“A riddle is a mystery concealed in words, each a clue the reader must unravel. In this book, it is also a piece of verse, part of the puzzle that is the fascinating life of Amir Khusrau.”

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

Amir Khusrau was a 13th century poet who ruled the poetry scene in Delhi with his mystic verses while being fully employed at the courts of the various Sultans of Delhi. He wrote poems in praise of his patrons and verses lauding the Almighty which made him a favourite of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia who loved the man and his mysticism.

Ankit Chadha, a practitioner of the narrative art of Dastangoi has put together a whimsical book of Amir Khusrau’s riddle poems in verse – whimsical because it adds a lighthearted note to the intensity that surrounds the poet and because it offers insights into his work.

The riddles come equipped with answers but give readers a chance to work out the conundrums for themselves. There are passages on elements that were important to Khusrau’s verse  that open up the world of the poet for his readers – the flattery that led him to compare Alauddin Khilji to the sun in his anger and magnificence, for example, or his belief that glow worms, far from being beautiful, were actually deceitful creatures luring their prey into traps of falsehood.

Complementing the verses and the writings are colourful illustrations by Urmimala Nag in an approximation of medieval Islamic art, with repetitive designs and curlicues, making the book a pleasure to riffle through. What the book gives the reader is a glimpse into the life of this phenomenal poet who lived at a very important time in Delhi’s history and the translations of his short riddle poems make it very accessible for children curious enough to learn.

However there is a question as to which should have come first – the riddle or the explanation, since not many are familiar with the elements in Khusrau’s poetry.

 

Reviewed by:

Anjana Basu

Added 22nd November 2016

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