Monday, September 03, 2007

The Stuff The Taj is Made Of ...

... lives.

That's the first reaction I had to a piece a young friend of mine who lives and works in Hyderabad sent me. I have been wondering what I can say about recent events in that city, and just as when "my city" was burning, or when a sister city burnt across the sea, I was in pain, this young writer has had to deal with what he has always described as a stab to the heart of the place he loves dearly. And now, he has captured his feelings in a way that is too beautiful not to reproduce in full here; it is the same spirit that has led to great and noble things in that region of the world--from the Taj Mahal, to the deepest, most profound sufi poetry in the world. And it is uplifting to see it alive in those younger than oneself. Here is Manzoor's piece:
The Sultan’s Prayer

Hyderabad is a multi-religious and multi-cultural abode for millions of people, and this is not any recent phenomenon. Multiculturalism is the very foundation of this great city. It is said that some 400+ years back, Prince Quli Qutub Shah of the Qutub Shahi dynasty fell for the beautiful Bhagyamati and rebelled against his father, the King, to marry her. On becoming King himself, he bestowed upon his beloved Bhagyamati the title of ‘Hyder Mahal’. It was this romantic and chivalrous king who—like the emperor who created the more famous monument to love in Agra—built a whole city on the banks of river Musi, and named it after his beloved wife.

That is how Hyderabad happened.

While laying the foundation of this city, the Sultan is reputed to have prayed to his Creator that “Let millions of men and women of all castes, creeds, and religions make it their abode, like fish in the ocean." And truly, the Almighty heard every word of his prayer. For over 400 years, Hyderabad has lived up to the romance of Sultan Quli Qutb Mulk, wherein people of different religions, languages, and ethnicities have dwelled and prospered peacefully. The vibrant, rich, and progressive culture that we see in the air of Hyderabad today is the cumulative love of the 400 years since the Sultan’s prayer.


Love, however, has its enemies everywhere. This romantic and peaceful city was brutally stabbed on 25th August, 2007 by people with no love and no respect for humanity—by those who hate to see love blossom; by people envious of Hyderabad’s peace and tranquil. It was like stoning a lover whose only crime is that he believes in love and compassion.

But the thing about love is, it’s not just brave and immortal–it’s also undyingly optimistic. Hyderabad, the city of love, has always braved incidents triggered by the hate mongers, and persevered with the message – loud and clear – that it will not give up its character. Surely, the Sultan’s prayer has more power than the evil intent of a few hate mongers.

The peace march in which we participated on September 1 was but a fulfillment of the Sultan’s prayer and his wishes. A multitude of us Hyderabadis, with varying ethnicities and beliefs, uniformly clad in white kurta/shirts, with a heavy heart and a message of peace, walking silently over a kilometer’s stretch, and finally lighting candles and praying in front of Lumbini Park – I promise, Sultan Quli Kutub Shah must have been be very proud of his city this day.

I thank all who participated. God bless Hyderabad and God bless you all.

Aadaab Hyderabad!
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