A collection of Pashtun stories from Loy Afghanistan
Monday, December 14, 2009
One morning he seized on the notion that if ever he was to own anything at all in this hard world, it would have to simply appear before him. He wished and wished that one morning he would wake up and discover riches aplenty heaped upon his own hearth. That way he would have no doubt that the good fortune was intended for him.
He thought of this as he went about his daily tasks in the fields.
It happened one day while he was working that some brambles in the field caught and tore his clothes. So that this wouldn't happen again,James, age 8 the man dug a little around the roots and pulled the brambles out of the ground. As he did so, he uncovered the top of a large earthen jar. In great excitement, he dug a little more and then removed the lid of the jar. He found that the jar was filled to the brim with silver coins. At first he was delighted, but after a few minutes of thought he said, "Oh, I wished for riches upon my own hearth, but instead I have found this money out here in the open fields. Therefore I shall not take it. For if it were intended for me it would surely have appeared on my own hearth, as I wished."
So the man left the treasure where he had found it and went home. When he arrived, he told his wife about his discovery. The woman was angry at her husband's foolishness in leaving the riches in the field. When her husband lay down to sleep, she went out to the house of a neighbor and told him all about it, saying, "My stupid husband found a hoard of money in the fields, but the blockhead refuses to bring it home. Go and get it for yourself, and share with me."
The neighbor was very pleased with the suggestion, and he went out to find the treasure where the woman had described it. There, where the bramble bush had been uprooted, indeed was an earthen jar. He took it from the ground and opened it. But when he lifted the lid he saw not silver coins, but a jarful of poisonous snakes.
Into the neighbor's mind rushed the thought, "Ah, that woman must be my enemy! She hoped I would put my hand in the jar to be bitten and poisoned!"
So he replaced the lid and carried the jar back home with him, just as he had found it. When night came he went to the house of the poor farmer, climbed on the roof, and emptied the jar of poisonous snakes down the chimney.
When dawn came, the poor farmer who had first discovered the jar got up to start the day. As the morning rays of the sun fell upon the hearth, his eyes opened wide. For the hearth was covered with silver coins. His heart swelled with gratitude. He said, "Oh! Finally I can accept these riches, knowing that they are surely intended for me as they appeared upon my own hearth, as I wished!"
Saturday, December 12, 2009
"Sometimes I just cannot understand the ways of God" he thought. "Why on earth does he let tiny walnuts grow on such a majestic tree and enormous pumpkins on those delicate vines!"
Just then a walnut fell from the tree and smacked Nasrudin square on top of his bald head. He got up at once and lifted his hands to the heavens in supplication.
"Oh my God! Forgive me for my questioning ways! You are the one who is all-wise. Where would I be now if pumpkins grew on trees!"
They tell of one of the Afghan kings of long ago who used to spend three days on affairs of state, then could not be found for another three days, then took up his duties again for a further three days, and so on for many years.
Nobody dared to ask him the reason for his strange behavior; although there were plenty of guesses. Some said that he was a pious recluse part of the time, others that he had some illicit activity, yet others that he was given to fits of madness......
Then came the invasion, as so often before, of the barbarians from the North. The King, his commanders and the Court fled to the high mountains to carry on the struggle.
Conditions were very hard and the grandees, and even the warriors, unaccustomed to this life, often became disheartened and were only rallied by the King, who showed a remarkable resilence and flexability.
When the enemy had been expelled, and the Court resumed its usual routine, the Prime Minister praised the King for the way in which he had adjusted to privatations and thus kept up the spirits of the others.
"It was no hardship." explained the King. "Because for many years, when I was absent for almost half my time from Court, I was living the life of the ordinary people, full of poverty and problems. How, after all, can a king rule if he does not know the way of life of the majority of his subjects, through personal experience?"
A newly-married couple moved into their new house and started to quarrel almost at once.
The husband said, "Close the door, there is a draft."
The wife answered, "I am not your slave---shut it yourself."
"I tell you what", said the husband, "let's see who can keep silent the longer. The first person to speak shuts the door." She nodded her agreement, and they sat down, with the wind whistling about them.
The day wore on, and neither of them moved. Some thieves, passing by, saw the open door and walked in. They examined everything in the house, including the silent pair, whom they took for statues. Then they stripped the house, and even took the bride's jewelry.
Still neither had moved, or said a word. Darkness fell, and the Watch, finding the door open, came into the room. "Shut this door," said the Captain of the Watch. Neither partner moved.
"You must obey the orders of the Watch" shouted the Captain.
Unable to elicit any response, the men of the Watch dragged the couple to jail.
In the morning they were taken before the magistrate at the court of summary justice.
"If you don't speak, it's contempt of court," he told the husband. Getting no answer, the judge said, "I'll have you whipped if you are not careful..........."
Suddenly, the woman cried out, "Don't hit my husband!!"
"You've lost the bet", shouted her spouse. "Now you have to shut the door."
There was a rich and powerful king who had seven daughters. One day he summoned all his daughters and told them to sit with him. They sat down and started to talk among themselves.
Then the king suddenly turned to his eldest daughter. "How much do you love me?" he asked.
"Dear father, to me you are sweeter than sugar," she answered without hesitation.
The king was very pleased, and put the same question to each of his daughters in turn. The second daughter answered, "As sweet as honey". The third, "As sweet as molasses". The fourth, "As sweet as brown sugar". The fifth, "As sweet as sherbet". And the sixth, "As sweet as the sweetest halwa sweet".
The king much flattered by these replies, now turned to his youngest daughter, "And how sweet am I to you?" he asked.
The youngest daughter thought for a while, the answered, "Respected father, you are sweeter to me than salt'.
