Agra, Dec 5: The custodian of Salim Chishti dargah at Fatehpur Sikri Peerzada Rais Mian Chishti asked Carla Bruni, the First Lady of France : "What is your wish, your prayer?"
"Pray for my son, and pray I have another", said a veiled Carla Bruni, reports Indian Express about the French first couple's pilgrimage to Salim Chishti dargah
Rais Mian then turned to his son for a red threat (kalava) and after reciting the ayat-ul-kursi, he blew. The Sarkozy couple were to be protected by the prayer from harm.
The dargah, says the IE report, is famous for its peer Sheikh Salim Chishti, who had blessed Emperor Akbar with a child..
Rais Mian recounted the story to the French first couple, of how the childless Emperor Akabar had come here praying and had been told by the saint that he would have three children.
"I told them this dargah grants wishes to jobless, non-married and even childless. He (Sarkozy) asked me to pray for him and wish him success. While they were tying the thread, Carla said she wanted a son and I prayed for them", Rais MIan told PTI.
Together the couple walked to the screen on the left and tied the kalava, Sarkozy kissing his. The couple do not have children, but Sarkozy has three sons and Carla one from their previous partners.
Bruni asked Rais Mian's elder son Arshad Faridi about the silence at the shrine, asking : "Do many people come here? It's so empty". It's always bustling, Rais Mian told Carla.
Today was different, with the shrine closed for the general public, as the Taj Mahal was, when the Sarkozy couple visited the Tomb of Love to fulfil a past promise.
For the past two weeks, the French secret service men were scouring the place. They surveyed each nook and cranny, sought vantage points and sent out messages furiously, one of them warning that the location was "too risky".
An unauthorized colony had an abundance of rooftops looking upon the 52 stairs leading up to the shrine - "potential threats", the secret service called them. But Sarkozy was bent upon fulfilling Carla's wish to see the ancient city that was briefly the capital of the Mughal empire during Emperor Akbar's reign.
The French couple offered a chadar of roses, and also listened to qawwali, arranged as per their request.
"Let the marble be covered in honey for the French President's visit", joked a man suspended on a rope above the 54-metre door leading to the dargah mosque, banging at the hives on the dome to chase the bees away, ahead of the visit. As he struck, clumps of honey fell on the ground.
Nearer the mosque, a young girl ventured towards a wicker basket covered with a red cloth. She lifted it up to reveal bandni dupattas. Imam Anwar, moving swiftly, struck her on the hand - "not for you". He hid the basket deeper inside near the mausoleum, next to the flowers. In anctipation of the French first couple, the custodians had kept 50 red and yellow dupattas aside - But Carla came prepared with her own plum coloured stole.
Sarkozy borrowed a skull cap from one of the officials, as the one arranged for him did not fit well.
As the time of the visit drew nearer, the number of men in khaki swelled. The UP police had arrived in force standing in between arches to make themselves invisible. They also started herding the visitors out - yelling across courtyards and along pavilions, shattering the silence that pervaded Salim Chishti's shrine.
At the hotel, the French first couple finished "a light lunch with some bubbly" and was informed that the prayers would begin soon. They reached the dargah at around 3.40 pm.
Twenty minutes later, the UP police heaved a sigh of relief as the French dignitaries left through the backstreets of Fatehpur Sikri in a 17-car entourage.
The Imam of the mosque was asked whether he knew of a proposal by the French parliament to ban veils in France. He creased his brow, and waved it off. Here, the French First Lady had donned her veil to offer prayer.