By Archana (Mail Today)

WHEN it comes to weaving a web of words, no one does it as well as Khushwant Singh. The nonagenarian author did it again at the launch of Sadia Dehlvi’s book, Sufism: The Heart of Islam, in the city on Thursday, when he said, “Sadia is a minor miracle herself.It’s a miracle how she has transformed herself from being a social butterfly seen on the page 3 of newspapers and magazines riding a rickshaw to being the principal spokesperson of the problems of Muslims. That she has come out with this book is a big miracle. I hope it brings lots and lots of money for both Sadia and the publishers.”The publisher, HarperCollins India, represented at the event by chief editor V. K. Karthika, and senior commissioning editor Sheema Mookherjee would have positively agreed with Singh.The evening began with the recital of a sufi song, Ali miley to nabi miley/ Nabi miley to khuda miley, by Vidya Rao.

Before Singh took centrestage to regale with his words, Dehlvi invited her mother, Zeenat Kauser, to formally launch the book, who handed copies to the chief guests, Singh and Mushirul Hassan, vice- chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia.

Dehlvi, in her inimitable style, spoke to the audience informally and spared all the ennui of a formal speech. “ I know Khushwant doesn’t go out these days but I imposed this on him. But you do this only to people you love,” she began. She informed the audience that her mother had ordered her to speak only for seven minutes. “ I’m really scared of my mother,” she said.

Hassan was the most eclectic of the speakers. “ Books on Sufism are celebrated widely because they bring relief to the rigid, codified image of Islam that exists in intellectual and popular imagination,” he said.

He praised the author for having proved “ the imaginary separation of Islam and Sufism” wrong.

A novelty of the launch was poetry recital of sufi saints from Dehlvi’s book, rendered in English charmingly ( or rather, seductively) by theatre actor Oroon Das. Das got noticed last year by the city’s cultural set, thanks to his role as Rumi in a play on the life of the 13th century Persian mystic. “ I’m thankful to Sadia. After my role as Rumi, she literally adopted me simply because I had played the role of a sufi saint,” informed Das. The recital was accompanied by soft guitar strains by Ish.

Dehlvi informed all about her friends and family members who had flown in for the launch, from various parts of the world. The list included Mumbai- based actor Nasser Abdullah. “ Sadia is my first cousin,” he said, while confessing that he didn’t get time to read these days, much as he would want to.

archana.khare@mailtoday.in