The king was furious with his youngest daughter, and all her sisters reproached her, "You should be ashamed of yourself for insulting our father" they said. "Couldn't you have compared your love to something other than salt? Ask for his forgiveness immediately and apologize for what you have said" they advised her.
"But what I said is true. To me my father is sweeter than salt" replied the innocent little princess.
Hearing this, the king grew even more annoyed. He stamped his foot and ordered his youngest daughter to leave the palace at once, vowing never to set eyes on her again.
When the princess left the palace she had nowhere to go. She wandered sadly through the city, but was unable to find a place to lie down and rest. So she continued to walk until she came to a forest. Tired and lonely, she lay down to sleep on a bed of leaves, and here in the forest she made her home, living on fruit that she picked from the trees.
Time passed, and one day, as the princess was walking through the forest, she came upon an old woman who was sitting on the bank of a river grinding corn. The princess sat down quietly beside her.
"Who are you, my child?" asked the old woman, surprised to find a stranger sitting beside her.
Hearing these kind words, the princess was reminded of her sorrow and began to weep. The old woman stopped grinding the corn and embraced the young girl. "Who are you?" she asked once again. "Where have you come from and where are you going?".
"Mother' replied the princess, "I'm a poor defenseless girl with no one in the world to help me except God. As I was wandering through the forest I saw you, so I came and sat down beside you. I have nowhere to go so if you will allow me, I shall be your servant."
"My child," answered the old woman, "I have only one son in this world. We are poor but content. He cuts wood in the forest, loads it on a donkey, and takes it to the city. There he sells it in the bazaar. With the money he receives, he buys corn, and I grind the corn to make bread for our two daily meals.You are welcome to stay with us and be my daughter".
That evening, when the old woman's son returned home, he was surprised to see a young girl sitting with his mother. "Who is she?" he asked.
"She is a stranger to these parts and has no one in the world to care for her, so I have made her my daughter" replied the mother.
The young man was delighted to have such a beautiful companion. "God willing, you will live with us in comfort" he said addressing the princess."The only difficult work is chopping wood and I do that myself. You can stay at home with my mother and help her with the housework".
"Of course I shall help in the house but I shall also go with you into the forest to chop wood" replied the princess.
"Chopping wood is not easy!" protested the young man.
"If I am to stay here, I must be given my fair share of work" she insisted.
So the princess settled down to her new life with the old woman and her son. Every morning she would accompany the young man to the forest to chop wood. The son was very happy because he could not have found a more beautiful young companion. The princess had also grown very fond of him. They would talk for hours, and the days passed quickly.
One day the princess had gone to the forest as usual and was attempting to cut one of the lower branches of an old knotted tree when she noticed on the topmost branch two black snakes. The two snakes were sitting talking to one another. She stopped cutting and hid so that she could hear their conversation.
"My friend, tell me something unusual" said one snake to another.
"What could be more unusual than this very tree on which we are sitting. Underneath this tree is buried the biggest treasure in the world. There is so much gold, and there are so many precious stones, that even the wealth of two kings would seem small by comparison" replied the other snake.
The first snake was amazed. 'Is this really true? he said, and then he added thoughtfully, "But as long as we are alive no one will ever be able to cut down the tree and dig up its roots to lay their hands on the treasure."
"You are right," whispered his friend, "but there is one way of destroying us. If someone sets fire to the tree, we shall be helpless, because we ourselves will be burnt to death as well as the tree".
When the princess heard this conversation she crept away and then ran to her companion. "Make haste. We must return home" she said.
"But we haven't cut any wood yet," objected the young man.
"Don't worry. We shan't be needing any wood. I'll explain it all to you later".
They ran home as fast as their legs would carry them and looked for some matches. Once they found some, they went back to the forest and stealthily made their way back to the old knotted tree. Then the princess asked asked the young man to put some dried twigs around the tree to kindle a fire. He did not argue, but did exactly as he was told. When the fire began to blaze and bright orange flames licked all the branches, the snakes wriggled from one side to another in an effort to escape.
The snakes begged the princess to save them. 'We promise never to harm you,"they pleaded. But the princess did not listen, for she knew that they could not be trusted, and soon the flames enveloped them.
"We deserve to die, it's our fault" said one snake to another. "If we had guarded our secret, instead of opening our mouths, we would still be alive today." With those words, the two black snakes were burnt to death, and in next to no time the tree was reduced to cinders.
When the ashes had cooled, the princess and the woodcutter started digging. They 1st pulled up the roots of the tree, and then dug deeper. After digging for a long time, they discovered twenty chests.
"What are these?" asked the young man.
"Be quiet, and load them on the donkey" replied the princess.
The chests were so heavy that they had to make several trips to transport them to the house. The princess took some of the chests, while the woodcutter stayed behind to guard the others and wait for her return. In this way they managed to take them all home.
"Daughter, what are these?" asked the old woman.
"Open them and you will see for yourself" replied the princess.
When they opened the chests, they were astonished to see gold, diamonds and all kinds of precious stones. The princess took a large diamond from one of the chests and said to the woodcutter, "Go to the bazaar in the city, sell this diamond, and buy food for us all".
The woodcutter set off happily for the city. when he reached the city, he went to the first jeweler in the bazaar and showed him the diamond. The jeweler looked at it, shook his head regretfully and gave it back. "I cannot by this," he said "it is too valuable. Go to the biggest jeweler in the city; perhaps he may be able to help you".
