
with sophistry, commending him
to change his mind, then for his life
she would stand surety. There is still
time, she writes, obey me for the knife
is in my hands; else I will cause
more pain or I’m no rajah’s wife.
Says Puran ‘Foolish one, my life
is in God’s hands. There’s no return.
Even if my life is extended
a thousand years, death will have its turn.
He spits on the letter, and throws
it down as if to say’ to burn
in hell for this? For a fleeting
moment of pleasure to earn
a lifetime of remorse? Stepmother,
I will have nothing to do with
your lewd schemes. To gain your ends
you have compromised your faith.
My mind is made up. But it’s hard
on my mother. I know my death
will kill her. O executioners
stop, stay your hands for a breath
so I may say goodbye.’ Salwan
learns that the executioners wait
on the mothers. Puran and Ichhran
are locked in grief, and in one great
burst of weeping are trying to clean
all mortal writing from their slate.
The sweepers have a job to do;
mother and son they separate,
and as she sees him go, Ichhran
is struck blind. There is no trace
of life in her. Meanwhile, the sweepers
drag Puran away to the place
of execution. They lop his hands
and throw him into a well. The day’s
work done. dear Luna sits before
a mirror, tidying up her face.
Let us now praise women. They play
with our fate as if we were toys.
King Bhauj was maddened when they sang
and capered. What can mere boys
like Puran do when such as Joseph
were thrown into a well? They outvoice
us all. Even Ravan succumbed
to their wiles. Nothing can save us
save intercession. If God desires
our survival, He’ll find a way,
show prisoners the route to freedom,
heal wounds, turn dark night to day.
His grace is boundless, and far above
our calculations. Therefore say
Qadiryar how His love for truth
will always keep falsehood at bay.
Puran remains in the well. Time
ticks by till twelve years have fled,
and a means of mercy is found
for him who was left there for dead.
To Sialkot Guru Gorakhnath
comes, and camps by the well instead
of going to town. Being thirsty
after having rested and fed,
a disciple is sent to fetch water.
He throws the bucket with a plunk
into the well. When to haul it up
he looks down, deep down, he blinks
and draws back. Then looks again.
A man? An image there? Blue with funk
he runs to the guru and repeats
his vision. ‘When the bucket sinks
and is full, I look in and see,
Oh do not ask me what I see.
A man? A shade? Come guru,
and see for yourself, and tell me
if I am mistaken. This place
could be haunted.’ Their curiosity
aroused, the guru and his men
wonder if such a thing can be.
PURAN IS TAKEN OUT OF THE WELL
The guru is at the well. Into its
depths with wondering eyes he peers,
and sees a man-like statue there.
‘What are you?’ he asks. Puran hears
and answers ‘Oh I’m a man indeed’
continuing through his tears
‘and I can prove it. I’ve been pent
up in this hole for twelve long years,
and no one has come. For God’s sake
pull me out, and I will tell you
all, what alleged sin was mine
for which my enemies cruelly threw
me into the well. You have come
as an angel from heaven. Now do
me this favour, pull me out,
and I promise you’ll hear a true
story that will sadden and amaze.’
The guru orders an acolyte
to bring him out. Like a tiger
that has been in a desperate fight
Puran seems when he comes up
at last. A face to shame the light
he still has, but both hands lopped
at the wrist, a pitiful sight
indeed, though time has healed the wounds.
Puran is picked up and carried
to the Guru’s camp. There they put
him down gently. The guru worried
by the sight asks ‘Where do you come from?
What’s your name? By whom were you harried?’
Puran answers ‘l will tell you
a tale that’s been twelve years buried.
My country is Ujjain, whose king
is Vikramjit. From there migrated
my ancestors, and in Sialkot
settled; here they lived and mated.
Puran they call me, and I’m son
of Salwan, and by him hated
and maimed, and thrown here. But before
my story is further related,
tell me who you are.’Then speaks up
a disciple ‘The one you greet
so abruptly, is Gorukhnath,
our guru. Thousands come to meet
him wherever he goes, a saint
beloved. This life you hold so sweet
you owe to him. Ask his blessing.’Then
down falls Puran at the guru’s feet.
PURAN TELLS THE GURU HIS STORY
Recovered from the shock of learning
his benefactor’s name, Puran
begins his tale. The kindness of
his parents is remembered. Pain
steeps each word, but the benign
eye of the guru helps him on,
and he holds back nothing. Scene
by scene the drama’s acted again.
