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Of Sufism, animals and grief

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes back in another form”, said 13th century Sufi scholar Mavlana Rumi. His saying appears to be superficial, as if wishing to mollycoddle readers to blindly hope for some relief from their ordeal. This sort of consolation is something we offer people, without really meaning it, especially when they lose a loved one, a stable job or go through a break up. However, in the realm of Sufism, every emotion we experience in the world is interconnected, working in conjunction with each other. When grief sheds its lining, sweet gratefulness shall take its place, the belief being that God teaches people by the means of opposites, so that they may have two wings to fly with and not one. I got to learn this vital life lesson through an animal surprisingly.

When the time came for the cat to deliver, she gave birth to dead babies in the middle of the night. Soon after that, she stopped eating and died of, what I presume, a broken heart

For nearly two months, I had been looking after a pregnant stray cat that stayed on the same premises as I. For someone who lives on her own, the cat became my solace, a confidant of sorts and almost a family member. It gave me immense pleasure to watch her belly soar with unborn life (her kittens). For me, it was a sign of divinity at work. Visitors found it easy to rebuke me for encouraging and feeding a stray cat. In a highly class conscious and mildly caste conscious society, strays have no space. Beautiful Persian, Russian breed of cats costing thousands of rupees are deemed more worthy of affection, much like humans with more money commanding more respect in the community. The crux of Sufism, however, is to make room for all; outcastes were especially welcomed, given shelter and food from the langar khana of the Sufi saints. To me, the homeless cat came to represent the neglected strata of our society and through her I was practicing Sufism in my…

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