A natural mystic

Updated: Jan 19, 2019, 08:58 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

An evening of music and dance will bring Mumbaikars closer to the teachings of a Sufi saint

Radhika Sood Nayak
Radhika Sood Nayak

Once upon a time, around 500 years ago, there lived a Sufi mystic in Lahore called Shah Hussain. He was a man who went against the grain of societal norms. Why should we conform to the notions of "good" and "bad"? That was the question he strove to answer. If someone wants to seek spiritual enlightenment, let them have it. But if on the other hand someone seeks intoxicating substances, let them have that too. Such was his philosophy. Most importantly, however, Hussain believed that it's the human ego that shackles people's minds. If you can break free from it, the world is yours.

"He lived during the time of Akbar, and belonged to a sect called Malamati. Their whole pursuit involved detracting attention away from themselves. That's why they wouldn't do anything that's conformist. And Shah Hussain didn't believe that there was only one right path to reach the divine. So, he questioned the orthodox views with which people approached the almighty. In fact, he says in one of his kalams [conversations], 'I'm bad, I'm bad, I'm bad, and my only goal is to be one with the divine," says Radhika Sood Nayak ahead of a performance called Faqeer Nimaana that will serve as a prequel to Kabir Festival, where she will put the mystic's verses to music.

Sanjukta Wagh in performance. PICS Courtesy/Tell-a-tale

The event will feature three other artistes — kathak dancer Sanjukta Wagh, tabla player Vinayak Netke and guitarist Hitesh Dhutia – weaving poetry, dance and music to highlight Shah Hussain's teachings. "We have basically tried to bring forth the philosophy of Faqeer Nimaana [as Shah Hussain was also called], wherein he felt himself akin to nothingness. Nimaana means 'the egoless one'. And so in each of his poems he talks about how he achieves this state of nothingness and then turns to God through that," Wagh says, adding that they have treated every poem differently. So, one is like a journey. Another one involves only facial expressions. And yet another is just a song.

Wagh also points out how these pieces of poetry are relevant even today. She says, "Shah Hussain was in love with a young Hindu boy called Madholal. And believe it or not, their urs is still celebrated at Baghbanpura in Lahore at a festival called Chirago Ka Mela, which was started by a Sikh king. So, this just brings out how a non-religious spiritualism has always been a part of our land, whether you call it India or Pakistan. These poets actually represent that which is beyond country, beyond mazhab, and beyond religion. And it's really important in today's day and age to embrace that philosophy and be inclusive, to learn from their path of love."

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