The woodcutter visited many jewelers' shops in the bazaar but no one could afford to buy his diamond. Finally, he entered the last shop, which was the biggest of them all. The jeweler gasped when he saw the sparkling stone. "I'm afraid I cannot afford to pay for this beautiful diamond" he said "but you can take my entire shop and all its contents in exchange for it". The woodcutter agreed. So the jeweler took the diamond and handed over the keys to his shop.
After collecting some money from the till, the woodcutter locked up the shop, bought a plentiful supply of food, and returned home.
"How much did you sell the diamond for?" asked the princess, when he arrived home laden with food. Whereupon the young man recounted what had happened and how he had acquired a jeweler's shop in exchange for the diamond.
Next morning the princess gave the woodcutter more instructions. "Go to the bazaar," she said "and buy a fine horse for yourself and fine clothes for all of us".
The young man went to the city again and bought the finest thoroughbred horse that he could find. Then he bought some expensive cloth for his mother and the princess, and also some cloth for himself. He waited at the tailor's shop until the clothes were ready and then he rode home with them.
Next day the princess sent the young man in search of forty laborers to build her a magnificent palace in the middle of the forest. The laborers arrived and work started on the palace. It was such a splendid building that it took two years to complete. In the meantime, the old woman arranged the marriage of the young princess and her son. The young man's business had prospered in the city and his name had become well known all over the kingdom. He was renowned for his wealth and honesty and for his generosity to the poor and needy.
Many years passed. One day it so happened that the king went out hunting with his vizier and his guards in that same forest. They had spent the whole day hunting but had failed to shoot any game. They had lost their way and were feeling hungry and exhausted when they came across a magnificent palace.
"Who owns this palace?" inquired the king to his companions.
"I've heard of this palace," replied one of the king's guards. "It belongs to the biggest jeweller in the city, a man renowned for his wealth and generosity."
Hearing this, the king called aside his vizier, "Go and inform them that I shall be their guest tonight. We shall see for ourselves how generous he is and how he entertains his guests."
The vizier took the message to the palace. When the princess heard that her father would be their guest that night, she sent word to her husband to return home at once and ordered her servants to prepare a huge banquet.
The jeweler hurried home to greet his new guests. The king and the vizier were ushered into the banqueting hall; the other members of the king's retinue were lavishly entertained in the hujra.
As soon as the king and the vizier were seated, the dinner was served. On one tray the servants brought pilau rice, sweet saffron rice, chicken, lamb, halwa and sherbet. On a separate tray they brought maize bread, spinach, and yogurt. The princess ordered that all the rich food dishes should be excellently cooked, but she had given instructions that they should contain no salt. Salt was only to be used in the simple dishes of spinach and maize bread.
After tasting the various dishes, the king and the vizier pushed aside the rich dishes and ate only the food containing salt.
When they finished eating the jeweler asked them politely, 'Did you enjoy your meal in our humble house?"
"The food was excellent" they both replied. "But it had one serious fault," added the king. "There was no salt in it, and without salt, food has no taste. Therefore we both preferred the simple spinach and maize bread which contained salt".
At that moment the young princess entered the room. "Respected father," she said "you are sweeter to me than salt is to food". The king was astonished to see his daughter, and both the jeweler and the vizier were puzzled by the princesses words.
"Tell me, daughter, how did you come here?" asked the king.
The princess gave the king a full account of everything that had happened to her since she had left the royal palace. Then she explained, "I gave special orders that salt should not be put in your food, because you don't like salt".
The king bent his head in shame. "My daughter, I beg you not to reproach me. What you said about your love being sweeter than salt is absolutely true and I ask for your forgiveness".
The king told his daughter to rise and embraced her. After escorting the princess and her husband back to his kingdom, the king entrusted the care of his realm to his new son-in-law and they all lived happily ever after.
In Kabul there lived a king of the Peryan who had seven daughters and his wife was desperate for a son, any Malang that would come to their door would never go empty handed, but was always asked to pray for a male child for the mistress of the house.
One day a very old Malang stopped here and the mistress of the house emptied her heart to him and the old man blessed her and said that a son would be born to her soon and he would be a very handsome and intelligent boy, but his life would be a sad one, did she still wish to have a son. The excited peray said yes she would definitely have a son, for in her heart she knew she would protect him from all evil and misfortune and sadness. The Malang said that she would have to name the boy Ningola.
A year to the day the queen gave birth to a son whom she promptly named Ningola and as the Malang had promised, he got to grow into a handsome intelligent young peray. His sisters doted on him and it seemed that there were no worries or sadness anywhere in his life. Of all his sisters he loved his youngest sister most and she lived just to see him happy.
Ningola had a thirst for knowledge that would not be quenched with all the tutors his father provided and through his youngest sister he petitioned the king again and again, till he relented and let Ningola leave the palace.
Ningola with a faithful companion that his father had stipulated go every where with him, traveled far and wide and sat at the feet of the great masters of his time until he exhausted all their knowledge and then he set off to learn what humans knew. It was while he was hopping from one teacher to another that he ended up in the village of Begum Jan in Aboha, Swat.
Begum Jan's father was the Khan of the village and people came from far and wide to see the beautiful girl whose beauty was praised in many a song. Next door to Begum Jan's house lived her uncle and his son to whom she had been promised from birth. A few houses down from them was a Jummat, where an imam Mullah Badar led the prayers and Hadith and recitation of the Quran. He was also a learned scholar of the magic arts. Many people came to consult him when they thought they or someone in their family was possessed by a peray.
It was common practice in those days for boys and girls get their primary education from the mullah, and those without one in their village would send their boys to a neighboring Mullah to learn the basics of religion. If the boys came from a village that was a days walk, or more, they would stay in the Jummat and only go home once a month or every two months etc. The local people would send food to the Jummat for the boys that lived there. When Ningola, showed up at the Jummat with another boy, and they started learning, he was welcomed just like all the others.
