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Musa Khan Gulmakai

In the cradle of the Kohistan mountains, where the flow of streams mirrors the life coursing through the veins of the mountain folk, of love, and of beauty, a legend unfolds in Speen Tareen.

Shah Mast Khan's only daughter, Gul Makai, attended Mullah Shamul Islam's madrassa. Her cousin Suhail, also her fiancé, was there too, but he never noticed her beauty, kindness, or the fact that she stood out amongst everyone else. Then one day, along came Musa Khan, the only son of Issa Khan Yousafzai, and the heir to the throne of Swabi, the new student in town. He was gentle, well-mannered and good-looking. Gul Makai fell in love with him at first sight, often finding herself staring, her finger between her teeth. Musa became everyone's favourite, and Gul Makai couldn't help but look at him more than her books.

One day as Musa Khan, Gul Makai, and Suhail were frisking about, playing by the stream, Gul Makai misstepped and tumbled into the water. Suhail, quick on his feet, rushed back to the village, shouting for help. But it was Musa who leaped into action, diving into the treacherous waters to rescue Gul Makai. When they emerged, dripping but safe, the entire village had gathered. Shah Mast, overcome with gratitude, hugged Musa tightly, expressing his heartfelt thanks for saving his daughter. With a twinkle in his eye, he remarked that it was nothing less than what one would expect from a Pakhtun prince.

However, Suhail, standing on the sidelines, couldn't hide his embarrassment and jealousy. The village celebrated Musa's heroism, and Shah Mast's words lingered in the air, casting a shadow over Suhail's pride, and he began to consider Musa Khan his rival.

With the weight of embarrassment hanging heavy in the mountain air, Suhail, desperate to reclaim his pride, claimed, "So many of us can swim, but a man of the mountains knows how to aim." he said. And he challenged Musa to prove himself with three stones and a slingshot, aiming for sparrow in flight. On the appointed day, a crowd gathered after the lessons, anticipating the face-off.

Suhail went first, and took aim thrice, each time, the sparrow fluttered away, soaring into the mountains. A hush fell over the onlookers. Gul Makai, her heart filled with a mixture of fear and hope, picked up a white pebble, kissed it tenderly, whispered Bismillah, blew it on the stone and handed it to Musa. As soon as Musa Khan took his shot, the crowd spotted a sparrow fallen on the ground. The children erupted in cheers and raised Musa Khan on their shoulders.

In the shadow of wounded pride, Suhail, seething with revenge, wove a web of deceit that reached the ears of his mother. With exaggerated words, he painted a picture of forbidden love between Gul Makai and Musa Khan. Suhail's mother, angry at the doings of her future daughter-in-law, rushed to share this concocted tale with Gul Makai's mother, who, in turn, delivered the unsettling news to Shah Mast.

Furious and betrayed, Shah Mast, unable to fathom the thought of his daughter entangled in a forbidden romance, made a swift decision. Gul Makai's journey to the school. The news cast a heavy pall over Musa Khan's world. The once vibrant halls of the madrassa now echoed with the somber notes of his solitude, as he found himself unable to muster the will to attend. Tears, silent companions to his despair, marked the passing hours.

Amidst the desolation, a spark of resilience flickered within Musa Khan. Determined to bridge the widening gap, he hatched a plan. Seeking Salaaro's help, Gul Makai's lady's maid, he penned a heartfelt letter, pouring his emotions in his words. Salaaro, the messenger of love, discreetly delivered the missive to Gul Makai.

In the quiet of her room, Gul Makai unfolded the letter, its words a balm to her wounded heart. Filled with expressions of love and longing, her response carried the weight of an undying connection. And so, in the midst of turmoil, clandestine correspondence continued, an anchor in the storm that whispered promises of a brighter tomorrow.

As fate would have it, the delicate veil shrouding Musa Khan and Gul Makai's secret correspondence destined to be lifted. One day, Musa, intending to deliver another heartfelt letter to Salaaro, inadvertently let it slip from his book. The letter found an unintended audience when it fell into the hands of Suhail on the path back from school.

Seizing the opportunity, Suhail, fueled by a concoction of jealousy and a desire to expose the perceived transgressions, hastened to Shah Mast Khan. Clutching the love-laden letter as if it were a weapon, he presented his long-awaited evidence. Shah Mast's anger, already ignited by the rumors, now burned even brighter.

Faced with what he deemed an intolerable situation, Shah Mast, goaded by Suhail's accusations, felt the need to take drastic action. Salaaro was quick to warn Musa to avoid the Madrassa, for Shah Mast Khan and Suhail intended to murder him there. He fled to Salaaro's village for refuge.

When Shah Mast did not find Musa at school, his rage knew no bounds, and another decision was made, albeit in a haze of rage. The dark shadow of a Shab-e-Khoon, a night of blood, loomed on the horizon for Musa Khan, and Salaaro's villagers.

In the stillness of the night, as Shah Mast Khan led his determined attack, he was met with an unexpected sight—Musa Khan standing resolute, flanked by a formidable army. The balance of power had shifted, and realization dawned on Shah Mast that victory was no longer assured.

In the face of impending defeat, Shah Mast, wise enough to see the changing tides, chose a path less steeped in bloodshed. A decision was made to pursue peace, the swords sheathed, and the drums of war silenced. Suhail found himself shackled, apprehended for the role he played in the escalating conflict. Musa Khan, fueled by the fire of anger, contemplated vengeance, but Suhail pleade for mercy, and Musa Khan spared him.

