Medieval Punjab, circa 1550 on that very long and mighty road.
He had been gone a long time and recent rain had swollen up the mighty Sutlej river where he filled up his *mashq and gathered some hay for his horse. *Dilli was still very far, he guessed another 20 moons. But for now, he knew he needed to find a safe *serai. These were uncertain times. Sher Shah Suri’s accidental death had shocked everyone. The ruler had done so much in such a short period of time – built this major road, for example, and issued the Rupiya coins. He reached for the secret pocket inside his shirt to feel the heavy coins – “yes, it’s all there,” he thought, “but what I want for the treasures I am carrying is nothing less than an *asharfi or a few”. The women’s chambers inside the Lal Qila waited for him to show up every few months. They were strong negotiators but he knew he had to hold his ground. They liked this gorgeous embroidery with Bengal silk “*pat”. The latest was this "Tota Bagh" - an exquisite pattern with parrots and birds on a *zāfrān-stained Punjabi *khaddar. He knew the ladies will fall for it – he knew they could smell the aromas of Kashmiri zāfrān interspersed with that rustic earthy madder. Why would the royalty ever need *Ittar when Phulkari was around to drape your senses? He smiled to himself.
As he pulled into one of the caravanserais, he thought of his wife – back in the village, rocking a cradle with her left knee, singing softly while her slender fingers embroidered their dreams into this fabric. Oh yes! He wanted nothing less than an asharfi for these treasures. He missed her so much!
*Ittar: perfume; *mashq: a traditional water carrying bag made of goatskin; *Dilli: a colloquial way of pronouncing Delhi, a large city and an old seat of power in the Indian Sub-continent, aka New Delhi - the Capital of Independent India; *serai: a wayside inn; *asharfi: a gold coin; *pat: silk thread; *Tota Bagh: Garden of Parrots; Bagh is a type of Phulkari where 100% of the fabric is covered in Embroidery *khaddar: coarse hand spun cotton; *zāfrān: saffron;