Ningola was a fast learner and soon became a favorite of Mullah Badar. Begum Jan who had been the star pupil till then took an instant dislike to the boy, and they were soon in a bitter competition to be the most learned of Mullah Badar’s students.
One day when Ningola did better than Begum Jan, he could not help but rub it in and in retaliation, Begum Jan who had regularly brought food for the whole Jummat taunted him that he was such a cheapskate that in all this time he had not once contributed to the meals for the kids. Ningola smiled and that night he served a feast at the Jummat that no one had ever seen the likes of. There were all kinds of birds, served in all kind of sauces, there were fruits no one had ever seen and there was so much food that the whole village ate and yet there was lots left over. Everyone said that never had they tasted a meal like this, and Begum Jan out of anger stopped coming to the Jummat
Strangely instead of being happy that she had left, Ningola found himself missing her, and the place seemed boring and empty with out her. He missed her sharp mind and quick tongue. He decided he would have to see her. Since a male could not visit the inside sanctuary of someone’s house, Ningola had to turn back into his invisible peray form. Thus he would go to her when everyone was sleeping and he would enter her dreams and through her dreams he made way into her heart. Begum Jan was never truly aware of what was happening, but that she now had a soft spot in her heart for her former rival.
Unseen to Begum Jan and her family Ningola would enter the house and watch her, but soon this was not enough and he made love to her while she slept. This love resulted in Begum Jan getting with child and she grew paler everyday, her alarmed parents called for Mullah Badar and told him about her, and swore that she had never left the house and neither had anyone else ever come to the house.
Mullah Badar, who had been tipped off by Ningola's feast, knew who the culprit was and he ordered Begum Jan to be married off to her cousin as soon as possible. Mullah Badar marked the house with spells that would not let Ningola enter, and in his absence Begum Jan pined for him too.
Mullah Badar tried to mark Ningola into a circle, but Ningola had studied under him and knew how to unmark each circle. This went on for awhile, and both tested their strength against each other.
His companion was worried, but Ningola assured him that he was as good as any human and could unmark any circle put around him. As the fight grew more aggressive unknown to Ningola his companion went to his father and informed him. His sisters came as fast as they could and watched their brother fight each binding spell put on him. When a very aggressive spell made Ningola loose his balance, his youngest sister cried out, causing Ningola to loose his concentration and look up at his family watching, these few seconds gave Mullah Badar enough time to further close the circle and force Ningola into a kooza.
His sisters wailed and begged him to set their brother free. They promised him jewels and riches beyond his imagination and when that failed they offered him themselves, but Mullah Badar always refused. They promised they would take away their brother and he would never be seen in these parts again, but to Mullah Badar this had become a personal insult that a student of his would dare challenge him and insult his hospitality.
Mullah Badar threw the kooza into the fire while Ningola's helpless sisters shrieked and pulled their hair. They swore vengeance and said that they would not leave till they avenged their brother's death.
Mullah Badar took great precaution and covered himself with protective spells, but these spells could only protect him if he was clean and had performed ablutions. One very cold night Mullah Badar hesitated before performing ablutions, and the sisters fury descended on him. It is said that he begged for them to relent and they reminded how much they had begged him to spare their brother. The people of the village found him the next day and gave him a burial, but the sisters opened the grave and hung him from the very rafters of the Jummat he had taught in for years.
The people buried him again, only to find him hanging form the rafters again. This happened for a while, but then the extreme decay caused them to stop and finally tiring of it they took his remains to Ayeen Kamar in Paray and left him there. The sisters took Begum Jan's child from the cradle and left never to be seen again, and some say that she pined for her lover and her child till her death, while others say that she gave birth to twins and that the sisters let her keep one, and that is why the people of Aboha are so beautiful, because they have peryan blood in them.
To this day if one visits Ayeen Kamar you can hear the rattling od Mullah Badars bones and no one dares go there alone during the day, and never at night. After a visit even people who have never heard of Ningola or Mullah Badar get the shivers and say that they felt a strange sense of forboding there.
Thanks to this story we have a saying in Swat
Da Mullah Badar pa awdasa ki werta gurzam,
when they try to explain how they tiptoe around someone who they do not wish to anger or make aware of their presence.
One had a son he named Sher Alam and the other had a daughter he named Maimoonai. These two children grew up to be exceptionally beautiful. As their fathers had promised they were married.
Sher Alam was a merry soul who believed in hanging out all day and feeding his friends and guests lavish meals. When Sher Alam got married Maimoonai tried curtailing his spendthrift habits and would convince him to spend more time with her than with his friends. He had a friend that he was very close to, they would keep each other company all day long. This friend who depended on Sher Alam's lavish spending habits started to find Maimoonai a threat to his well being and would find excuses to keep Sher Alam from going home.
Maimoonai was upset about her husbands inability to see his friends manipulations. She talked to Sher Alam about it but he would laugh her off.
One day while she was repeating her suspicions the friend who was standing outside overheard her. It rankled him that she would dare cut off Sher Alam and his loose purse strings, he swore right there that he would have Sher Alam kill her one way or another.
Sher Alam was late coming home from a neighboring village one night but as was his custom his hujra was open to all and all present were being fed lavishly. Present in the hujra that night was a traveler on his way home who had happened to stop by the village mosque just before nightfall. He was told that no one went hungry from Sher Alam's hujra, so he found his way there.
Sitting late into the night the friends and guests passed the evening by smoking and chewing tobacco and rounds of tea. After awhile the tobacco ran out and Sher Alam's friend instructed the servant to go the main house and ask for Sher Alam's tobacco pouch.
