Jamali-Kamali: A Tale of Passion in Mughal India
By Karen Chase
Book Review by Udayan
Unknown to even most people in Delhi, off the busy Mehrauli-Gurgaon road is a small and quiet 16th century tomb of Sufi poet Jamali. Interestingly, he’s buried alongside Kamali, of whom officially we know nothing, but legend has it that Kamali was the Sufi saint’s life-long male lover. It’s this legend that Karen Chase picks up in her engrossing collection of poems that truly transcend the boundaries of time and culture.
The glossy paged colored book starts off with an introduction by Milo Beach – a brief historical account of Jamali, his tomb and the adjoining mosque- containing enchanting pictures of the two buildings, blemished with ornate Islamic art of their time.
The four part poetry series begins with Jamali’s passionate words for his long time companion and lover Kamali. The second part deals with the trauma of having to leave him behind on his various journeys. In the third part, Jamali reminisces to Kamali about the time when he had returned from a hunt. The fourth has Kamali speaking of his own feelings for the Sufi poet.
The underlying theme of the poetry is passion and Karen brings it out handsomely in the verses.
Lion, I call you lion.
Your eyes, for one.
Jamali is not just a Sufi poet, he’s a warrior and hunter too, who often left on long travels to distant lands. But memories of his lover were never to leave him.
On the map of your body, there is
Nowhere I would not travel.
And how was it to have a homosexual relationship in 16th century Islamic India. Surely not a bed of roses one can imagine.
Our secret is safe
I paid him in sapphires.
With this book, Karen Chase has made a marked attempt to bring to life a long forgotten saga of love and passion between two men who lived centuries ago. The radiant composition takes us to a time and age where we lose ourselves in the deluge of sensuality and pain.