Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Minister and the Minstrel

What have you done to me? The hundred paces to my bejeweled harem, seem laborious, but the hundred furlongs to my minister's, I can cross in a heartbeat. Is she what they call a witch? In her black robes, with the knowledge of the world and wars, and the brightness in her eyes of a thousand suns, that's the light which beckons more than the oil of the night. She tells me stories of Byzantine to Ottoman, and how the wars were won. She tells me of the Greeks before Constantinopole, and of ancient times when the Thracians ruled Lygos. Of the change of guard over centuries and how it couldn't spill blood on the pristine Morning Glory that grow near the Aegean Sea. The lamp of Memorah never dies, she said, and I find myself walking toward her quarters, located at the edge of my desert. I had asked her to move in to my palace, but she wanted to stay away. I offered her guards, but she drew her sword instead, blinding me in its glint.
The eunuchs guard my harem and their shadows look menacing in the flickering light. They guard, they pleasure my queens in my absence. But I don't care. I want my Nisa. Of placing my throat at the tip of her sword, of looking up into her light eyes in total surrender. What has the Sultan come to?
The minstrel, with her soulful voice, sings songs of love in her saffron. She is something of a Hindu sufi, and calls herself Megh Baul. Sonargaon is all she said when prodded about where she is from. Like a raincloud, her songs tease the acres of barrenness in my kingdom. I bathe her in rosewater and milk, but the redolence of the wilderness persists. One day, like camphor, she dissolves.
"O paran, tomar majhe ashi
Chhere sobuj sonargaon
Sonar morur pashi
Morey jete na dao, dhoira rakho
tomay bhalobashi..."
Yes, I won't let you go, but where are you? I am torn now, between the empty court at night, vivid with memories of Megh, and the walk to Nisa's. With one last longing look at the palace, I walk to the edge of the desert.
One will win, as is the nature of things, wild. Nisa's light eyes have a strange sparkle. A fear grips me as I hear her say "I have sent your poet to be with her god, Sultan."
I slump to her bed. The strain of a distant song wafts in.
A Hazara child is walking home, humming to himself "jetey na dao, dhoira rakho..."

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