Maimoonai unaware that her husband was not present sent the tobacco pouch out. It was a beautiful pouch that she herself had embroidered and had proudly presented to Sher Alam.
In the hujra the friend threw the pouch to the traveler and told him to keep it, unknowingly the man pocketed it. A while later Sher Alam was home and sat down with his friends. When the opportunity arose the friend called out to the traveler to give Sher Alam some tobacco, upon which the traveler promptly pulled out the pouch which Sher Alam recognized.
Seeing the pouch in the hand of a stranger angered Sher Alam, he stood up to confront the traveler, but his friend quickly took him aside and told him he had something important to discuss with him. He told him that he had seen Maimoonai talking intimately to this stranger and when he had seen the pouch with the stranger he wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt but seeing Sher Alams reaction had confirmed it all. He had not wished to draw any attention to the matter but he did not appreciate Sher Alam being cuckolded like this.
The friend pretended to calm down Sher Alam and suggested he go talk to Maimoonai before he did anything harsh. Sher Alam unable to hold his fury any longer went straight home and rudely awakened Maimoonai, he told her to prepare for death.
She smiled to greet him thinking he was joking, but he angrily asked her if she thought he was a fool. Asking what had happened, she tried to make sense of it. He asked about the pouch and she told him how the servant had come and told her that Sher Alam had asked for the pouch. Not believing what she was saying he pulled out his knife. She swore that she was innocent and that she would never forgive him for having so little trust in her.
Sher Alam was too angry to listen and with a swipe of the knife killed Maimoonai.
As news of the cold blooded murder spread it reached the ears of the traveler, he came forward and swore that he had never seen or talked to Maimoonai, so did the servant who had fetched the pouch that fateful night.
Sher Alam over come by guilt and remorse took to the hills and was never seen again, but once in a while shepherd's would talk of a crazy man who would cry “Oh Maimoonai,my Maimoonai”
Yousuf Khan was a handsome young man from a village near Mardan. The people of Turlandi claim their village to have been his home. His father Mahmud Shah had died and left a young Yousaf Khan with the responsibility of supporting his mother and his sister Boolanda. He would hunt and bring home fresh meat for them every other day.
Yousaf Khan would go hunting in the Kharamar hills. Now nearly barren, the hills are said to have been thickly covered in trees and thorny thickets, with lots of wild olive trees, and among this forest roamed dear, partridges, rabbits and hares. He would take his fathers hunting dogs, head to the hills and bring back what he had hunted. These dogs were very loyal and being his fathers, Yousaf Khan took great care of them. He made them beautiful collars, that were hung with silver bells. The jingle of those bells would alert everyone to the coming and goings of the handsome man on his travels.
On his way to his hunting grounds, Yousaf Khan would pass through a village, and it was in this village that he one day he saw a very beautiful girl called Sher Bano. How they first met I do not recall, but have heard that Sher Bano would eagerly wait for the jingle of the dogs collars heralding his arrival to her village. They never spoke to each other, but quietly stole glances.
Sher Bano sighed all day long and stopped eating, she would hear nothing but the jingle of those bells. Seeing her waste away like this her friend took her on the pretense of visiting a saint's grave through Yousaf Khan's village. They made it a point to stop at Yousaf Khan's house on the pretext of drinking water. Sher Bano's friend asked whose house they were in and Boolanda proudly told him it was Yousaf Khan the hunter's house. Laughingly the friend said, "tell your brother that there is a girl in the next village who pines for him with such longing that the flame of love so bright and strong that it consumes her and now she looks ill. Her parents are worried that she is possessed with peryan."
When her brother came that night, Boolanda told him what had happened. Yousaf Khan gave her a beating and told her never to repeat such idle gossip in front of him again.
Next day Sher Bano's friend stopped by to see what Yousaf Khan had to say, but Boolanda only cried and told her to leave. Confused by this, Sher Bano decided to confront him that day on his way back from hunting.
Mean while, Yousaf Khan's cousins had gone hunting with him that day. A lone hunter by nature he did not want to take them, but agreed against his better judgment. Since his father's death they had put aside their hostilities and had reached out to him. While his father had been alive, there had been daily skirmishes between Yousaf Khan and his cousins over petty things, but now it seemed they had all put those days behind them.
The hunt did not go as well as anticipated, even the dogs were jumpy and after a long day just as they were about to give up, Yousaf Khan shot a wild ram. The ram did not stop but kept running until it finally fell into a steep ravine. The cousins stood looking down and finally they convinced Yousaf Khan that he being the strongest and most agile should be lowered into the ravine to retrieve the ram. Tying rope around him they started lowering him, and as soon as he was a third of the way down they let go of the rope and fled.
Sher Bano waiting by her wall was surprised to see the lone dogs run barking with out their master. Yousaf Khan's mother seeing the dogs return without her son knew something awful must have befallen him. She ran out bare head and bare foot, wailing and crying she ran towards the hills, followed closely by Boolanda, both following the dogs that were barking like crazy. People stopped what they were doing to see why the two were running like mad women through the streets. Sher Bano on recognizing them took to the street after them.
The dogs stopped at the edge of the steep ravine. There they saw a very wounded Yousaf Khan, stuck in a tree, that had saved his life by breaking his fall. Together the women and the villagers pulled him back to safety and while they fashioned a crude stretcher for him, Sher Bano cradled her beloveds head in her lap. This did not go unnoticed and when they returned to he village, Sher Bano found her father standing full of wrath, ready to kill her. Yousaf Khan's mother quickly took Sher Bano's hand and said that she was now Yousaf Khan's honor and pride and as soon as possible she would come with the elders of their village and take her away honorably.
