(I wrote this story nearly two years back when I did a course in creative writing to fine-tune my skill as a writer. During one of the assignments we were asked by our mentor Mr. Menon, to read about the Lodhi Dynasty and write a story based on that era as a ghost!
During the course of this assignment, I came across the mention of the Jamali Kamali tombs. While Jamali is the tomb of the sufi poet Jamali Kamboh, the antecedents of Kamali are yet unknown. There was something mystifying about this structure and I chose it as the prompt to my story.)
In Search Of Kamali
I have returned Kamali.
As promised, I have returned to Mehrauli. Nearly 500 years have passed, but it seems like yesterday. Mehrauli has changed. It has become noisy.
This place was noisy earlier too, but there was a rhythm to the noise. There were birds, lots of birds and squirrels. Do you remember? You used to feed them. They treated you as their own. Oh, dear Kamali, where are you?
I heard they buried you besides me, but the tomb here is empty. Where are you, my beautiful muse?
My tomb is dusty and desolate. It wouldn’t have been the same if you were really beside me. I look at the strange people roaming around. These women with no veil are beautiful but not like you. I shamelessly stare at them in hope that you too have returned may be not in spirit but in another life to seek for me.
There is this squirrel, who sits on your empty tomb, Kamali. She looks at me with a flicker of recognition. Is it you, Kamali?
I feel, she wants me to follow her. Will she lead me to you?
Will you recognize me? Will you forgive me after what I did to you?
You… the biggest secret between Badshah Sikander and I!
You were sixteen, Kamali, when you came to his palace as a concubine. But, the Badshah treated you like a queen. I still remember the day he convinced me to teach you poetry. You, my love were a natural at verse. You were even better than me in writing couplets. I think even the Badshah knew it. It was his way to get back at me for insulting him in court.
After all, in my egoistic belief, I believed, ‘How can a concubine be a better poet than I?’ I was a courtesan, the royal poet and advisor.
But I took the task with a pinch of salt and agreed to teach you. And then the unthinkable happened- we fell in love.
The Badshah came to know about our feelings. “It is fair, Jalal Khan. You are in love with her poetry.” he had said. He was right.
It was the poetry written by those slender long fingers that captured my heart.
But how unfair was fate, you should have fallen in love with the Badshah, but you fell in love with me … a cheat. The world knows me for poetry… poetry that is all yours.
Where are you Kamali?
The squirrel has lead me through a maze of roads, to this beautiful tomb fit for a queen. I stand here, wondering… Is it you, Kamali?
Is this why you wanted me to return after 500 years? You wanted to have the last laugh.
I, Shaikh Jamali Kamboh, lie alone in a mausoleum engraved with the verses of a concubine, while you Kamali… the concubine, lies next to the king, buried like a queen.