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Former Ambassador of India to UNESCO
Bibliophile & Archivist

Date & Time

Sunday Sun, 27 Aug 2023


Bangalore International Centre
7, 4th Main Road, Domlur II Stage
Bangalore, Karnataka 560071 India

The Sufi’s Nightingale is a fictionalised retelling of the life of the sixteenth-century mystic and poet of Punjab, Shah Hussain, who was a malamati—a Sufi who actively debased himself, choosing a lifestyle that would earn him rejection and abuse, as a means of conquering his ego.

In a small house beneath a mosque in the Bazaar e Husn, home to the pleasure houses of sixteenth-century Lahore, lives an unusual band of Sufis. Known all over the city for their startling red robes and shaven faces, they are seen singing and dancing wantonly every evening as they make their way through the streets to a maikhana, their favourite tavern. Their master, a former Islamic scholar now disowned by the clergy, is Lal Hussain, whose exquisite poems—sung by his dearest disciple Maqbool, a young man from the oppressed Marassi community—have begun to win the hearts of thousands of ordinary Lahoris, despite his notoriety.

Into this world strides Madho, a handsome Brahmin boy from Shahdara, across the Ravi River, who comes to seek the favours of Amba, the most famous courtesan of Lahore. Lal Hussain is smitten the moment he lays eyes on Madho, and this sets in motion a saga of passionate love, heartbreak, scandal, mystical experience and, ultimately, spiritual triumph, as Lal Hussain becomes Shah Hussain, the king of faqirs.

Over time, the very identities of Hussain and Madho merged, and today the great Sufi is known as Madho Lal Hussain. Hussain and Madho lie in the same mausoleum outside Lahore, which is the site of the annual Mela Chiragan during which thousands gather to revel in song, dance and worship. Told in the voices of Hussain and his bulbul, Maqbool, The Sufi’s Nightingale is a moving and beautiful novel about the wonders and mysteries of love and faith.

The panel will discuss the themes brought out in the book. A Q&A with the audience will follow.


Sarbpreet Singh


Sarbpreet Singh is the author of the acclaimed bestsellers The Camel Merchant of Philadelphia, The Night of the Restless Spirits: Stories of 1984 and The Story of the Sikhs: 1469-1708. His history podcast, The Story of the Sikhs, has listeners in 90 countries. His work has been featured on the BBC and National Public Radio and his commentary has appeared in publications in the US, India and Pakistan. He is also the founder of The Gurmat Sangeet Project, dedicated to the preservation of sacred Sikh music.

Chiranjiv Singh

Former Ambassador of India to UNESCO

Chiranjiv Singh retired from the Indian Administrative Service and was India’s ambassador to UNESCO, Paris. He was awarded the Rajyotsava award by the Govt. of Karnataka and was also conferred knighthood (Chevalier de l’ordre national du Mérite) by the President of France for promoting Indo-French culture.

Soni Wadhwa

Bibliophile & Archivist

Soni Wadhwa teaches Literature Studies at SRM University, Andhra Pradesh. Her digital archive P G Sindhi Library was recently launched at Goethe Institut, Bangalore.