He lives Khusrau, he breathes Khusrau; so much so that he even dreams of Amir Khusrau, an Indian poet and a Sufi mystic who lived in the 13th century. For Pradeep Sharma ‘Khusrau’, the Sufi mystic has reached out to him beyond time and helped him to discover his calling.
A man possessed
I had only read stories like Laila-Majnu or Heer-Ranjha where people gave up their entire lives for the object of their affection. I had seen movies like Darr, where Shah Rukh Khan’s character does not stop at anything to gain the affection of the girl he is madly in love with. However, I could never imagine these stories in real life because after all, most of us are quite practical, worldly wise people who understand that we all need to work for a living. However, a meeting with Pradeep Sharma ‘Khusrau’ changed it all. He is ridiculed by his relatives but respected by many in the world. He may not be rich but his self-created ‘property’ is probably worth millions in the international market. Pradeep Sharma ‘Khusrau’ is not your ordinary collector; he is man in love with Amir Khusrau. For him, his day starts and ends with Khusrau.
A graduate in fine arts and a cartoonist, his tryst with Khusrau began when he happened to listen to a gramophone record titled, ‘The Multifaced Genius of Amir Khusrau Dehalvi’. As a result, he started developing interest in Khusrau and his works. However, he was diagnosed with neuro psychosis in 2006.
Says Pradeep, “I was afflicted with neuro psychosis, a disease which has no cure in medical science. Till about 2010, I was bedridden and could not go anywhere. The doctors had no clue why I was afflicted with this disease. However, they had prescribed a lot of medicines which I had to take every day for the rest of my life. According to them, if I didn’t take these medicines, the next option would be a mental asylum. I used to either sleep for 20 hours in a day or be awake for days at a time. I lived on sleeping pills too. I was quite depressed that my life had taken such an unexpected turn. During this period, my father consulted an astrologer who said that I would be bed ridden for the rest of my life. For me, this was the most depressing period of my life.”
The Magic in Dreams
Pradeep had almost given up hope of leading a normal life again. He started getting bizarre dreams where he met a strange old man with a beard. Sometimes, he would be accompanied with another old man.
He says, “In 2009, I started getting strange dreams during my sleep. I used to dream of sitting and crying in a deserted place with old monuments. In these dreams, an old man with a white beard used to talk to me. I kept getting these dreams repeatedly. The old man used to talk to me in English. He would always assure me that my current problems would soon be over. He said that medical science had no answer to my disease but he could cure my disease. When I asked him why was I facing such problems, I was told that these problems were as a result of my past deeds and this was a self-purification period. He said that my suffering will come to an end but I had to throw all the medicines given by the doctor because these medicines were making me dull. However, when I talked to my mother and doctor about this, they dismissed it as a bad dream and did not let me throw away the medicines.”
Pathar Wale Baba
“In 2010, I had visited the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin with a friend. I met a semi-nude fakir who was called Pathar wale baba, who rarely is seen by any visitors. He gave me a bottle with water and told me that to drink this water any time I felt depressed or sad. He told me that as I finish the water in the bottle, I will also be cured. The old man in my dream also advised me to drink the water.”
We seldom remember our dreams when we wake up. For most of us, dreams are nothing but vague images and impressions that make no sense in the real world. However, for Pradeep, dreams became his guide. When he could not throw the medicines for the fear of his family and doctors, he dreamt about the old man again.
“After about three months after I had the first dream, the old man visited me again. This time he did not have a beard. He admonished me and asked me if I really wanted to get well. He told me the doctors had no idea of what they were doing and asked me to throw the medicines. I ultimately threw the medicines but could not sleep for the fear of turning mad without them! However, I slept that night and got up at 11 am. My father who believed that I was merely using the illness to avoid work was quite upset about this. However, my mother was convinced of my problem because she knew the kind of medicines the doctors had prescribed. Soon, I started feeling well again. I no longer felt dizzy or scared again.
However, this was not the end of these dreams. He kept getting dreams where he was instructed about everything.
Pradeep says, “The dreams continued to guide me. In my dreams, the old man used to give me detailed instructions about whom to meet, where to go etc. I used to get up in the morning and write down all the details. Based on these dreams, I made a project report. When I shared this project report with professors and other senior people they were taken aback! They thought that this report was a work of some great professor. They could not believe that I made it! According to them, it was impossible for a common man who had not studied or learnt about Amir Khusrau in detail. I still get those dreams and receive instructions on what to do or how to proceed.”