‘I was born with a silver spoon’
he says ‘but kept in captivity
for twelve years. When that time was up
the rajah, my father, sent for me
and wanted to marry me off
on a whim, but I was angry,
and, in no uncertain terms,
told him I would never agree.
At this he flew into a rage,
would have punished my impudence,
but fate intervened. He regained
his composure. Now hurry prince
to your mothers, they wait for you,
he said, and I proceeded thence.
As soon as I entered the palace
of Luna, she lost all sense,
and tried to seduce me. O guru
that woman would have upset
the universe. She caught me by
the arms and invited me to bed
with word and gesture, but I was strong
in my faith; I escaped her net
and fled. When the rajah came she wept
and made me the culprit instead.
Imagine, guru, my father’s state
when he heard this. He was never sound
in judgment. I was sent for. When
I came he slapped me around,
and without ado, the sweepers
were called and I was tightly bound,
had my hands lopped off, and thrown
into the well where I was found.’
A minute Puran pauses, overwhelmed
by memory, then he resumes:
‘My parents are not to blame. There’s
no escape for those who are doomed.
Now by your blessings, O guru,
restore me. The shadows that loomed
over my head, disperse. Who else
can I turn to?’ Compassion blooms
on the guru’s face. He cups his
hands, and fills them to the brim
with water, and thence to Puran’s mouth
for a sip. Now what was dim
is bright, for a great flash of light
descends on Puran. In its gleam
he’s bathed, his ordeal is ended,
and the road is clear before him.
PURAN BECOMES TO GURU’S DISCIPLE
‘Son’ says the guru ‘l have to go.
My time here is up. As for you,
return to your parents, make them glad.
Also some happiness is due
to you after such long suffering.’
But Puran’s mind is made up. ‘Guru,
nothing could make me happier
than to be allowed to go with you.’
‘Look not at me’ the sage replies
‘for a jogi’s discipline is hard.
Be assured, it is easier to
die than roam and beg, discard
desire entirely, and slog
through cold and wet, for what reward?
The possibility of a glimpse
of the road that leads outward.’
Puran joins his wrists and weeps
‘If you leave me, where shall I go?
Cold and hunger are better than
vacuity. If I can follow
you like a dog, I am blessed.
Let me be your slave. Do not throw
me off, for to serve you is all
I desire, else life is hollow.’
So Puran pleads. Before the sage
he bows his head with humble air.
He pierces Puran’s ear for a ring,
and clips a lock of his hair;
then from his bundle pulls out
a saffron robe so all there
know, that out of tens of thousands
Puran has been chosen as his heir.
Listen folks to a tale of love,
about martyrs whose only prize
is negation, who choose painful
death rather than compromise
their faith. Their suffering ennobles
them; by it they are made wise.
Qadiryar, if we go down He
lowers a rope by which we may rise.
PURAN SEEKS ALMS IN SUNDRAN’S PALACE
Puran rubs dust over his body
and is all set for Sundran’s town,
his first assignment, for says
the guru ‘She’s a proud queen,
and hundreds of jogis have called
on her for alms; not one has been
successful. Now let us see
what you can do.’ The challenge thrown
is exciting. Now that he has
something to do, he’s keen to be up
and gone. The old guru gives him
a begging-bowl and a friendly tap
on the shoulder, and some last words
of advice: ‘Come back clean. Step
with care. Think every woman
your sister, or you will slip.’
Sundran is incensed beyond words.
She opens her window to look
upon the insolent one, but
seeing his upturned face she’s hooked.
She orders the maid, ‘Call him in,
I want to take a closer look.’
So the maid returns to Puran
and there receives her second shock.
‘No’ says Puran ‘it is not
for a fakir to enter. Impress
upon your rani she must come
with alms herself, then will I bless.
I’ve walked here all the way to see
her, and with no other purpose.
Also say I’m a true fakir
who has no use for caste or class.’
The rani leaves her room, all
defences down, and pride swallowed,
by servants with trays of diamonds
and sackfuls of gold followed.
Lifting up her veil, she kisses
Puran’s feet and says’To be allowed
to kneel forever before you,
if you stand here! I’ve hollowed
out my heart for you. Oh grant me
one little wish. Enter my room
and everything here is yours.
I will give you a royal welcome.
Speak and it is done. If you want
to eat,instantly I’ll become
cook and maid. Rest here awhile,
and I am blessed. Think this your home.’