A wedding was arranged, and so many people came to wish them their best that the festivities spread out through many days. Sadly though, Yousaf Khan was so consumed by thoughts of revenge that he did not enjoy any of it, nor would he look at or touch his beautiful wife.
He even heard the wind and birds taunting him and the leaves shaking at him as if he was not a man. Not being able to stand it anymore Yousaf Khan left for Delhi. He had heard that his cousins were hiding there. Leaving behind his beautiful bride and his mother and sister, he set off telling them not to expect him back till he had avenged himself or died trying.
There was no news of Yousaf Khan at the village for many years and his cousins seeing the opportunity pronounced him dead. They shared out amongst themselves all that had been his. the marriage not being consummated left Sher Bano in a precarious position, her father came and took her back to his house. Sher Bano refused to accept this and insisted that Yousaf Khan was alive because she would have known if it was otherwise.
Sher Bano grieved for all that could have been and for the man who she loved so deeply and had left her in such a predicament. She would cry all night and wait all day for any news of her beloved. At first her elders kindly tried to tell her to stop her grieving, and that they would arrange a suitable match for her. She was young and untouched and many a man would find her worthy of a wife. Not able to persuade her with their soft words they resorted to cruel taunts, telling her that because of her emotions and sentiments they had been forced to marry her to a worthless, irresponsible man who had deserted her. Now she should listen to them and marry someone else who could provide her a roof and protection.
Seeing that none of these words had any effect on her, Sher Bano's father came and put his pagri at her feet and said, "I am an honorable man, and all my life I have managed to stay slander free, but I am old and do not know how long I have. Who will protect you once I am gone? Do not let my honor become the laughing stock of the village."
Sher Bano quickly lifted her father pagrai and dusting it off put it on his head saying, 'Only God knows what has happened to my husband, but may I never be cause of slander to your pride and honor sire. But in my heart I believe him to be alive even though there has been no word of him. Grant me a year to cry my grief and at the end of this year you may choose for me any man that you see fit and I will do as you wish"
Her father was heartened by these words and smiling said, 'You have made me happy my child. I can not bear the thought of your hair turning grey waiting for a worthless man who whether dead or for shame has not dared shown his face again. Don't talk to me of him coming back and you waiting, but choose one of these handsome men in our village and go on with your life, but if you think it is a year you need then take a year, but get over him.'
Mean while Yousaf Khan had traveled far from the lands of the Pukhtuns, he came across a village that was in the grip of terror due to some dacoits that had moved into the neighboring forest. Having to spend the night there he asked what was going on. They told him that many of their young men had died at the hands of the wicked men and the rest afraid to take them on had moved away. Seeing that there was no one to protect them Yousaf Khan bravely offered to help them. Hidden away the villagers watched sceptically as Yousaf Khan took on the dacoits. He made fast work of them and as he wiped his sword clean the villagers rushed out to carry him back a hero to the village. News of his bravery and valor spread quickly and soon reached Akbar the Mughal who happened to be journeying by.
Akbar ordered Yousaf to be presented to him immediately. When Yousaf came to his court the Mughal threw him a sword and sent one of his best swordsman against him. Yousaf easily overpowered him and looked up at the emperor to see what he wanted. Akbar was clapping and bid him to come closer, and he put a garland of precious jewels around his neck and gifted him with costly clothes, as well as making him in charge of a big regiment. Posted far and near, Yousaf carried out Akbar's orders.
Yousaf Khan with his valor and handsomeness became a court favorite and was soon ordered to stay close to the emperor at all times. This gave the emperor a chance to observe him up close and personal first hand. He found Yousaf to be brave as rumored, but also that he did not partake in the revelry of the court. Yousaf Khan seemed to be a loner who sighed often and was lost in thought with a sad look on his face. He asked his courtiers, but none could answer him, so Akbar summoned Yousaf Khan and asked what was it that troubled him so?
Yousaf Khan told the king of how he was once a reputed hunter, how he went out to hunt, and how a beautiful girl had fallen in love with him. How his cousins treachery had prevented him from returning her love and had left her untouched. He had a concurrent dream of his mother and sister crying beside a broken swing. He lay awake wondering what had become of Sher Bano, had she remarried or was she still waiting for him? He had no news of how his mother and sister fared, or news of his village in over five years and neither had he found his cousins. He showed Akbar a cap that Sher Bano had embroidered for him.
Akbar told him that it was high time he returned home, not only for his peace of mind but for the women he had left so helpless. Yousaf Khan was allowed to take as many of his men as he wanted. They made great haste towards the land of the Pukhtuns and on entering it they dressed into rags and made their way unnoticed to Yousaf Khan's village. It is said that they spent a night at Dobian, where Yousaf Khan bade his men to stay as he made his way alone to his village.
That evening Yousaf Khan offered prayers at his village mosque, but none there seemed to recognize him. He discreetly walked past his house and was dismayed to find that there was a barn there instead. He stopped a man on the street and asked what had become of the people that lived there. The man looked at him suspiciously and asked, 'Did you know them?'
Yousaf Khan said that many years ago he had stopped at their door and they had been kind enough to offer him a place to sleep and a warm meal.
The man shaking his head sadly said, 'the young man here fled to Hindustan, and no one knows what became of him. His cousins took over all his property and forced his mother and sister into labor in their house. His wife was taken back by her parents and today she is getting married to some one. Do you hear those drums? They are beating for her wedding.'
