Being a reader of Deepak Chopra, I could not resist purchasing a book titled The Love Poems of Rumi edited by Deepak Chopra. I had no idea that the doctor, who is the writer of about a dozen bestseller inspirational books, was also interested in poetry. The reading proved to be a rewarding experience. There is perhaps no way to escape poetry. It comes to you suddenly and enslaves you with its beauty instantly. I have often felt that reading poetry needs no training. Just spot a responsive heart and you have a reader of Poetry.
These poems are above everything else, surprisingly refreshing. These poems convey the message that we as Indians hive already known over the centuries. Kabir and Sufi thought are so deeply imbibed in the Indian culture that we feel that these poems do not present any brand new idea. They are a kind of balm for the soul. The poems are, as the title suggests, related to the idea of love. One would take them for human earthly love but for a mild, sublime suggestion of divinity here or there in almost all the poems. Rumi talks of touch and feel but finally drops a hint that he is talking about God. All the poems are sensuous in a way but the suggestion of the supreme lover is subtly introduced in them. We can say that Rumi had an earthly experience of the divine lover. For example, Desire is a highly sensuous poem but the grain of spirituality cannot be missed even here :
"I desire You
More than food
Hunger for your taste
I can sense Your Presence
In my heart
Although you belong
To all the world."
The poem is sensuous and very personal till the last line. The last line reveals the universality of God’s love. The Lover belongs to the whole world. So it is with many more poems. A carnal love for the divine power has also been a striking quality of Urdu poetry.
The co-translator Freydoun Kia says, "Rumi's poems are timeless - what he wrote seven centuries ago could have been written today, or might as well have waited another hundred years to be formulated." I find this statement to be perfectly true. Sometimes the poems strangely express very modern ideas. Just as when we approach Hamlet we are surprised to find our own selves in the dilemma-ridden hero of the timeless play, here also strikingly enough our modern ego, predicament-tensed mind finds its own eloquent expression.
I long to escape the prison of my ego and lose myself
In the mountains and the desert....
With lamps in hand
The sheikhs and mullahs roam
The dark alleys of these towns
Not finding what they seek."
Reading this poem I am reminded of the classic Hindi film song sung by Suresh Wadekar, 'sine mein jalan, aankhon mein tufan sa kyun hai'. The song again is an expression of the present day urban uneasiness and mental crises. The poems are of infinite moods and shades - now agonizing, now soothing; they catch God in multiple shades. At times God is serene. He is a profuse with colors, a painter that enlightens the landscape with his mere presence - "You transform all who are touched by you." But at times he is agonizing - "l long to sing your praises but stand mute with the agony of wishing in my heart."
At times Rumi can directly be clubbed with Ghalib for his fatalistic attitude:
"I shall be happy
Even for insults from you
I only ask that you
Keep some attention on me"'
At times Rumi is close to the Hindu philosophy of "Aham Bramhasmi”. When his spirit reaches the point of culmination, of perfect union with the beloved, he crises:
"I saw myself
As the source of existence'
"You have been a Prisoner
Of a little pond
I am the ocean,"
Those who see God as a savior will definitely enjoy the poem entitled "The Hunt." God comes searching for his devotee. The poet calls -
What you to hunt is me!"
He says laughingly,
"I' m here not to hunt you but to save you,"
These poems are very simple on one hand and yet convey layers of meaning on the other. This genre of poetry is clearly Sufi and transcendent. It is at times full of paradox, for example:
"Die to be deathless
And you will be eternal"
"Like the shadow
I am not"
God is deeply imbedded in the psyche of the poet as the beloved. It is as though he is eating, sleeping and playing with a dear friend, His approach is that of an 'ashiq' or lover. Like so many famous Urdu Shers, the poet here is ready even for blasphemy when the love of the beloved is in question. "Because the idol is your face I have become an idolater."
These poems are full of innocent declarations. The childlike curiosity is visible everywhere. It is difficult to imagine a poet so deeply divine and yet so innocently curious, eager and hopeful. The poems are definitely optimistic and look towards the future. Life is a game of falling; getting hurt but rising again and yet again to begin the journey:
"She shines inside us,
Visible- invisible as we trust or lost trust
Or feel it start to grow again,"
The reader is given the simple message of remaining happy. The poet sounds very practical when he tells the reader to be happy because no one likes a sullen, tearful face.
"People want you to be happy'
Don't keep serving them Your Pain
If you could untie Your wings
And free your soul of jealousy.
You and everyone around You
Would fly up like doves'"
The titles of these poems come directly from the poet's heart and produce the image of a passionate young man. Aroused Passion, The Agony of Lovers, My Beloved, Bitter Sweet, My Burning Heart, Caught in the Fire of Love, Defeated by Love, Desire, Dying to Love, Do You Love Me - are some of the titles enough to show the emotional spark of the poet. Chopra as an editor has done a fine job. He has given his personal touch here and there and has written a touching introduction. This fine little book has become my precious possession.
‘The Love Poems of Rumi’. 2011. Ed. Deepak Chopra and Fereydoun Kia.