I heard Rumi's name for the first time when I was around fourteen, in school, while being taught Urdu literature. Time and again Rumi's name cropped up in Iqbal's poetry. Very often in fact, Rumi was addressed by Iqbal. The Urdu teacher by way of explaination only said that Rumi was a poet buried in Turkey by whom Iqbal was deeply moved. That was it.
Later, in the course of my granmother's conversation, many a time she spoke to us with a quote from one of Rumi's verses, alongwith Hafez and more so of course Saadi, who was her moral guide and mentor.
Being of Persian origin, we of course did get to speak persian at home, and our eardrums were used to the sound of persian poetry. My mothers first cousin, composed poetry and many a time when either she and her family visited us, or we visited them, a request for her to read her poems was made. She obliged after of course, some expected refusals, which were meant for the would be listeners to press on, and then she would read out, sometimes verbatim her compositions, in her most beautiful, lilting, melodious voice. Thus my ears were familiar with persian poetry, its melody, the music and composition of the words strung like pearls on a string, each word connected to the next in the most beautiful of arrangements. Brevity as well as descriptive, at its best. Oh it touched ones heart and made one feel like flying.
Years passed, school was completed, moving onto college with english literature as subject of choice. Urdu literature had been introduced into my life, but only poetry of the known greats, Ghalib, Iqbal, Faiz, had taken root to some extent............
Amongst the collection of my fathers books, there was a small very pictorial little volume of persian poems by the name of Divan e Shams e Tabriz. I first picked it up trying to read and understand these intense and so obvious love poems, at the age of 13 or 14. I believed Shams to be the author because a Diwan was always an authors, The Diwan e Hafez, the Diwan of Ghalib, and so put it down, thinking okay, now this is very romantic stuff, had no one in my minds eye that it could be addressed to, thus back it went into the bookshelf.
It was years and years later that I discovered Rumi to be the one who wrote under the pen name of Shams in this little volume of his, his greater work and tome being The Mathnawi. The search then began, first by the ambitious acquisition of his Mathnawi e Manavi e Mowlavi, in farsi no less (which I had not really been educated in, spoke it as a mother tongue, and by the default of learning Urdu, derived from persian, was able to read it) The quest then to understand Rumi began in earnest in 1985 and continues to this day. Doors unto doors unto doors leading to Rumi, from Rumi, have opened up, one by one, all these years, slowing down, gathering speed as life and its circumstances dictated.
Since the last one year however, Rumi has entered my innermost being, to stay, to grow, to be a part of my living, breathing soul and beyond. His words, his works, have at last brought the meaning they were meant to into my existence. All is as it should be, should have been, and each moment, each day I celebrate the beauty, the depth, the meaning of his words which resonate with such power and meaning in our lives. They can shape us, as they have shaped over the centuries many a man, woman and child, who has had the good fortune of having been exposed to him early or late in life....................