By Aminah Sheikh
Deh na dekhi, naram kahaaye
Buraa lagay aur hansi bhi aaye
(Invisible, but they call it tender
Feel bad, but it evokes laughter)
It’s the second time I’m reading this riddle. Attempting to get close to solving it, I’ve narrowed it down to two possible answers. But, I’m confused. So, I turn the page to see the illustration for a clue, trying hard not to glance at the answer which is on the page next to the illustration. The illustration consists of artistically drawn fish and feathers. It intrigues me further, as I rattle my brain, thinking what feathers can do – make you fly, make you smile. My thoughts take me to a time I got a fish pedicure. I remember giggling a lot! Giggling by tickles…? I go back to reading the verse to confirm if my guess fits the riddle. Having read the riddle, now for the third time, I decide on “tickle” as the answer. I turn the page – “tickle” it is! The answer leads the reader to an anecdote of Amir Khusrau. There is a child-like excitement as you go about solving twenty riddles that make for a wonderful discovery on Amir Khusrau, in a book Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles.
The Sufi poet has been brought to life in an innovative narrative by Ankit Chadha, a popular dastango (someone who practices the oral form of storytelling in Urdu). Each riddle unveils a facet of Amir Khusrau. Ankit explains that the idea was to bring the poet and his poetry together in the most accessible form for readers of all ages. “Through some riddles, which were fun and representative of the culture Khusrau stands for, I wished to tell a story that would open up the man that was and is. So, each riddle in the book is, in a way, a petal that you open and slowly appreciate this flower of a personality.”