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Rumi: Tales to Live By- Review

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Title: RUMI: Tales to Live By

Author: Kamla K. Kapur

Publisher: Jaico Publishing House


Price: Rs 299

Pages: 221

“How long,” Rumi cries to the reader and himself, “will you play at loving the shape of the jug? Leave the shape of the jug, go, go seek the water.” Words like these always brought me closer to Rumi and his thoughts. And to see ‘Rumi’ emblazoned on the cover page of this book only pulled me closer to it. The image welcomes the reader into a journey that is, more or less, to be taken by oneself. It is a journey that takes one closer to one’s soul.

As human beings, we easily tend to blame others for the way they are without sparing one thought about how we might be, from their points of view. We often find beauty in what might be deceptive, solace in what might not last forever and fragrance in what might only be a piece of scented garbage!

For a so-called ‘modern’ world, this book brings forth wisdom of the 13th century Sufi poet Rumi, interpreted by the author with examples and explanations from her own life. Kamla K. Kapur—a poet, author and playwright – has taught courses in play writing, poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, mythology, Shakespeare, and women’s literature at Grossmont College, California for eighteen years. It is probably this talent that has helped shape this book into a spiritual experience for the reader.

Each of the twelve stories, sourced from the ‘Mathnawi of Jalalu’din Rumi’, edited and translated by Reynold A. Nicholson (Cambridge, England, 1982), is followed by a commentary by the author. This commentary forms the link between the new and the old. It provides a bridge to connect us with our roots, to realise our “way”. It helps the reader to answer his/her spiritual calling.

The preface gripped me. As described in it, the book is categorised under three headings for simplicity’s sake, that is, embrace suffering, pray, surrender to the cosmic will. What also was worth noting down was this line: ‘Suffering is an impetus for the transformation, or rather, a series of unfolding transformations that fuel our journey to healing and wholeness.’ This and many more such lines are a soothing balm to a reader. It can be a great healer and help a reader in finding strength, thanks to the author’s personal experiences.

The problem however seemed to start with the commentary following each story. While it is no doubt a spiritual journey enriched with the teachings of Sikh gurus as well, the author seems to go a bit off track in each essay. While the connection to the present that has been established by the author deserves applause, as a reader, I found myself turning back the pages to recollect Rumi’s story that preceded the commentary. And this can be a hindrance to a good book-reading experience.

The author has been open to privy details of her life and has laid bare her own tribulations to make the reader understand some concepts. And that takes a huge amount of strength. While the book can be useful in doling out spiritual techniques to succeed on ‘The Way’, for a layman this book might seem to be a bit overbearing.

Laced with teachings of many learned persons, this book is worth a read, albeit some parts of the commentary. It teaches the power of ‘ultimate surrender’, values like faith, trust, devotion, justice and the like to a generation that has either forgotten it or refuses to approve or acknowledge virtuous behaviour.