As Issa Khan and Shah Mast Khan reconciled, an air of uneasy calm descended upon the mountains. Yet, in the aftermath of the conflict, the love that had once blossomed between Musa Khan and Gul Makai remained entangled in the thorns of discord.

Many months later, Musa Khan's shepherd led the cattle toward Shah Mast's village, an unfortunate encounter unfolded when Suhail and his friends, recognising the man, attacked the hurder. Distraught, the shepherd returned, his bruises and grievances laid bare before Musa Khan. Fueled by righteous fury, Musa unsheathed his sword and confronted Suhail in the fields. A critical moment ensued as Suhail, facing the imminent threat of retribution, knelt before Musa, swearing he hadn't recognized the shepherd. This incident triggered contemplation among the elders as Shah Mast, consented to marry Gul Makai to Suhail as soon as possible after hearing the account.

The date of the Baraat was decided upon, and everyone was invited, including Musa of course. Amidst the festivities, where jubilation and merriment swirled like the scent of incense, a sinister plot unravelled. Whilst Shah Mast intended to kill Musa as the festivities reached their peak, unbeknownst to the celebrants, Musa Khan had his own plans.

He had apparently arrived alone but with a hidden cadre of loyal men in the fields awaiting his command. As the crowd smoked and cheered, the beat of the drums reached a crescendo. Musa Khan remained vigilant and left the hujra. He made his way towards the shadows behind Shah Mast Khan's house, poised for action.

Meanwhile, Gul Makai, caught in the turbulent currents of her fate, contemplated suicide, for she did not find live worth living. As she was wallowing in her misery, Salaaro came to her, and whispered words of solace. Something Salaaro said took away Gul Makai's despair and brought a twinkle to her eyes. As the festivities roared around them, the air thick with the swirl of celebration, Gul Makai and Salaaro joined Musa Khan in the clandestine meeting place. Gul Makai opened her mouth to say something to Salaaro but she hushed her and told her, "My dear, there is no time for talk. Hurry, you must leave quickly."

With the night echoing with laughter and rhythm, Musa Khan's horse, a creature of the shadows, seemed to converse with the wind. And then, in an unexpected twist, the drums fell silent with a single resounding shout: "Kidnap! The bride is missing!"

The air hung heavy with anticipation as chaos replaced revelry, and the village was plunged into a whirlwind of confusion and alarm. A relentless Suhail, noticing Musa Khan's absence, realised what had happened. Fueled by a storm of emotions, galloped after his bride and Musa Khan.

Musa's loyal horse, breathless and drenched in sweat, plunged forward into the inky blackness. The relentless pursuit came to an abrupt halt when the horse, navigating the treacherous terrain, collided with a rock, sending both Musa Khan and the majestic steed to the ground.

As Shah Mast and Suhail closed in, Musa Khan, undeterred by the odds stacked against him, helped Gul Makai hide in the sheltering embrace of a nearby tree. Alone but resolute, he fought valiantly, his sword dancing in the shadows as a desperate struggle ensued. In the throes of the battle, Musa Khan, tireless yet outnumbered, succumbed to the relentless onslaught just as Suhail poised to deliver the final blow.

Witnessing this, Gul Makai quickly seized a rock and hurled it at Suhail, causing his sword to slip from his grasp. She rushed to him, grabbed his sword, and with one blow, Suhail lay slain at Gul Makai's feet.

The chaosintensified as Musa Khan's hidden reinforcements arrived, The desperate clashes of steel went on as Gul Makai sat beside her fallen hero, nursing his wounds. The skirmish raged on, and Shah Mast and what was left of his men eventually retreated.

Gul Makai remained steadfast in prayer until Musa Khan was well again, and had performed his Ghusal-e-Sehat, after which they decided to have tea together. Gul Makai, happy and content, sat basking under the sun, like a blossom in spring. Musa Khan, with a spark in his eyes, approached the subject of marriage. Gul Makai laid down one single condition: her father will have to be convinced of the union. Musa Khan argued it was impossible, for Shah Mast Khan would never agree. However, without wavering, she simply told him that she will not find happiness without his blessings, and the guilt shall remain a thorn in her heart.

Bowing down to the wishes of his beloved, Musa Khan the journey to face Shah Mast Khan. He made his way to the Jirga, the Council of Elders, and addressed Shah Mast. "My life is yours, whether you choose to end it or embrace me as your son. This son of Issa Khan concedes defeat before you." he declared. And lay his head at the Khan's feet.

The tense silence that followed hung like the evening mist, until, compelled by the weight of the moment, Shah Mast Khan relented under the scrutiny and requests of his elders. He extended a hesitant hand, urging Musa Khan to rise, and in a dramatic embrace, the echoes of conflict melted into the embrace of acceptance.

Musa Khan departed, with the weight of uncertainty lifted from his shoulders. He was returning to the Hujra with Gul Makai by his side, when amidst the rustling leaves, Salaaro's mischievous voice called out, "Hello, wait! Where is my prize?"

Laughter rippled through the air as they indulged in Salaaro's playful banter. Gul Makai, her eyes twinkling with affection, embraced Salaaro and teasingly pinched her cheek, declaring, "This is your prize."

And so, against the backdrop of mountains that had witnessed their trials and triumphs, Musa Khan and Gul Makai lived happily ever after.


Source: Pathano ke Romaan, Translated into English by Team Folkloristan

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