Down memory lane: Ring of prediction

Last week a TV programme showed a tantric curing people with the help of his finger ring. It reminded one of the news report years ago which stated that the son of the king of the Jinns was getting married and those who could visualize the flaming ring of the ruler of the unseen world in their minds should rest content that their wishes would come true. May sound weird but believers were not daunted. Jamsheyd’s Seven-Ringed Cup (from whose replica Jahangir used to drink) was a gift from the king of the Jinns too, as per Omar Khayyam.

Rings do have a certain fascination. Akbar the Great used to wear a ring supposedly gifted to him by Sheikh Salim Chisti. When Prince Salim was born, the chief harem maid who announced the news to him was given the ring by the overjoyed emperor as he had nothing else to offer at that moment. As fate would have it, Salim (the future Jahangir) fell in love with Anarkali, daughter of the maid and when Akbar came to know about it he got furious and ordered the girl to be walled up alive. While pleading for Anarkali’s life, the old kaneez showed the ring Akbar had gifted to her with the pledge that whatever she would ask for on showing it would be granted. Akbar shrugged off her hand and in doing so the ring fell on the Scales of Justice in Fatehpur Sikri, whose balance was suddenly tilted, making the emperor realize that he had not been just. Anarkali’s life was spared on the promise that the maid and her daughter would leave the kingdom for ever. Those who saw the film Mughal-e-Azam will bear this out.

There are other stories of kings gifting their signet rings, though Raja Dushyant did not recognize the one he had given to Shakuntala, whom he had secretly married during a long hunting excursion. Eventually has memory, dimmed by a curse, was revived and the romance ended on a happy note.

Some 70 years ago there lived a man in the Walled City named Julius. He was of medium height with premature white hair over a face that looked like wrinkled parchment because of opium-eating. Julius possessed a signet ring which he claimed he had taken out from the mouth of a fish he had caught one night on the Yamuna bank near Nigambodh Ghat. A bachelor, he realized the worth of his find when he showed it to a jeweller of Chandni Chowk, Sugan Mal, who offered a big price for it, but Julius refused. His sister’s sister-in-law once came to live with her in Old Pataudi House, Daryaganj, and Julius started having an affair with the woman, 10 years older.

One night he was caught in the act and in humiliation left home to live at Padri Tola, the Christian locality in Agra near the church built on Akbar’s orders. More or less a stranger there, Julius worked in a printing press in the city on a salary hardly enough for his needs. One sleepless night he pulled out the ring from its casket out of sheer frustration and examined it closely. It was past 2 o’clock and the whole locality was asleep. Suddenly there appeared a scene in the pale sapphire that adorned the ring showing him in bed with the woman he had seduced in Delhi. In great fright he put the ring away but the next night when he examined it again, he found a message in Urdu saying, “Bach jayega agar tauba karega” (you will be saved if you repent) obviously for his clandestine affair. Julius, who had started frequenting the red light area of Kashmiri Bazar, promised to reform. “Ask what you want then?” was the message the ring gave the night after. Julius nervously asked that he get the power to predict things and thus help people in distress.

The Padri Tolians came to know that Julius had a “magical ring”. To test him they brought a man named Thomas whose demented mother had gone missing for a month. Julius polished the ring with his handkerchief and asked the visitor to seek the answer from it and reveal what he saw. Thomas said he saw a sweeper. “Ask him to sweep the road and send the bhishti to wash the path for the royal chariot,” ordered Julius. Soon the chariot appeared and seated in it was a king (“of the Jinns” disclosed Julius). He passed by with a wave of his hand, leaving the message, “Your mother will be found on the Paharganj bridge.” Thomas sent his brother to Delhi and sure enough the woman was found there sitting under a lamp post.

Julius died long after but nobody could find the signet ring in his room. His angler friend thought he had thrown it into the river on a half-moon night when he heard a splash and saw the terminally ill Julius peering into the water. A big rohu suddenly appeared and disappeared without bothering to bite the angler’s line from which dangled snails, the fish’s favourite food. This happened close to the spot where Akbar sometimes used to fish behind the Agra Fort; not far from it is the shrine of Jalal Bukhari which Jinns are said to visit at night. Some old Padri Tolians may vouch for the opium-eater’s bizarre tale just like the TV tantric’s devotees.

(The author is a veteran chronicler of Delhi)

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 1:07:58 AM |

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