Yousaf Khan hastily went to Sher Bano's village where people had turned out in force to witness it. There he met his sister Boolanda who did not recognize him either, he stopped her and asked her who had claimed Sher Bano in marriage. She sadly told him of how her brother had left and her cousins in his absence had taken over and now were forcing Sher Bano to marry one of them, but Sher Bano was refusing to get into the dolay and making a spectacle of them all by refusing to so much as brush her hair or wash her face. She told him that she had to hurry now or her cousins would not only beat her but also her blind mother.
Yousaf Khan stopped her said "sister so you not recognize me? " Boolanda wept with joy on recognizing him and after promising him not to tell another sole she went off with a lightness in her step and hope i her heart. Yousaf pulled out his worn cap and handing it to a child told him to take it to Sher Bano.
The child handed the dirty cap to Sher Bano, who on seeing it leapt up, and asked to be immediately cleaned up and made ready. Everyone was relieved to see the change in her and joyfully they washed and combed out her hick black hair. Sher Bano kept on giggling and joking with her friends and family as they gathered around her. Someone made up her eyes with kohl and someone marked a beauty spot between her brows for her. She was dressed in red and adorned with jewelry.
Boolanda came in to watch and both embraced and happily laughed with no one none the wiser. She then went out to tell her brother of the miraculous transformation and of Sher Bano's fear for him being discovered.
Yousaf had sent a message to his troops who had silently slid into the village and taken up posts. Such was Yousaf Khan's rage that he ordered no man to be spared. The wives and daughters of the men ran into the field bare had and bare feet begging and beseeching him to spare them but it was not till Sher Bano intervened on behalf of the villagers and convinced him not to make widows out of women that day for she knew first hand how intolerable the life of a widow could be. She told him that his beef was only with his cousins not with the other men who had been bystanders.
Yousaf Khan then gave in to Sher Bano's request but only after he made the men agree that a jirga would convene immediately. The jirga conceded that Yousaf Khan has been wronged and that he should not be punished for the deaths of his cousin and his lands and property be returned to him immediately.
One day Yousaf Khan went out to hunt, but returned empty handed. Sher Bano getting up to remove the pot she had been heating for the meat, Yousaf thinking that she was taunting him rushed out in anger to hunt again. Sher Bano ran after him to tell him that he was mistaken and that she did not mean it as a taunt but to save the pot that would have burnt had she not removed it.
Yousaf Khan never returned, he was found dead in the same ravine that he had been left for dead in. Some say he slipped in the dark others say that his cousins got a chance to get even. Whatever the cause of his death, Sher Bano, the woman who had faihfully waited those years, died within days heart broken and bereft.
Supposedly taking place during Akbar the Mughal's rule, Adam Khan and Durkhanai's story is belived to be the classic romance of Pashto. Kept alive through written and and oral tradition the story has been passed from generation to generation.
To me the story means a lot more, not only because it took place in Swat, but because we are related to Adam Khan and his blood courses through our veins. There is a hujra in Barikot where young musicians go to break a twig off a yellow flowering shrub that supposedly Adam Khan had used to strum his rabab with all those centuries ago.
Adam Khan was from Kooza (lower) Bazdara and Durkhanai was from Upper Bazdara. Adam Khan the son of Hasan Khan was a very handsome young man and by all accounts seems to have been a spoiled young man who had nothing better to do than walk around his village with his friends.
Durkhanai daughter of Taus Khan was an extra ordinarily beautiful young woman who was very intelligent to boot. Not having a son Taus Khan showed incredible open mindedness for his times when he indulged his daughter by providing her learned tutors who schooled her in all there was to learn. She did obey local custom and culture by keeping strict purdah, not only would she be veiled but also took the step of sitting behind a screen and having an elderly servant sit there to chaperon them at all times.
A man named Payu Khan heard of the beauty of Durkhanai and her love for knowledge, he fell in love with her without ever seeing or meeting her. His love made him pale and he took to bed pining away for a woman he could only fantasize about. His father on seeing him waste away worriedly inquired as to what ailed him.
Payu Khan revealed the cause of his pale pallor and fast pulse. His father laughed at his predicament and told him not to worry and that before the day was over he personally promised that Durkhanai would only and only be betrothed to Payu Khan.
A formal proposal was sent to Taus Khan's house for the hand of Durkhanai. Payu Khan's family was of good stock and a positive reply was sent back. Thus Durkhanai found herself engaged to a man who though madly in love with her she had not seen either. A date for the wedding was set in the near future.
Durkhanai had an aunt in Upper Bazdara, whose daughter was getting married. Having spent many happy days together when they were children running around bare headed in the streets, it was natural that Durkhanai would want to attend her wedding.
Taus Khan refused to let her go on the grounds that she was now promised to another, and it would not be right. Durkhanai's aunt made enough of a fuss that she took Durkhanai with her when she left, the aunt promised that no harm would befall his precious daughter.
At the wedding everyone was enchanted by the grace and beauty of Durkhanai and all remarked how lucky Payu was to have such an intelligent wife.
That evening the women gathered near the outer wall of the house that was adjoined to the hujra. The grooms friends had gathered there and were singing couplets and ballads accompanied to the beautiful tunes of the rabab. The rabab's melody touched Durkhanai's very soul and she found her self mesmerized. She felt her self drown in the music and uttered, “Oh how the music moves the very strings of my heart.” Her cousin laughed at her and said “Oh Durkhanai, you have to get a glimpse of this man, his name is Adam Khan and he is as handsome as he sounds.”
The other women present there were as equally hypnotized and a small conspiracy formed that if they took turns and helped each other up they would all get a glimpse of the legendary musician. The commotion they caused did not go unnoticed and as they were taking turns not only Adam Khan, but the whole gathering chanced to glance up as Durkhanai lifted her head over the wall.