‘Enough that you have brought the alms
says Puran ‘now make me not a thief.
I have been through all this once
before. God knows how much grief
it cost me. Palaces are for kings,
not for such as I. To be brief,
I go. Now send me off as befits
a queen. The day has turned its leaf.’
She begs and cajoles, but Puran’s
unmoved.He is not to be stayed.
Back to the guru he goes, and
tells him what’s been done and said,
and great is his amazement when
the gold and jewels are displayed.
‘These are the alms’ says Puran ‘sent
by her, and now at your feet laid.’
PURAN RETURNS THE ALMS
‘Son’ says the guru ‘alms such as these
are not for us. We’re so imbued
with desire, that the least wind can
sway us. Go, ask for some food,
and give these back, for food is all
a jogi needs, and all he should
have. Rubies are rubble, they lure
us back to what we’ve left for good.’
So with the sack tied to him, he
sets out for Sundran’s town again
where the lovesick rani waits
at her window and hopes, in rain
and shine, for a glimpse. Who
dares tell her that she waits in vain,
for Puran is not a customer
for what she has to offer. Plain
is her relief when she sees Puran,
and greets him with a dazzling smile.
To no avail.Says Puran coldly
‘Take back your jewels, rani, I ‘II
none of them. A little cooked food
will do. Nothing can reconcile
gold and gems with my vocation.
My guru has been sorely riled.’
And with a gesture of contempt
he dumps the alms at her feet, where
they lie untouched. She stands dismayed
a moment, then runs to prepare
a meal for Puran, which partaken
he leaves, after blessing her.
Soon before his guru he stands
with bowed head and humble air.
SUNDRAN COMES TO THE GURU
Fast at Puran’s heels, now Sundran
turns up at the guru’s place,
and joins her hands in submission.
Then she lifts the veil from her face,
head still bowed, and a simple
tray of viands before him lays,
and patiently stands there, waiting
to hear what the old wise man says.
When Sundran looks up, and with
uncovered face, casts her glance
on the assembly, not a man
there but feels the blood dance
in his veins, except Puran. Even
the guru’s dispassionate stance
is shaken. He asks her to name
her desire. She replies at once
‘You are too kind. I know your power
to grant anything, but I have
enough of the world’s goods. My treasure
chests are full, and servant and slave
by the score answer my bidding.
What could draw me to this spot save
your piety? Give me your blessing.
There is nothing else I crave.’
‘Your answer pleases me’ he says
‘So I’ll ask you once more to scan
your heart, and wish. Look how the flowers
take advantage of the season.’
Deliberately, Sundran studies
each one there; then at Puran
her eyes stop, and she says ‘If it
pleases you, I want that man.’
PURAN JOINS SUNDRAN’S TRAIN
With heavy heart the guru says
goodbye. He cannot now unmake
his promise. Puran joins the train
of Sundran for his guru’s sake.
My heart dictated this, says she,
using lovers’ reasons who take
what they want, caring not a whit
how others feel, what hearts they break.
Merrily, Sundran ieaves with Puran
in tow; all barriers are down.
One would think to see her that she
is radiant in a bridal gown.
‘Oh what a purchase I ‘ve made
today, no gem like the one I own’
she says. In the van of her train
in triumph she enters her town.
Now that he’s settled in, Puran
summons all his wits to deal
with this new trap, which a bait
(he has tasted before) conceals.
To rani Sundran he hurries
and with innocent face reveals
a natural discomfort, and begs
permission to go to the fields.
Sundran has not an inkling of
his real purpose, the faith in her own
beauty dispelling doubt, or rumours
of his sadness. When he’s been gone
a little while, she sends some maids
to fetch him back to her. Alone,
she is restless. The maids return
in a panic for the bird has flown.
They stammer ‘When we neared the field,
he was running, and would not hearken
to our cries, rani, even though
we begged him for the guru’s sake.’ On
hearing this Sundran is as broken
as Sassi when she was forsaken.
She asks the maids ‘Tell me, tell me
quickly, the road he has taken.’
It is empty talk; the spirit
has gone out of her, the scream
caught in her throat. ‘Foolish girl,
to fall for a jogi! O give them
a wide berth folks, for they love
nobody but themselves, and dream
of jungles,’ She sighs ‘He is gone,
and my glad time’s gone with him.’
