Reconciling the Ghosts of Love

by Anam Syed

Two flames, by Premstar Santana - 35mm film

There's a lot to be learned by the stories we choose to keep.  The tale of the doomed lovers permeates time and culture. Pakistan too, carries in its fiber such a legend. What is it of the star-crossed affair that has kept mankind so entranced for centuries?

Pakistan's lovelorn saga takes place at the archaeological site of Bhambore, located in interior Sindh. Before it was a UNESCO world heritage site, and before archaeologists had their take of it, Bhambore was home to just about every civilization or subculture ever to live in, or come in contact with South Asia. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists not to mention ancient Arab and Chinese traders, all left their mark on the region.

Perhaps it is indicative of a larger cultural truth that our story begins with a displaced female child. An infant girl named Sassi was born to the King. However, a sorcerer warned that she would be a curse upon the throne. So, like many little girls before her, (and many after), she was cast out, thrown into the Indus River to die. A childless washerman found her, and believing her to be a gift from God, took her home and raised her as his own.

Years passed and Sassi grew to be renowned for her beauty. The prince of nearby Makran came to see her, and they both fell in love instantly. Eventually the reluctant washerman gave his consent to the marriage.

Naturally, such a tale is not destined for an easy ending, and the lovers' union was halted by the prince's jealous brothers. However, the prince refused to heed their objections.Perhaps once again indicative of a larger cultural theme, the brothers attended the wedding in full form, but secretly stole away the very inebriated prince back to his own kingdom.

Awaking the next morning a grief-stricken newlywed, Sassi journeyed on foot to the town of her beloved. She was nearly assaulted by a shepherd, (a cautionary example for girls who dare venture alone?). Following the assault, Sassi prayed to God to hide her away, a prayer that is uttered I'm sure, by many a woman who finds she cannot control the world around her.

And so, upon her request, God had her swallowed up into the mountain, her lover's name still on her lips. When her beloved returned for her, he too, uttered the same prayer so that he could join her under the earth.

The solution presented by this tale- drowning in the dust of the desert, rather than live with a grim reality-is this the reason so many of us are content to stand idly by as their world falls apart around us? Would we, as people, rather disappear into the mountains than deal with looming threats? 
 


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