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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Fateh Khan Rabia

Aslam Khan, a Sultan of great wealth and power, possessed all that one could desire - riches, grandeur, and a gleaming crown atop his head. Yet, a shadow of discontent cast its pall over his heart. Despite being surrounded by gold and jewels, his eyes lacked the twinkle of life. Then, one fateful day, as he gazed upon his reflection, a single white hair caught his eye, plunging him into the depths of despair. He feared losing everything - his throne, his palace, his wealth, and ultimately, being forgotten in death.

Distraught, he withdrew from his royal duties, leaving his ministers to govern while he secluded himself within the confines of his palace. One day, a humble faqir appeared at the palace gates, calling out for an audience with the king. The servants, accustomed to offering alms to such visitors, approached with their usual kindness. But the faqir waved away their offers, declaring, "I do not seek alms. I seek an audience with the king himself."

His request was presented to the king, only to be met with a firm refusal. When the servants relayed the king's decision to the faqir, the visitor persisted, calling out once more, "I wish to meet the king, the esteemed Aslam Khan!"

The king's anger flared at the audacity of the man addressing him so boldly. "Who dares to be so disrespectful as to address me by name? Bring him before me at once!"

Aslam Khan demanded an explanation for the faqir's brazen behaviour. "Oh, King," the faqir began, "I am no beggar seeking gold or silver, nor do I hunger for food. I come not to ask, but to give. I bring the remedy to your despair. I come to impart the wisdom of true living. Tell me, you who are burdened with sorrow, what is it that you truly desire?"

The king was deeply impressed by the faqir's boldness and wisdom. Ordering a chair for the visitor, the king was met with a resolute refusal. "We are nomads," the faqir proclaimed loudly. "We find life in movement, not in idleness. This land and its people belong to Allah. Listen, oh king, for we know what your heart truly desires."

With those words, the faqir departed, leaving the king to ponder his advice. After much contemplation, the king decided to heed the faqir's words, thinking to himself, "Perhaps Allah will grant me healing in this way." Venturing into his garden, he struck an apple tree, causing sixty apples to fall. Gathering them all, he followed the faqir's instructions. He gave one of the apples to his wife to eat, another to his concubine, and a third to the Vizier’s wife.

Remarkably, after sharing the apples, a newfound zest for life surged within Aslam Khan. He rekindled his interest in governing his kingdom, and joy abounded as children were born to those who had partaken of the apples' magic. The city erupted in celebration for three days, and the king generously decreed that all the children would be provided for by the royal treasury.

Among the children, Fateh Khan, the king's son, naturally assumed a leadership role, while his mischievous brother Karmaye Khan added a lively spark to the group. Together with Rabia, the vizier's daughter, they played and grew under the benevolent watch of the king, their laughter echoing through the palace halls.

One day, a mischievous idea popped into Karmaye Khan's head, and he convinced all the boys to join him in a prank. They hid near the palace walls, waiting for young women to pass by on their way to fetch water from the riverside. With slingshots in hand, they aimed and launched pebbles at the earthen pots the women carried.

Karmaye Khan couldn't contain his laughter as the pots shattered, drenching the girls from head to toe in the water and smearing their clothes with red earth. Amidst screams, the girls hurried home, dripping wet. Despite citizens' complaints, the king could only offer mild scolding and advise the children. Leather containers were provided for carrying water instead.

The following day, the women passed by, confident in their bags' protection against pebbles. Unbeknownst to them, Karmaye Khan and his friends had upgraded to bows and arrows! Once again, the women found themselves drenched, much to Karmaye Khan's amusement.

Meanwhile, Rabia and Fateh were growing up. They were very good friends since childhood and spent most of their time together. As they got older, their desires and love began to awaken. However, they remembered the names of Shireen and Farhad. Despite that, they wished to write a tale of their own.

One day, Rabia fell ill, and Fateh never left her side. Karmaye Khan teased Fateh, "What kind of man are you? Afraid for a woman? If we had more like you, the world would surely end." But Fateh's love stood firm as a mountain, unmoved by Karmaye Khan's words.

On another occasion, Fateh returned late from his hunt, worrying Rabia. Determined to find him, she ordered a servant to fetch her a horse. Just as she was about to set off, she spotted a cloud of dust on the horizon. Soon after, Fateh emerged, bringing relief to Rabia's anxious heart.

As childhood slipped away, Rabia found herself bound by purdah, unable to freely interact with men outside her family. Fateh, too, shouldered new responsibilities. His mother, keen to see him married, sought to arrange a union with her niece, Nazneen. However, the King, harbouring reservations about Rabia's father, opposed the match, unwilling to see Rabia become Fateh's bride.

As Karmaye Khan grew into a young man, he found himself enchanted by Rabia's grace. Yet, lacking the courage to confess his feelings, he turned to devious schemes to drive a wedge between Rabia and Fateh.