Then she climbs to the palace roof
and syllables his name on the air
and weeps ‘Puran, you have whipped
the buds from my tree, and left it bare.
My heart had so much to say.
Cruel one, could you not spare
an hour or two? I’m like Sassi
in the desert howling Where, where
are you, love? What’s there now for me
but death? ‘With a last anguished look
at the horizon, and one last
despairing cry, Sundran takes
the plunge from the roof, adding
another leaf to love’s sad book.
The stunned onlookers say ‘Today
a sparrow has straddled a hawk.’
While Sundran is breathing her last
Puran has reached his guru’s side,
who says ‘Puran, what have you done
today? Your arms with blood are dyed.’
At the guru’s frowns, poor Puran
sobs like a child. Where can he hide
his shame? ‘Go home’ he hears ‘Your parents’
joy can no longer be denied.’
PURAN RETURNS TO SIALKOT
The guru gives his blessing, and
after twelve years wandering, Puran
is back in Sialkot, his home town,
and in the rajah’s garden
squats down to his new role. He hears
how poorly the state is run
from the sick to him
to be healed. Comforted, they return.
His fame spreads, and from all
over they converge on this place.
None recognises him; many years
have gone, and in any case
he wears a veil. If he can ease
their plight, who cares about a face?
The blind can see again, the spots
of lepers vanish without a trace.
And in time, the rajah appears
to consult the jogi, and his sweet
wife walks meekly in his shadow.
With humble salutations they greet
their son, who knows who they are,
and the service they rendered. He meets
them by rising at once, then kneels
in the dust, and kisses their feet.
The rajah is astonished. He says
‘Jogi, you have knelt too soon,
and increased our load. It is we
who came to kneel, and ask a boon.’
‘Don’t be too dismayed’ says Puran
‘In you I see a holy one,
and your country’s hero. That’s why
I have done what I have done.
But enough of this. Now tell me
why you have come; this fame of mine
could not be the only cause.’ ‘Truly
my palace is deserted; it pines’
the rajah answers ‘for the patter
of little feet. There’s been no sign
for twentyfour years that someone
will come to carry on my line.’
Says Puran ‘That’s strange. Clearly
I see a son beside you. Wait. Wait.
Now I see a deserted place, and
someone there butchered like a goat.
You are startled. Can you tell me
what this vision is all about?’
And then Salwan remembers all,
and a lump rises in his throat.
‘Jogi, twentyfour years ago’
the rajah sighs, a mournful sound,
‘a son was born to me out of
Ichhran, my first wife, a hound,
a bastard, he tried to rape
his stepmother, so I had him bound
and killed.’ ‘It’s false’ says Puran
‘you’ve got it the wrong way round.
But let me not interrupt. Tell
me truly, rajah, what transpired.
And till you unburden yourself
the son that is so much desired
will remain a dream. The truth,
or nothing.’ Rani Luna fired
by a new hope spills out in a
hurry what really transpired.
‘I’ll tell the truth’ says she ‘though
it shows me in a bad light.
When Puran came to the palace
evil thoughts beset me at the sight
of his face. He turned me down,
so I told the rajah an outright
lie.’Red grow the rajah’s eyes
while his face turns deathly white.
‘You served me well’he croaks’you
rabid bitch, you mealy-mouthed wife
of the devil. I only lost
a son I loved more than my life.
You saw his face and fell, and falling
pushed into my hand a knife.
Had I guessed the truth, believe me
I’d have had you skinned alive.’
‘It is fate’ says Puran.’Rajah
she’s not to blame, control your rage.
Whatever happens, happens from God.
So forgive, and learn to act your age.’
He gives Luna a grain of rice
and says ‘To you, a son.He’ll wage
wars, wars, wars, and stay away from
you till time has blotted your page.’
PURAN MEETS HIS MOTHER
Ichhran has heard of the sadhu
and anxious she is to reach
the once deserted garden, and
pour out her heart, and there beseech
the holy one to bring some light
into her sonless life, and hitch
her to some hope, anything at all
that can plug this awesome breach.
This is the hour. Puran at last
sees his mother in piteous plight
stagger up to him. A bad bump,
she stumbles and falls.At this sight
a cry is torn from him, and
tears roll down his cheeks. He fights
his emotions, as the stunned folks
see him rise to his full height
and say ‘O mother, mother,
what has brought you to this pass?
