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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Shahdad and Mehnaz

Updated: Nov 9, 2022



Mir Chakar is one of the most famed Baloch Tribal Chieftains. It so happened that his son, Shahdad, was married to his cousin, Mehnaz. Shahdad and Mehnaz loved and adored each other. However, his first wife, Shari, resented the attachment between them. She hated Mehnaz for being the favourite wife, and she could not stand living a half-loved life. Jealousy often got the better of her, and she was constantly vying for an opportunity to belittle Mehnaz in front of Shahdad.

One day, she hatched a plot to ruin their marriage. She disguised herself as a man, Umar, and entered Mehnaz's private chambers. The footprints of a man's shoes in the mud around Mehnaz's water closet had the exact effect she intended them to have - Shahdad was distraught and no longer had faith in Mehnaz. Shari instigated him further, convincing him of Mehnaz's infidelity.

Shahdad flew into a rage. Mehnaz pleaded, but Shahdad was relentless. He resorted to violence, beating her black and blue and dragging her by her hair. She, however, remained steadfast in her resolve. Heartbroken to see her cries go unnoticed by Shahdad, she sent word to her father and brother.

Although her father was willing to take her back, she decided otherwise. In the presence of witnesses, she announced that she would take the test to prove her honesty and to restore her dignity and her family's honour, which had now been smeared due to allegations of disloyalty and unchastity - it was that, or death.

And so it happened, that a fire was started, and a pot of oil was placed upon it. As was customary, when the oil began to simmer, a ring was thrown into it. If Mehnaz found the ring and extracted it from the pot of hot oil with her skin unscathed, she would be proven innocent. Should she be hurt, she would be deemed guilty.

Mehnaz plunged her hand into the pot, found the ring, and pulled it out. She slipped the ring onto her finger, making a show out of it, flaunting her unburnt hand.

Relief and glee washed over Shahdad, and he rushed to hug her. Mehnaz turned him down, and although he apologised, she refused to accept his pleas and told him that she has now lost the faith and confidence she had in his love for her.

Mehnaz pushed for Shahdad to divorce her and went back home with her father. As her wounds healed, she wished to teach Shahdad a lesson he would never forget. He deserved to know what being humiliated with association to someone's name feels like. She asked Umar to marry her, and he agreed. Mehnaz and Umar lived happily ever after, whilst Shahdad began to lose his health, and, later his sanity in grief for the woman he loved and the blow which had been dealt to his ego.

 

Commentary: In the Omani variation of the tale, Shahdad is not Mahnaz's cousin. He sees her by a stream when he is out hunting, and falls in love with her at first sight. The dowry Mahnaz brought with her is also mentioned, "including an orchard with a thousand palm trees in Sibi, thirty flocks of sheep and thirty servants weighing thirty stones." Omar and Mehnaz's shoes are thrown into the water, and Shari's servants walk around with the same wet shoes to the door of the room where Mahnaz and Omer are asleep. Mehnaz is slandered, with the servant and the shoemaker as witnesses. Shahdad whips Mehnaz and divorces her. The test Mehnaz takes is to walk over a bed of hot coals thrice, barefoot.

In another tale variation, Mehnaz is an Afghan girl whom Shahdad falls in love with.

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