I am standing on a quay while the twilight scatters a pinkish hue in the sky. I see fishermen’s boats on the horizon – few tiny black dots on the sea, seeming larger with time as they return to their land, after a hard day of work with plentiful sardines, bass, and other catches. I pondered for some time, if I should go back to my temporary dwelling, and retire to my bed or I better explore the narrow alleys to catch up with the evening affairs of inhabitants sitting in groups in the inns smoking water pipes, chattering and sharing conundrums of their lives and some outside their shops, whiling away their time lost in thoughts. The dots have enlarged into trawlers by this time and I could hear a faint sound of the horn from those vessels. The sun has set and there are lights flickering from the nearby market. Still uncertain whether to walk into the path where life bustles and reveal stories of the past and the future. But something tells me I could find something remarkable. Perhaps, some stories to write about, who knows. Well, I am a writer and I need stories to nourish my soul. However, work didn’t bring me here, it was my soul who always felt the urge to connect or I would say rekindle a lost connection with this medieval town.
And then, in that instant in an impulsive manner, I decided to step into the dimly lit lanes, kids hollering and shoving past me. At a distance, I hear people howling, perhaps from the tavern at the corner of the lane. After walking a few steps, the surroundings have become quiet. There is no wind and no commotion except for the stillness that feels slightly eerie at this point.
This feeling would have been shunned had it not been for that moment, when from the corner of my eye, I saw a shadow swirling gently on the wall. For a second, I think it’s the leaves, but I remember there is no breeze. A chill runs down my spine. I witness an apparition of extraordinary nature — Rumi, the Sufi poet. I see him wearing a long white dress, whirling endlessly until the specter fades away and blends into the colors of the blank wall. I run after the shadow shouting, “Effendi, Effendi,” as I am no longer frozen with fear. I am simply in awe as if I saw something which couldn’t have been possible in real life.
That’s when someone tapped on my shoulder, repeatedly saying,” Hey! You are late.” The voice is shrill and it sounds familiar. I turn back to see who it was when I am suddenly shaken up from my dream. My friend was standing next to me. For the last 10 minutes, she had been trying to wake me up. I had been in a deep slumber. I find The Forty Rules of Love half open, resting next to me. And, I realize the magical dream was an aftereffect of finishing the last chapters of this wonderful and deeply engrossing book.
How do I even put it in words, my thoughts, about this book? I am falling short on this. It is difficult to describe your sentiments, which you so intensely feel and experience at the same time when you read a book of this nature. Elif Shafak’s The Forty Rules of Love had so much to offer: lessons about unconditional love, happiness, and companionship at the spiritual level. I found a sense of awe in the characters that she had etched – Ella, Aziz, and David. Each individual in those chapters had a lesson to give or experience to share, which you might have experienced in your life.
There was something so profound about Ella, whose life transpire at every step, from knowing about herself, her search and need for deep love to spiritually evolve. Her life takes an amazing turnaround the moment she encounters Sweet Blasphemy – the book on which she had to prepare a report and the book that was going to change her life forever. The author also unfolds a story from a different era and a different time. A portrayal of deep attachment between Rumi and Shams of Tabriz: their inner journey of love and soul connection.
When I found this book, I innately sensed there are beautiful elements in those pages that will feed my soul. All things that are magic, mystery, dreamy and love – I found them here. The Forty Rules of Love embraces the forty rules of life.
The moment you start looking for love, you start to change within and without
I have always believed that love is truly powerful: it has the power to transform and it is the greatest emotion one can feel. To fill your heart with love for someone is beyond anything that a human being can ever possess. Rumi was a local scholar, whose life transformed the day Shams came into his life. Shams turned Rumi into the greatest poet ever known.
When I started reading this book, I dreaded leaving it aside for something else. This book had been so overpowering, it left me with a heightened sense of elation. A little strange thing to say, but I feel I might have had a past life connection with the people of this land. I have been always enchanted by Persia – the place, the history, the opulent culture and the people. Every story that comes from this place; whether depicted in the form of a fiction or a piece of music, my spirit feels happy. Strangely, I found certain resemblances between Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red and The Forty Rules of Love. Apparently, both Elif and Orhan are Turkish! There is no disbelief that their storytelling is so rich.
The place, the people, their psyche and their love for art and the way the whole story is written – every character renders an intricate detailing of their lives, yet the way Elif simplifies the story with her language is absolutely flawless. The author takes the reader along on a beautiful journey of Ella, Aziz, Rumi, and Shams.
My conclusion about this book and for the next reader: Pick this book, enjoy the journey of those characters. In the midst of reading, you will come across a lot of things that are profoundly spiritual. Take a moment, close your eyes and ruminate deeply what those lines mean to you. You may or may not associate with Ella, Aziz, Rumi or Shams, but there is wisdom innately layered in each and every word you read.
And, before I close, I would like to share an excerpt from one of the many letters that Aziz had so tenderly written for Ella. This was at the time when Ella had a misunderstanding with her daughter and her husband. Although she was in search of love, all the while, she didn’t know yet.
I hope you won’t find this too presumptuous, but after reading your e-mail I went to the wish tree and prayed that you and your daughter solve this misunderstanding. Even a speck of love should not go unappreciated, because, as Rumi said, love is the water of life.
Some people make the mistake of confusing “submission” with “weakness,” whereas it is anything but. Submission is a form of peaceful acceptance of the terms of the universe, including the things we are currently unable to change or comprehend.
May love find you when you least expect, where you least expect.