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In my quest for romanticism and virtuosity I search for an actual love story that has all the usual emotions of love, longing, pain, quest and sacrifice, of eternal love, eternal longing, eternal quest and eternal sacrifice, I remain sad and crestfallen as I find none in my lifetime. I did read the past classics; some of them seem so far far away and remain illusionary. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in blank verse did never appeal to me; an alien language leaving me blank and confused. Nearer home I discovered and related to our popular folk lore. Some of them no longer a story but have become a metaphor, a symbol of pure and eternal love. For my generation time is perhaps the ultimate test of greatness and it is a testimony to the enduring appeal of the story of Heer Ranjha that it continues to be a dearly loved part of the collective and individual memory of millions across the world even after almost 300 years.
Heer Ranjha is one of the four popular tragic romances of the Punjab. The other three are Mirza Sahiba, Sassi Punnun and Sohni Mahiwal. There are several poetic narrations of the story, the most famous being ‘Heer’ by Waris Shah written in 1766. It tells the story of the love of Heer and her lover Ranjha. It starts with:
Awal-akhir naam Allah da lena, duja dos Muhammad Miran
Tija naun mat pita da lena, unha da chunga dudh sariran
Chautha naun an pani da lena, jis khave man banhe dhiran
Panjman naun Dharti Mata da lena, jis par kadam takiman
Chhewan naun Khwaja Pir da lena, jhul pilave thande niran
Satwan naun Guru Gorakhnath de lena, patal puje bhojan
Athwan naun lalanwale da lena, bande bande de tabaq janjiran
First and last, take the name of God; second, of the Great Muhammad, the prophet (of God)
Third, take the name of father and mother, on whose milk my body thrived
Fourth, take the name of bread and water, by eating which my heart is gladdened
Fifth, take the name of Mother Earth, on whom I place my feet.
Sixth, take the name of Khwaja (Khazir, the Saint), who gives me cold water to drink
Seventh, take the name of Guru Gorakh Nath who is worshiped with a platter of milk and rice
Eighth, take the name of Lalanwala who breaks the bonds and the chains of captives.
It is believed that in reality the original poem of Heer and Ranjha had a happy ending, but Waris Shah gave it the sad ending in his ‘Heer’. Thereby giving it the legendary status it now enjoys. It is argued by Waris Shah in the beginning of his version that the story of Heer and Ranjha has a deeper connotation – the relentless quest of man (humans) for God. Heer and Ranjha are buried in Heer’s hometown, Jhang. Lovers and others often pay visits to their mausoleum. May be now I could visit Jhang!
Fast forward, present day. Vikram and Sheila both work as programmers with Microsoft, Gurgaon. They are deeply in love. Plan to marry. No issues from parents, relatives and friends. Marriage date fixed. They are returning late at night in their car from shopping. The car is stopped near Vikrampuri. A group stops them and pulls out Vikram from the car. They kill him and drag Sheila into their van. They gang rape her and throw her body in a ditch. She dies. Candles are lit at India gate. End of the story. I am not Shakespear or Waris Shah.
I wonder how posterity will remember this ‘love story’!