As a result of his dedication to his passion, Pradeep had to face the ire of his family members. They felt that he was simply wasting his time on this frivolous pursuit on Khusrau and not earning any money.
In Pradeep’s words, “My parents aren’t very encouraging when it comes to my passion. My father threw me out of the house twice. However, I came back. He felt that my passion towards Amir Khusrau was nothing but madness and it was not letting me concentrate on building a good career. But during that time, I was in a state where I could not understand what my parents were trying to tell me. I was totally oblivious to their admonitions and was only focussed on Amir Khusrau.”
“I was married twice. The first time, I got married to a lady who demanded 10 lakhs within 2 months of being married. When I refused, she filed a dowry and domestic violence case. Ultimately, I had to shell out around 3 lakhs rupees to get out of it. The interesting thing is that I or my parents hadn’t asked her for anything yet I feel she was a woman who made a living by marrying unsuspecting guys and then using the dowry law to extract money. I didn’t want to marry the second time but my parents pressured me into it. However, this marriage also did not work as a result of fights between my parents and wife and my financial problems. I have a son who stays with my wife. We are separated for the last 2.5 years.”
“Even today, my relatives, my cousins keep calling me and tell me that I am ruining my life. I believe no one has the right to judge anyone. They are not feeding me or fuelling my passion in anyway. I don’t listen to them. I believe whoever has become great in the world was first ridiculed for his passion. I love Khusrau and that is what my purpose of life is.”
For most of his life, Pradeep Sharma Khusrau has spent money on acquiring works of Khusrau from various parts of the world and faced backlash from his family. However, there was a time, he was paid for working and researching on Khusrau. He says that was the most beautiful period of his life because he was getting money to follow his heart.
“In 2012, I received a phone call from Hazrat Nizamuddin from a gentleman called Farid Ahmad Nizami. Everyone at the Dargah knows me as Pradeep Sharma Khusrau. The gentleman told me that the Aga Khan Foundation in Delhi is looking for someone to help them in their research on Amir Khusrau. At that time, I was working as a drawing teacher in a school with a salary of 20,000 INR. The next day, I attended an iftar party with some of my friends. I was talking about Khusrau in a group, when I was approached by a gentleman from Agha Khan foundation who said that they had been looking for me after they got to know about my passion and expertise on Khusrau. He told me that they couldn’t find anyone though they had approached well known professors and experts and even given advertisements in newspapers. He said that though the people who came were qualified but none of them had the relevant expertise when it came to Khusrau. He asked me to come to his office the next morning. I was interviewed by a panel of 5 people who asked me about 50 questions on Khusrau. They were so impressed with my answers that they immediately gave me an appointment letter as a researcher on Amir Khusrau.”
“However, I told them that I was working as an art teacher and needed to serve the notice period. I talked to the principal who did not agree to relieve me. When I shared my predicament with the people at Agha Khan foundation, they offered a part time arrangement. So, I used to get up at 5 am, go to the school to teach. At 2 pm I used to go to the foundation and work there till 8 or 9 pm. The project became bigger and finally I was asked to join full time. I explained my problem to the principal and I was relieved after my notice period. Then I joined the Aga Khan foundation at a salary of 70,000 INR. Initially the project was for two years. However, they liked my work so much that they asked me to work with them for two more years. These four years were almost like a golden era for me. I travelled to 22 states in search of Khusrau, organized concerts, programs, symposiums and seminars. I was immersed in Amir Khusrau day in and day out. My folks also did not trouble me because they were happy with the money coming in. After four years, I was given another year-long project on Mirza Ghalib and Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan.”
Pradeep’s golden days were soon riddled with office politics and colleagues who resented his success.
He says, “Soon people started resenting me for my knowledge and work, I had a tiff with my senior who wanted me to take the short route for everything. I couldn’t do that because Khusrau was a passion and I wanted to do everything properly. So, she started sending negative reports about me. As a result, I was asked to leave. So, I worked till 2018 and since then I worked in two schools and today, I am unemployed. However, I am still working on spreading Khusrau’s work and words.”
…To be continued…
By Shailaza Singh