There’s a little tale that has found its way to me, echoing through pages and podcasts, reminding me of a message I have always held true. It’s a story that the whirling dervish, Rumi narrates in the poem titled ‘Love Dogs,’ and I have clung to it since the first time I heard it, scribbling it into the pages of my diary and then into a more permanent dwelling: the fibre of my very being. Forgive me if I sound a little feverish and if my words border on the realm of the fervent. But the occasion is such that none shall be denied entry; neither my longing nor my failing. All are invited to the feast of love, no one can be left behind.

Rumi doesn’t divulge many details and my imagination thanks him for it. In my mind, this story takes place in the middle of a large desert, expanding eternally into every direction. Cloaked in the black robe of the night, in a darkness that is the mother of light, the dessert reverberates with the calling of a young man. He has been crying out the names of the divine since the day his ears caught on to their sweet melody. Each time he pronounces the name, he experiences a sweetness so ecstatic, he can almost taste it. So he goes on singing and crying, whirling and whimpering, wounded by the softest weapon of the world; the name of his beloved.

Some walk past him, scoffing at his mad antics. Others look at him with concern. They have heard of his unending cries and they have seen his eternal dance, but they have never experienced the longing that compels him. So one amongst them walks up to him and pats him on his shoulder, “Listen, brother, you’ve been going on for far too long.”

The man looks at him, a little dazed. His calling comes to an abrupt end. At first, he isn’t able to make out the words, but the cynic stands before him unperturbed, repeating the same question; “You’ve been calling out forever, haven’t you young man? Then why have you never received any response?”

The question cuts through his haze and he feels a wave of sadness wash over him. He slumps down onto the sand and sinks into its soft embrace.

“Tell me, have you received any response?”

“No,” he replies meekly.

“And you still keep on crying? You are an utter fool, the craziest of them all,” the cynic shoots him a look of contempt and then laughs as he walks away.

The young man sits with his broken heart as despair drums on his shattered hope. “Not a single response, ” he thinks to himself, ” my longing, my crying, my yearning; all of it, unrequited?” Sick with grief and the fear of abandonment, he falls asleep. As he slithers into slumber, he encounters a figure of light in his dreams.

“Why did you stop praying?” it asks in a gentle whisper.

“I never received any response.”

“Your longing is the response. It is not you who call for god, but he who calls for you. What you seek, is seeking you.”

Hearing those words, the young man feels as if the thorn that pricked his skin has now been removed. He resumes his calling, his dancing and singing. The sweetness begins to flow yet again and soothes the wound that had never existed.

***

Longing is the only offering and that too is but a gift that I receive in return. A promise to be kinder, more honest and sincere and a little voice that calls out amidst all troubles – that is what I am placing in a box today, wrapping it in gratitude, addressing it to the only one.

“Listen to the moan of the dog for its master,

that whining is the connection,

there are love dogs no one knows the names of,

Give your life to be one of them.” – Jalaluddin Rumi

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