in search of Food, Shelter & Wisdom

It was one dull afternoon as normally are encountered at work, nothing different, absolutely nothing out of ordinary. To venture out of the ‘usual’, I just attempted to violate the norms of the routine and skipped the regular lunch at office. The car got steered and I found myself driving along Infantry Road out of Lahore Cantonment. Browsing the row of buildings on my right I eventually came across what was being sought. The high white boundary wall beside its gate bore this board in green with inscription in white bold letters ‘Noor Walon ka Dera Paak’ (the abode of the beholders of light). Having parked the car on the sideway, I went inside, crossed the courtyard, out-skirted a prominent grave and was greeted by a small group of people. On my way, I had rehearsed my introduction and went about narrating it. Hello, my name is Imran; I traveled to pay homage to Baba Fazal Shah Noor Waley; I am a pardesi at Lahore who is also hungry and needs to be fed. The introduction paid off and “Bismillah aao betho” was the response and someone was summoned from inside the household. In the meantime, I roamed around in the compound, said my prayer and offered fateha at the grave of Baba Ji. The walls of the enclave bore in bold letters various excerpts from the sayings of the Baba Fazal Shah and my eyes got very dearly stuck to that familiar quote;

Jahan maula hey wahan rola nahin aur jahan maula nahin wahan rola hi rola hey (away from the blessings of the divine, things get complicated).

As I sat down on the prayer mat, I was served with the lunch from Langar Khana (the free dining common at the deras). Dall Channa it was (Bengal Gram Split from the Indian Platter if classically translated) with tandoori roti and water. Having finished off a simple but extremely delicious meal, I met with my host, the grandson of Baba Fazal Shah, a smart young man, paid my tributes and left the dera back for office.

This was a simple trip that lasted for about an hour and though undertaken randomly, it did have some background to it. Noor Walon Ka Dera Paak gets mentioned in the book Baba Sahiba by Ashfaq Ahmed (a compilation on mystical encounters and thoughts that got compiled and published by Bano Apa after the death of the author). Having a random encounter with the dera in the days Baba Fazal Shah was alive, Ashfaq Ahmed later on became a regular visitor. He has very fondly covered the ‘words of wisdom’ excerpted from Baba Ji’s daily conversations both in the book Baba Sahiba as well as narrated the same on a few occasions in the program Zaviya. My subconscious craftily arranged the above mentioned visit to coincide with the typical settings in which Ashfaq Sahab had first visited the dera; one random venture out of office, the food serving with a longing appetite (that has been claimed to be the most delicious ever tasted by Ashfaq Sahab himself) and the prayer. Having synced all the elements with that phenomenal visit of Ashfaq Ahmed at Noor Walon Ka Dera Paak, I solemnly declare to have carried the identical feelings of nourishment and those of fulfillment.

Entrance to the Dera

But my dear readers, wait! it was more than merely contemplating that visit of Ashfaq Ahmed at the Dera, as it got further dissected at the table of my imagination. Though additional write up here would be discomforting, I hope my readers will overlook the same in a bid to develop a further bit of intimacy with the thoughts presented on this page …

There are things, typical as well as sporadic associated with this phenomenal feeling of being a traveler. We literally phrase this notion as pardesi and in a way it gets celebrated in our culture with a tinge of inherent sadness. People who undertake travel and strive out to the lands far and away have always been celebrated in various cultures nourished by the thoughts that are of religious as well social origins. The concept of venturing out for trade, learning or travel is one of the oldest businesses and with it came the age old etiquettes of the facilities extended along the routes and from where the iconic words like caravans and caravanserais (roadside inns) and others took birth. I must conclude this section with the underlying thought that a pardesi (a traveler in perspective) is one soul that gets to be interdependent on the kindness that is aboriginally present in mankind. Dear readers, it is this aboriginal love and kindness for all humanity that derives it roots from the divine scriptures and very dearly preached by the prophets and the saints alike.
Provided that one is appropriately clothed, food and shelter (definitely temporary, as my readers would also endorse that essentially all worldly shelters are temporary in nature) arise as the basics for which one strives. The soul of mankind if needs to be addressed the basics covered above are to be provided and this is the first step to ‘salvation’, may the word be taken in pure religious context or as a social element within a society. It’s one venerated concept that forms the very foundation of redressing a soul the mystic way. Mysticism is a way of humanity where a body is fed, clothed and sheltered first hand, without any discrimination of ethnicity, race or even religion.
Of all the things of the divine origin, dear readers, the supreme trait for the soul’s nourishment is knowledge. It is a plethora of facts, only that much that have been revealed to mankind. Wisdom is the way of practicing this knowledge and it’s a divine blessing on the chosen ones. Those who strive in the way of knowledge get blessed with the wisdom in reciprocation of their endeavors.
The soul that is divine in origins, is a traveler to a new land, a pardesi and hence be provided firsthand with the bodily requirements of food and shelter and be nourished through wisdom.

That noon, dear reader, out of office a tormented soul traveled to Noor Walon Ka Dera Paak, was aptly fed and sheltered with that typical aboriginal hospitality of mankind and took it’s due share of wisdom before returning back to the worldly affairs…

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Imran Saeed

I am a teller of old tales. History, folklore, military, and more. Mostly covering Pakistan, my homeland, but also the Great White North, where I am currently settled.
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Noor Rauf Rathore

I read it and then I read it again. Something was too familiar and close to home. I’m still a newbie in the realm of mysticism. But I’m getting my lessons from experts.

Yousaf Sher

Loved reading this. I never knew Baba Noor-Waley was resting in Lahore and that too in the Cantonment, also quite shameful for me that I’ve had Faiz from Baba Jee and never have visited Janaab’s Shrine. Also Ashfaq Sb was Mentee of Baba Jee, i think, not just a regular visitor. Thank you so much again for this.

Yousaf Sher

That definitely does not surprise me, the part about next generation using the shrine for personal gains (many politicians being fine examples of that), whereas mostly the Saints declare who shall be in charge of the Shrine, Langar and other duties. The real successor is a Khalifa, who in my Silsila cannot be from the next generation of the saint.

Baano Aapa and Ashfaq Ahmed Sb also visited my Dada-Murshad – Syed Sarfaraz Shah. Mumtaz Mufti has written about Shah Sb in Alakh Nagri and Talaash.