Kids Corner


Part II





Continued from yesterday …

A saddened Ranjha seeks an audience with the Five Pirs. With folded hands and tear-filled eyes, he says, “For God’s sake, please help me, or my love will be ruined.”

“We know that your mind is perplexed and your soul is troubled. How can we help?”

“Admit me to your holy order and bestow Heer to me as my wife,” Ranjha pleads.

“We are your helpers. Heer is yours but use her not as a wife, as men use women. Do not desert her nor take her away from her parents for she is noble. Remember, cast your eyes on no other woman but her. But also know that the path of love is tortuous. The taste of love is as bitter as poison and as sweet as nectar. Rare are the ones that know the secret of love,” the Pirs say.

Ranjha is confused. Part of him rejoices, for Heer is his but the other part is silent, for the path of love is treacherous.

Heer’s father is perplexed. He does not know what to do with her. He seeks advice from his relatives, as to whether or not he should agree to Heer marrying Ranjha.

His relatives flatly refuse. No girl from Sial has ever been given to Ranjha’s tribe. It would be a disgrace for Sial to give their girls to a lowly clan. The relatives pressure Heer’s father to agree to an alliance with the house of Kheras, who are of good lineage.

Heer’s father agrees and announces her betrothal.

Upon hearing this, Heer lashes out at her mother: “When did I ask you for a husband? I will never go the Kheras.”

She storms out of the house to meet Ranjha.

*   *   *   *   *

“Great tyranny has fallen upon us. Let us run away to a distant land. Once I enter the house of the Kheras, they will never allow me to come back. We have been fighting on the battlefield of love for so long. It does not become a gallant warrior like yourself to now desert the battlefield.”

Ranjha takes her in his arms and gently says, “Beloved, love does not last if it is built on theft and abduction. You are asking me to run away like a common thief who has been found out. I can’t do that. The Five Pirs have told me that in God’s Court, you are mine. Beloved, I believe them.”

“O my beautiful Ranjha, then let fate play its hand and see where it leads us.”

*   *   *   *   *

The Qazi arrives to solemnize the marriage arranged by Heer‘s father. Two witnesses and an attorney are waiting to offer prayers. The Qazi instructs Heer to read the six Kalmas (verses read in a Muslim marriage).

Heer refuses. “I do not intend to turn my face away from Ranjha. Qazis and the Sharia have nothing to do with true religion. I believe there is a big well in hell into which qazis like you will be thrown by God.”

The Qazi warns her: “You should obey the orders of your religion, if you wish to live.”

“I shall cry out in the Court of God that my parents, knowing my love for Ranjha, have arranged this marriage. The Universe knows my love for Ranjha for it is written by the pen on the tablet of destiny. I am married to Ranjha.”

“Who solemnized your marriage with Ranjha? Who were your witnesses? Who was your attorney?” asks the Qazi sternly. “Without witnesses, a marriage is invalid, as per the law of Muhammad.”

“Qazi, who taught you law? You have no true knowledge of it. The soul of the Prophet solemnized our marriage. The Polar star was my attorney; the angels were my witnesses.”

Heer’s father storms in. “What is taking so long? The Kheras are sitting at my door. If this marriage is not formalized, I shall be disgraced and the face of Sial will be blackened forever. Qazi, I will give you anything you ask if you can make this marriage happen.”

“I can only make this happen by deceit. Bribe the bride’s attorney and tell him that consent to the marriage must be wrung out of Heer -- even against her will. Then we will gag her and read the marriage prayers. Call the witnesses and the attorney and I will solemnize the marriage. If Ranjha makes any trouble, we will throw him into the fire,” the Qazi replies.

The attorney and the witnesses accept the bribes and follow the Qazi’s instructions.

Heer says to the Qazi, “You are a liar. May the curse of God fall upon you and all bribe-takers.”

*   *   *   *   *

Thus, Heer is married and forcibly made to sit in a wedding palanquin. The Kheras are joyous. Heer’s parents have filled their coffers with wealth. She is now the wife of Saida.

Heer laments. “O Ranjha, today your wealth has been looted by the Kheras. Takht Hazara and Jhang are weeping. Who will take care of you? You will wander in misery and loneliness. My heart is broken. O Ranjha, my long hair has fallen down. It covers my breast in misery. The universe has turned against us. Other brides wear green, red and yellow, but I will wear only a mourner’s white.”

The palanquin reaches the village of Rangpur and the women sing songs of welcome to greet the bride. Heer’s mother-in- law places a Quran and five gold coins in her lap, along with numerous gifts. The womenfolk congratulate Saida’s mother on Heer’s beauty.

Heer sits silently, refusing to look at Saida. Tears flow like rain from the black clouds of the monsoon.

At night Saida comes to Heer’s bed. With eyes of steel and an icy voice, she says, “I can never be your wife. I am already married. The Five Pirs have witnessed my marriage to Ranjha. So touch me not or the wrath of the Pirs will befall you.”

