Baba Bulleh Shah’s kalaam has enthralled me since childhood and I always yearned to visit his tomb in Pakistan. Fortunately, on a balmy day in March of 2006, my granddaughter Amrita and I got visa for four days and we finally crossed the Wagah Border on foot.
Next morning, Mr Rafiq of the Auqaf Board escorted us to Kasur, where we were welcomed with roses and smiles at Baba’s mazaar. Surprisingly, I saw no monument befitting the greatness of the sufi poet, but the qawaals who sang his kaafian, and the simple folks who sat listening, radiated a spiritual aura. Ved, Quranan parh parh thakey Sajdey kardiyan ghas gaye mathey Na rab tirth no rab makkey Jis paya tis noor anwaar Ishaq di navio navin bahar (Vedas and Quran I’m tired of reciting, My brow is worn out prostrating, God, I couldn’t find in Mecca or temples. The one who found him Is aglow with divine light. Love’s spring is ever new). Instantly, oblivious of the not-soclean physical surroundings, I was transported to the divine domain envisioned by the poet.
I realised that Bulleh Shah needs no monument to perpetuate his memory: it is enshrined in the hearts of millions of his admirers.
For me the visit was to fulfil of a life-long wish, and for a few moments I felt as if I were face to face with the great soul, who, transcending religious barriers, gave people the message of universal brotherhood.
We also visited some of the historical monuments. The main attraction at Badshahi Masjid is the relics of Prophet Mohammad, and at Lahore Fort paintings and coins both from the Mughal era and Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule.
Across the river Ravi are tombs of Jehangir and Nur Jehan. The latter is in a state of utter neglect; it is an irony that the glamorous queen, who developed new varieties of roses and invented rose-scent, does not have a single rose on her grave.
A man, who fancied calling himself a guide, showed us the dark vault where the queen’s body lies buried. Mercifully, the rising sun’s rays kiss the grave each morning as does the setting sun in the evening.
“I’m so poor that there is neither a flower nor a flame on my grave,” Nur Jehan’s epitaph reads, the lines written by the empress herself much before her death, as if prophetic.
A city may be admired for its fine buildings, but it is people that make a place what it really is. Cultured people welcome strangers and honour their guests. And I must admit the people I met during my stay there won my heart. They were courteous, hospitable, large-hearted, in love with life. The images stuck on my mind are of a teenaged pillion rider greeting me, “Babaji Sasriakal”; Mian Qamar, manager of Kashmir Hotel, where we stayed, reciting Gayatri mantra and Vedic shloks in Sanskrit, which he had learnt as a student of DAV School, Gujranwala, before 1947; and a child addressing me at the Fort, “Sardarji kihal jey”.
From the smiles on the face of those two kids and the affection in their greetings, I could foresee that Indo-Pak friendship is on firm footing and has a bright future if only the oldies and politicians could shed their fears, hatred and prejudices.