All men present let out a collective gasp as they gazed at her beauty and some swore that the 99% of the worlds beauty alone was in the small beauty spot that was on Durkhanai's brow. But Durkhanai had only eyes for Adam Khan, so surprised was she by this unexpected attraction that she fell down. When she was taken to a bed she lay face down trembling with a feeling she could not explain.
Her cousin got married but Durkhanai could not get out of bed. Her days and nights were consumed by that one glimpse that she had of Adam Khan.
Adam Khan was not unaffected either, he was as love struck and he swore that there was only one woman for him and that was Durkhanai. Now this was a very shameful thing to say, because all knew that Durkhanai was betrothed to Payu and that meant she was good as married for the Pukhtun never go back on their word.
Hasan Khan hearing of his sons foolish statement went immediately to get his son and talk some sense into him.
Durkhani went on to her home and both were restless, especially Adam Khan. He refused food and drink, only staring into the sky and talking to himself. He sometimes compared his beloved to the sun and sometimes to the moon and he would sadly shake his head saying that Durkhanai far outshone the moon the stars and the sun. He would bemoan the fact that it hurt to breathe and that just thinking of Durkhanai was making his heart beat so fast he could no longer stand it.
His friends no longer able to stand his misery set out to arrange a meeting for the star struck lovers. They heavily bribed the chaperone, who left a door open for Adam Khan to enter through that night. This was a a very hazardous venture since getting caught meant certain death for both of them. We can only guess what the two lovers must have said to each other but none the less it was dawn too soon and when Adam Khan's friends gave the pre-agreed signal it fell on deaf ears. The chaperone fearing for her own life finally pushed Adam Khan out of the house just in time. They did manage to exchange gifts. Adam Khan left the ring on his pinkie and return received a handkerchief that Durkhanai had embroidered.
Thus the two constantly thought of each other and just the thought that their gift had once graced the other kept them going. Yet it was not enough and both were desperate to see each other. Durkhanai's wedding day was approaching and yet there was no way out of it, she could never tell her father or go back on his word and neither could Hassan Khan do anything for his son.
Durkhanai is married to Payu and yet she will not let him consummate the marriage and he is patient with her thinking she needs time to adjust to her new home. Out of frustration Payu decides to go on a hunting trip. Durkhanai at her wits end sends for Adam Khan who hurries to her husbands house and from there he snatches her up on his horse and gallops off to a neighboring village where he asks for mercy and begs protection from the elder of the village. As is the custom of the Pukhtuns the elder can not turn away Adam Khan and Durkhanai and is obliged to give them shelter and protection even from Payu.
Payu on hearing of his wife's shameful abduction cuts short his hunting trip and rushes home. He gathers thye elders of his village and takes his case to the jirga. It is agreed that Durkhanai is rightfully Payu's wife and thus has to be returned to him.
A fight broke out between Adam Khan's friends and Payu's men. One of Adam Khan's best friends is killed and the inevitable happens, Durkhanai is returned to Payu's house but she is but a husk of herself and she sits without talking or eating. She refuses to have her hair washed or brushed or braided. Like a mad woman she refuses everything to the extent that birds start building nests in her hair.
Adam Khan fares no better, the guilt of his friends death and the loss of Durkhanai make him mad and he takes to wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. One day having collapsed of exhaustion he is found by a group of holy Hindu' yogi's. They ponder over the mania of the handsome man and decide the best they can do for him is to nurse him back to health.
Adam Khan shaves his head and dresses in the robes of the yogi's and wanders with them for a while. He finally tells them his story and they are so moved they decide to help him. Together they all go to Bazdara where no one recognizes Adam Khan. Once there they show up at Payu's door who welcomes them in to his home for a meal. The Yogi's tell him they can sense his deep sorrow and that they also sense someone who is possessed. In thanks for the fine meal that they have been served they would like to heal both him and the afflicted person with in his house.
Payu who is at his wits end decides that it is worth a try, what does he have to loose. Durkhanai is brought in like a shrieking mad woman but she immediately calms when she sees Adam Khan, she can recognize him in his altered state. Payu is so amazed at the transformation that he invites the Yogis to stay in his garden.
Both Adam Khan and Durkhanai heal and it is not long before the yogi's want to return to their prayers and meditations. Adam Khan is well enough to go back to his fathers house even though he immediately gets forlorn when he leaves Durkhania. His father immediately arranges for a very beautiful girl called Gulnaz to marry his son and for them to live far away in Gulnaz's village.
Gulnaz who is aware of her husband's affliction patiently listens to his woes and to some extent eases his pain. One can not say what Gulnaz thought of the whole affair but she seems to have dealt with it honorably or at least till she could no longer take it and moved back to her fathers house.
Durkhanai on the other hand does not do so well without Adam Khan. Payu remarries and lets Durkhanai be. Adam Khan sets out for Bazdara and at this point he has cried so much for Durkhanai that he is nearly blind. Pleading with to be taken to the wall of Durkhanai's garden, he dies just before reaching there.
Durkhanai also succumbs to her grief and Payu in a moment of guilt lets her be buried next to Adam Khan. Years later when the graves had flattened and were dug up by mistake people were shocked to find two bodies in a lovers embrace. They were separated and the graves once again covered over. A century later they were once again found together. This time it was decided to leave them together. You can still find the grave, it is the widest one in the grave yard.
In Bazdara there are some rocks that were once in the garden of Payu's house. It was here that Durkhanai would sit and pine for Adam Khan playing her tambourine. It is claimed that if lovers make a wish here it will be granted. Don't believe me? Come to Bazdara and find out for yourself.