Saida is shocked and furious. He slaps Heer. She falls.

“Slap me or kill me -- the choice is yours, but know that I will never be your wife.”

Saida storms out of the room.

Heer languishes. She refuses to wear jewelry or colored clothes. She barely eats and lays awake all night looking at the moon and thinking of Ranjha.

When will these nights of endless separation end? Death is preferable for death doesn’t recur.

Sehti, her husband’s sister, is worried and asks, “My sister, who has cast this spell on you? You are getting weaker day by day. Your color is fading. You have dried up and all your bones are standing out. Your sighs are long; your eyes are lifeless. Tell me the secret of your heart. Maybe I can help you.”

Heer reveals all. “The dragon within me has arisen and is breathing fire. I feel like I am being burnt alive. Ranjha’s hand is the antidote that can cool this fire. There is no other cure. Every pore of my being is crying out his name. How can I eat, drink or sleep?”

Sehti lovingly consoles her and in the process reveals her own secret: her love for a camel driver. She promises to keep Heer’s secret and vows to help her.

A year passes.

A girl from Rangpur is returning to Jhang Sial to visit her own home. She comes to Heer and offers to take a message to her parents.

“What should I tell them about you? Should I tell them how happy and content you are with your husband and his family?”

Heer replies, “My husband to me is as a thorn is to silk. The pen of destiny has been cruel to me. There is nothing I can do about that. But I do want you to go to my parents and with folded hands give them this message: ‘You have given me to the enemy. On my death, there is no need for any of you to come.’ Now, I have a personal request: Please find Ranjha and tell that his Heer is going to die, if he doesn’t come to get her.”

The girl promises. When she reaches Jhang, she asks her trusted girlfriends, “Where is the boy who used to graze Chuchak’s buffaloes; the one from Hazara? I need to speak to him.”

Her girlfriends reply, “He is no longer a boy, but a man. He has been ruined by love. He has thrown away his flute and has lost his wits. He now roams aimlessly in the forest with wolves and tigers. No one dares to speak to him. We cannot help you. You are on your own.”

So the girl goes into the forest to find Ranjha. She tells him that Heer is on the verge of death. “You have cast some sort of a spell over her. She shows no affection for her husband’s house, although they have tried their best to please her. She does not allow Saida to touch her. She counts the stars all night thinking about you. What are you going to do about it?”

“The fire of love when once lit, turns the earth and sky upside down. Thorns and burning embers have been my companions ever since Heer left. The river of love is deep. To cross it, I must find the right boat. Heer can only be attained through self-sacrifice. I will disguise myself as a jogi (mendicant), smear dust and ashes over myself, pierce my ears, and enter the Jogi order. I will search for the perfect Jogi who can change even fate itself. I will cut myself in pieces as if I were a comb, so that I may comb the tresses of my beloved Hir,” Ranjha replies.

*   *   *   *   *

So Ranjha sets off for Tilla, the home of Balnath, the powerful jogi. After days of traveling, he reaches Tilla and falls at the feet of Balnath.

“Make me a jogi. Accept me as your disciple.”

Balnath looks at Ranjha. “Young man, your looks and demeanor are not that of a jogi. You have commanding airs. Only those whose souls are submissive can become jogis. You wear a silken shawl, carry a flute and charm women. Tell me the truth, what calamity has befallen you that you wish to leave the pleasures of life and become a jogi? Joge is a very difficult path. One wears dirty clothes, roams around begging with a shaved head, and abstains from casting eyes on women. You will not be able to attain Joge.”

“I am willing to abide by all your conditions. Please accept me and drown me in the deep waters of your teachings. Break not the heart of the one who has come to your doorstep.”

Balnath is far from convinced. “Begging is useless, if one does not have belief. Only those who are in love with death can acquire Joge. It is no child’s play. Think carefully, young man.”

But Ranjha is insistent. “Seeing your face has lifted the burden from my soul. Please accept me. I will not leave your doorstep.”

Balnath looks deeply into Ranjha’s eyes and agrees to take him on as a disciple. Ranjha’s body is rubbed in ashes, his ears are pierced and he begins learning the ways of the jogis. Balnath tutors him and when Ranjha is granted joge, he tells Balnath the truth.

“Had I been only a lover of God, I would have sought only God. But Heer has captivated my consciousness and that is why I became a jogi, so that I could keep my love in remembrance. Love entered when we were both young. I cannot give up Heer, I must search for my beloved. She belongs to me. I am not pursuing someone else’s property. The serpent of love has coiled itself around my intestines and is sucking my life blood from me. My bones and flesh are melting because of this separation. It is because of your kindness that a poor unworthy traveler like me can beg for your blessing. Please pray that I may get Heer. My heart only begs for Heer and for her alone.”

*   *   *   *   *

To be continued tomorrow …

May 5, 2017

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Part II "

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