Meet Rumi, The Man Behind Our Mission
You’re likely familiar with our vibrant Middle Eastern flavors and have (hopefully) had the chance to try our premium Afghan saffron. But, have you ever found yourself in the kitchen, holding up your favorite spice bottle, wondering “what (or more aptly who) is Rumi?” We’re here to break down the origins of our name, Rumi.
Behind the Rumi spices you know and love there is Rumi, the person. Rumi is a world-renowned Persian poet, born over 800 years ago. To tell you the full story behind Rumi, how our name came to be and how it continues to define our brand to this day, we’ve recruited the help of our founders, Kim, Emily, Keith, and Carol:
Q: How did you come up with the name ‘Rumi’?
Emily: Kim and I were in India for a friend’s wedding and were absolutely blown away by the rich history of India and its overlap with Afghanistan as a gateway to the Silk Road. We stumbled across our first Rumi quote in India: “Out beyond fields of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field, I’ll meet you there.” We were enamored with his poetry and words of wisdom from the start.
What sealed the deal was when we learned that this thirteenth-century poet and philosopher actually hails from what is now present-day Afghanistan. That is when we knew Jalaludin Rumi had to be our namesake and at the heart of our brand. Only that kind of wisdom could come from Afghanistan!
Kim: That’s right - as Emily said, we were inspired by these words of love and connection that Rumi’s poetry encapsulates. We felt that our connection to Afghanistan embodies the spirit of human togetherness that crosses borders, boundaries, languages, cultures - we are all one.
Keith: Nearly simultaneously in Afghanistan, I was studying Rumi’s Persian literature as we were thinking about a name. When we discussed a name the book was sitting on my desk and it all came together quite serendipitously.
Q: What does Rumi, the poet, mean to you personally?
Emily: Rumi has been a source of refuge and comfort to me personally in this day and age where there is so much chaos and divisiveness. I find his words calming and I often cite this quote: “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
Keith: There is almost a stoicism in reflecting on the words of Rumi. Particularly in times like these, the wisdom of Rumi’s words is important in providing perspective for a world that seems tumultuous.
Q: How does the name ‘Rumi’ continue to represent the brand you built?
Emily: This thirteenth-century poet and philosopher embodies the essence of our brand - his wisdom, his insistence on love, compassion, and understanding. But most of all, his appeal to human connection and finding your inner fire for life. “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” For me, Rumi was a call to action to bridge these two worlds and do what we do best - forge human connection over a shared meal, with this incredibly special spice, literally handpicked from the earth by the people of Afghanistan.
Keith: The narrative painted of Afghanistan is one of war. Rumi represents the Afghanistan that I know, a beautiful landscape with an equally beautiful humanity. Afghans are some of the best people I know and it’s important that the world realize that Afghanistan is not what you see through the lens of the media.
Carol: We are proud to help share Afghanistan’s agricultural treasures with the world. Rumi, who was born in Balkh, Afghanistan, is a reminder of the country’s rich culture and history. In addition, Rumi’s poems and teachings are read all over the world, by people of all different religions and ethnicities. We hope that our spices can bring people together and cultivate peace as well.
Q: Do you have a favorite Rumi quote?
Emily: “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” For me, this quote encapsulates the paradox of Afghanistan. Although Afghanistan has been at war for 30+ years and suffered some of fate’s cruelest blows, the resilience and heart of the people is the real treasure.
Kim: Mine is still “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field, I’ll meet you there.” - the one Emily mentioned earlier. It is a quote that can be read in so many ways, but I think one interesting interpretation is that of self-forgiveness. “When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” We valiantly try to fight or relieve all the pain and injustice in the world, and once in a while, we should try to take a step back and encircle our human existence with gratefulness, compassion, and acceptance without having to explain, judge, and categorize. Of all people, Afghans have endured some of the cruelest, longstanding suffering, and yet they are the most hospitable and loving people I have met. To this day, I wish I could do more to relieve this suffering, especially in the face of the devastating, recent upheaval in Afghanistan.
Keith: There are so many great Rumi quotes, one of my favorites is “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” To me, that speaks to the power of individuals and our ability to affect change.
Carol: I have loved, “if you are in search of the place of the soul, you are the soul/if you are in search of a morsel of bread, you are the bread… If you know this secret, then you know/that whatever you seek, you are that.” It reminds me of another saying in Dari, “Joyenda yabenda ast,” جوینده یابنده است It means “a seeker is a finder.” It embodies the hope we have for this company, the country, and the world.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
Keith: “When you walk on the way, the way appears.” Starting this company was a leap of faith that despite the odds stacked against us it would prevail. Afghanistan may be in dark times but after the collapse of 20 years of international involvement in Afghanistan, one thing has remained – Rumi Spice and its impact on farmers and women. With the Rumi team and the help of our supporters, we are continuing to take steps forward. I’m so glad we settled on a name that truly embodies the spirit and mission of our company.
Kim: If you want to immerse yourself in more Rumi, check out “The Essential Rumi” by Coleman Barks - beautifully translated, very moving.