When Fateh's cousin Nazneen arrived as a guest, Fateh's attention remained firmly fixed on Rabia, leaving Nazneen feeling neglected. One day, Karmaye cunningly lured Fateh for a walk where Nazneen awaited, innocently playing with flowers. "Salam," she greeted, trying to catch Fateh's eye. But when Fateh turned away, Nazneen let out a small cry, pretending to have pricked herself.

Ever the gentleman, Fateh rushed to her aid, his concern evident as he helped her settle by the hearth. Seizing his chance, Karmaye slipped away to sow seeds of doubt in Rabia's mind, poisoning her thoughts with whispers of Fateh's supposed infidelity. From the balcony, Rabia witnessed Fateh tending to Nazneen and felt a sharp pang in her heart, as if a knife had pierced her very soul. Later, when Fateh went to see Rabia, she flatly refused to see him, her heart still wounded.

Fateh Khan stood bewildered, while Karmaye Khan seized the opportunity to sow further discord. "She's gone mad, my brother, mark my words. Who does she think she is? Your constant praise has filled her head with nonsense. She believes herself to be above us all."

Confused by Rabia's sudden rejection, Fateh fell prey to Karmaye's cunning words. Meanwhile, Rabia's love for Fateh turned into bitter resentment as Karmaye's schemes took hold. Karmaye Khan's manipulations continued to bear fruit. He even convinced the king that Fateh no longer loved Rabia. Thus, the king announced Nazneen and Fateh Khan's betrothal. Sneakily, Karmaye approached Vizier Shah with a made-up tall tale of the romance between Nazneen and Fateh. Though deeply offended, the Vizier saw an opportunity to salvage his honor through Karmaye's connivance.

Karmaye's cunning persisted as he persuaded the king of Fateh's imagined betrayal, leading to the announcement of Fateh and Nazneen's impending marriage. Eager to claim Rabia for himself, Karmaye wasted no time in pushing for their union, despite Rabia's enduring melancholy.

Fateh, realizing his swift descent into chaos, refused to marry Nazneen. Meanwhile, Rabia's sorrow spilt forth in haunting melodies played on her rabab, echoing her heartache. Fateh, consumed by thoughts of Rabia, couldn't entertain the notion of anyone else. As both Fateh and Rabia suffered, Karmaye's schemes threatened to forever tear them apart.

Rabia sent her handmaiden to Fateh with a message: "Is your honor dead? Why are you allowing someone else to touch your Rabia? If your sense of honor is gone, I am still powerful. If anyone else even thinks of laying a finger on me, I will plunge my dagger into my throat. I am a Pakhtun woman, and our lives are lived with dignity, even in dearth."

These words ignited a fire within Fateh. He instructed the handmaiden, "Tell Rabia to meet me at the back door of her palace when the cuckoo calls at dawn."

Fateh's heart stirred with emotion as he saw Rabia waiting at the door. With a few trusted friends by his side, he swiftly whisked Rabia away, leaving Karmaye Khan alone to stew in his schemes. Karmaye's incessant instigations fueled the king's ire, already ruffled by his son's flight. Ordering his army to retrieve the prince, the king's forces, including Karmaye Khan, set out in pursuit.

As Fateh and his companions heard the approaching horse hooves, they braced themselves for arrest, preparing to fight back. Yet, to their surprise, the king's soldiers were sent not to capture them, but to guide them safely home and persuade them to reconcile with their families. The conflict halted as both sides camped together, preparing for the journey home.

However, Karmaye Khan, desperate to prevent Fateh from returning home and losing Rabia, unleashed chaos upon the village. Setting the horses free and slaying a guard, he incited uproar among the villagers, who rallied against Fateh and his friends. Seizing the opportunity, Karmaye Khan seized Rabia and attempted to flee, only to be met by Fateh's decisive blow, ending his treachery.

As Fateh looked back, he saw the village engulfed in fierce fighting, with most of the soldiers caught unawares. Realizing the imminent danger to his life, Fateh knew he had to act swiftly to survive.

Rabia gazed into Fateh Khan's eyes, her voice trembling with desperation. "I cannot bear to live without you. Take me with you," she pleaded. Fateh Khan tenderly embraced her, pressing a kiss to her forehead as he declared, "I desire no one but you. Ever. I will be with you soon." With a swift motion, his sword parted Rabia's throat like water.

As Fateh joined the fray, his bravery and sacrifice echoed through the battlefield. He soon followed Rabia…their fates sealed as one. When news of the tragedy reached the king, he collapsed from his throne, falling face-first on the floor. His heart was shattered beyond repair. As he was lifted by his people, it was evident that his soul had departed from this world along with his beloved son.

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