Publisher: Random House Publications
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“If you get irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?“ – Rumi
These striking lines leave an indelible mark on the reader, of Rumi’s poetry and magnificent writing. So if Rumi’s works are impeccable, how can a book about him be far behind?
Rabishankar Bal’s A Mirrored Life is a fictionalised account of the famed Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta and his experiments with mysticism and finally, losing himself to ‘Maulana’ (Rumi). The book begins with Ibn Battuta talking about himself, his travels and what brings him to Konya, former home of the virtuoso Rumi. We see Rumi’s life through various stories told by the merchants, inn owners and traders of Konya, on whom Rumi’s poetry and teachings have left a longlasting impression. They infuse us with magic realism, as wishes come true and revenge is the order of the day.Rumi meets his companion in an aging dervish, Shaikh Shamsuddin, fondly called ‘Shams’. Rumi and Shams share a bond of soulmates and their camaraderie, intense friendship and interpersonal dynamic are truly inspiring.
What I Liked
The book is peppered with Rumi’s teachings, philosophies and poems. The setting of the story is mainly in Konya and surrounding provinces, as we see the life of Rumi and the dear ones surrounding him.
What Didn’t Work
While it imparts a literary value to the narrative, it can be a deterrent to the doughtiest of the readers if philosophy is not their strong point. Also, a few teachings may seem like an anachronism and need to be put into perspective by the reader. In addition to that, the book moves at a glacial pace as Rumi and Shams explore their hidden sides.
There is a certain niche of readers who will highly appreciate this book. There is another niche that may not care for it much. I myself lie on the fringe, and this book could be whatever you want it to be, a life-changing novella or a heavy incomprehensible book of philosphy. The perspective matters.