Walking with Nanak- Haroon Khalid

Recently I finished Walking with Nanak by Haroon Khalid.

Gem of a book. Thats what I’d like to say. This is a beautiful book on the revered first guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak.

When you write a semi- biography of a figure such as Guru nanak, you would be crossing in to unchartered waters.  A superb mythological figure, Sri Nanak was responsible, along with many other saints (collectively known as Bhagats) in ushering a spiritual revolution in the present day Punjab region, divided between India and Pakistan.

Haroon says he was fascinated by the figure called Nanak. He was neither a Muslim nor a Hindu. He travelled all over the world that too back then, with his Muslim friend and rubab player, Bhai Mardana. He was in Srilanka and he was in Mecca. His lips had chanted the name of Allah and also that of Raam. He was an epitome of religious syncretism.

Haroon, along with his friend and mentor Iqbal Kaiser, who himself is an authority of Gurudwaras in Pakistan, embarks on a journey to find the ‘True Nanak’. He wanted to know what kind of a person he was, what kind of people he had interacted with, how arduous the journeys were etc.

On the way they meets myriads of colourful characters.  Sufis who smokes hashish, rude and uncouth police officers, youthful spies from the army, and the caretakers of these Gurudwaras.

There are lots of stories too, in this book in which Nanak comes both as a mystical person and a normal human being. His wife, sulakhni, is portrayed beautifully, as she silently suffers years of separation from Nanak. Bebe Nanaki, the sister of Nanak, is also depicted well, as the sister who truly cares her brother.

Nanak was clearly a revolutionary.  His lifetime was mired with various kinds of superstitions, and he vociferously voiced against them. For him, god was the eternal, formless, undefined, omnipresent, omnipotent entity. He cannot be described even if we transform the water from all the seas in to ink!!

This book also says a lot about how this religion, started against any form of institutionalization, became a tool of that. After the third Guru, Guru Amardas, it all became a family affair. A common theme for all the revolutions right?

The writing style of Haroon is crisp, matter of fact and poetic. I truly enjoyed the book

My rating 4/5

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