I see that grief has blinded you;
beyond that nothing.’ Ichhran says
‘let be, let be. A beloved
son’s going has misted my glass,
and this sorrow, son, is the kind
of sorrow that nothing allays.’
Says Puran ‘Stop weeping, mother.
Not one has risen from his bed
whom death takes. Even Arjun could not
bring Abhimnu back from the dead.
How many sons have gone, how many
fond mothers bootless tears have shed.
So hold yours back.’ With such words
he consoles her. She leans her head
forward. There’s something in his voice
disturbs her. A familiar tone?
She asks ‘Who are you? Where are you
from? Which mother calls you her son?
Despite the hoarseness in your voice
it teases me. Blind as a stone!
Blind, blind, blind. Is a false hope
nagging me, or are you someone
I know?’ Puran loses out. At
his mother’s words he is stripped bare.
‘Now sit you down’ he says ‘and hear
the truth.The jogi’s dress I wear
cannot hide my lineage. From
Ujjain my ancestors came, and here
they settled.I am Salwan’son,
and Puran is the name I bear.’
Radiance! Radiance!At once
all hurts like wisps of hay are blown,
and from her wrinkled paps, great streams
of milk gush out as if they’d known
how it would be. Wordless with joy,
she hugs him and calls him her own.
A mother at last! Nothing else
matters, not pomp, not state, not crown.
THE FAMILY REUNION
So the fates have reunited
those it had sundered years ago,
and the childless have a child
to pet; but sweeter it is to know
that Ichhran can see again. The
chastened rajah is keen to show
his other side. Puran, however,
advises him to let it go.
But what of Luna? On beholding
her victim she re-lives her sin,
and bowed with shame wishes the earth
would open up and take her in.
She avoids his eyes. A radiance
follows him, and to her chagrin
she sees how the people adore
him, and how they genuflect in
devotion. Says Puran ‘Don’t be sad.
You’ll have a son, it is promised.
As for the past, forget it; you
were trapped. If any blame attaches
it is to my callous father
who never knew what was amiss,
or even tried to know. Has any
son ever been treated like this?’
The rajah is standing close, and
overhears. He visibly shrinks
with guilt, for in his heart of hearts
he knows whom he has to thank
for his son’s suffering. A future
of unending questions blinks
in his white face, and under the
load of his heavy deed he sinks.
PURAN IS OFFERED THE THRONE
‘Now go home’ advises Puran,
then turning to his father says
‘Take my mother’s arm. Look after
her for the rest of her days.
And let not the past come between
you and Luna. Know this: he who weighs
his actions cannot go wrong,
rajah. Now go, and mend your ways.’
Then orders the rajah ‘My son,
come home. That’s where you should be.
I will give you the keys of the
coffers, the turban of authority
place on your head. Seeing you again
has cleansed my heart of wordly
desires.’ Changing his tone he says
‘Bear with me, for the world calls me
issueless.’ Puran is adamant.
‘No father, I will not be tied
down. Give the throne to someone else.
If you cannot hold it, stand aside.
Who loves me, I know. Your motive
for doing this is still your pride.
I must go. I will only be
abetting you if I here abide.’
After a prayer, he continues
with a prophecy. ‘The son
who will be born to you, rajah,
is destined to ascend the throne.
He will be lion-hearted, and triumph
after triumph will be strewn
at his feet. Call him Rasalu.
His advent will change your fortune.’
Then respectfully to Ichhran
says ‘Don’t worry too much, mother.
This city life is not for me.
You know why I must smother
my father’s wish.’ Abruptly,
he signals to the other
jogis to break camp. As he turns
to go, Puran stops for another
word. ‘Mother,what was to be,
has been. Put it down to fate.
I am now a stranger here,
thanks to… let it be. To relate
all that happened, the pains
I suffered, would be much too great
a strain on me and on you. But
I am reconciled to my state.’
Her answer is an agonised cry
‘My son, only a few days are
left to me. Stay, stay. For twenty-
four long years I have had no share
of your prattle, and if you go
away again, how will I bear
this second parting? I will die,
as sure as you are standing there.’
Before this storm of protest, all
that Puran can do is reconcile
her to his wish. ‘Think of the mother
of Gopichand who gave her child
away to a fakir. Take pity
on me. I would escape this coil.
Jogis cannot stay. Wipe your tears,
and send me off with a smile.’
‘As an unweaned child you left me’
she answers ‘and after twentyfour
years now that I see you again,
how can I part so soon? The score
is not so easily settled.
Death is knocking at my door,
and all the dreams I saved up
for you, will shrivel at the core.’
‘The truth is I am not’ he says
‘my own master. My life has long
been forfeit to him who pulled me
out of the well. Don’t get me wrong,
mother, or take it ill. Let me go
back to him; that’s where i belong.
I promise, I faithfully promise,
that I will be back before long.’
And when he has sworn again
in his guru’s name, she lets him go,
knowing this is what he wants, and
that the fates would have it so.
A hard decision indeed for a
mother, for too well she knows
what slips from the hand may be lost
forever. The leavetaking is slow
and tearful. When Puran reaches
the guru, his shaven head he
humbly lowers, and three times
slowly round the seated hoary
figure he walks. This done, he greets
the other holy men. Gently
the guru blesses him, and gently
asks him to relate his story.
PURAN DESCRIBES HIS SIALKOT VISIT
Puran says ‘It was late evening
when I reached the garden overgrown
with weeds. In the shade of a tree,
that too withered, I sat down.
Some drops of water I sprinkled
on it; the roots gripped, and the brown
was gone. Those who saw it, spread
the news in a flash through the town.
And they started coming in, each
with a dream hoping I’d make it true,
and because of what you taught me,
guru, I managed to help a few.
In no time at all, the rajah
and rani Luna turned up too
desiring a son. I received them
with the respect which was their due.
Sadly, and a little shyly,
the rajah began his address:
‘Sadhus have overcome the world
which holds us in its coils. Distress
is our lot.’ So I said: Raja,
name your wish. And through a mess
of tears, he did. So I consoled
him with news of a son. At this,
Luna confessed, A son was born
to him, she said, but I lied
and had him killed. The rajah flew
into a rage, but I pacified
him as best I could, and asked him
to forgive Luna, and also prophesied
the birth of a son. Then I found
Ichhran, my mother, by my side.
And God showered His blessings
on her for sight came back to eyes
long blind, and she wept to see me,
and with hands strong as a vice
clung to me, and pleaded that I
remain with her. With the promise
that I would meet her again
I have returned to this place.
Now it is up to you to order
me as to what next I should
do. If it pleases you, I can
retire to the loneliest wood
to pray, always keeping in mind
I have a promise to make good.’
‘We’ll go’ says the guru ‘every
one of us, that is our mood.’
The jogis pack their belongings,
such as they are, and they climb
up, up, up, into the mountains
to meditate and pass their time
on the nails of penitence, and
in murmuring the Deity’s name
over and over. These men of God
assume the world’s mantle of blame,
and on their difficult perches
give all away, keep nothing behind.
For such is the jogi’s way, who
thinks that life’s an empty rind.
But Puran is not impressed, for
they have the world too much in mind
who shun the world. So to speak up
to the guru he feels inclined.
PURAN KEEPS HIS PROMISE
The other disciples get in
a word first. ‘Let us go back’
they say ‘for south and east and west
we have been.’ So down they trek
home to Tilla Jogian again,
to the same routine: alms and sack-
cloth and meditation. And
nor fame nor following they lack.
‘In Sialkot, my luckless father
and mothers, as you know, dwell,
and you also know I promised
my mother when I said farewell
to see her again ‘ says Puran.
(My stepbrother,I have heard tell,
is growing up. I think it is time
to keep my word.’ The guru says ‘Well,
so be it’ and orders the jogis
to make ready. Quickly they don
their saffrons, scour the bowls, and cough
their singing voices into tune,
and with salutations and smiles
descend in a mass on Puran’s town.
The news is borne on the wind. Ichhran,
happy Ichhran, hears it soon.
So here they are in the same garden,
and the rajah makes haste to be on
hand himself, along with Ichhran,
and Luna, and their little son,
and a train of servants. All
bow their heads in submission,
eager to show the guru how keenly
they have awaited this darshan.
The guru says ‘Blessings! Now rajah
name your desire,’ Rasalu chips
in with ‘O guru, show us a
miracle.’ Puran receives a tip
from his mentor, and a steel
bangle lets fall from his lap,
and the boy, reverently kneels
at Puran’s feet and picks it up.
Then Puran turns to his mothers
and says ‘l have fulfilled all
my vows. In this timely gathering
let it be known my guru stands tall.
Now the clouds that darkened my birth
are dispersed. As for you frail
brother, wear this bangle and be free.’
And here Qadiryar ends his tale.