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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Tordilai o Shehi

During the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar, the Yousafzai and Menandar tribes, situated west of the Indus River, were engaged in a fierce feud marked by longstanding animosity. Tordilai and Munawwar, cousins within the Yousafzai clan, initially shared an extraordinary bond akin to brothers, setting an example of unity within the tribe. However, after their parents' demise, disputes over family land led to a bitter rivalry between them, overshadowing their former camaraderie.

Tordilai, known for his love of hunting and adventure, often roamed the forests and mountains with his friends, seeking game. On one occasion, disregarding warnings about trespassing onto Menandar territory, he ventured into their grazing grounds, sparking immediate tension between the two clans. As news of the trespass spread, the Menandar's swiftly armed themselves, ready for a clash.

In the midst of the fierce battle between the Yousafzais and the Menandars, Tordilai finds himself severely injured and desperately thirsty. As he wonders who he can ask for water amidst enemies thirsting for his blood, a beautiful maiden passes by with a flask. Despite his weakness, Tordilai's gaze is captivated by her, causing him to drop the flask in awe. The maiden, recognizing him as a Yousafzai, offers him water, noting the importance of strength in battle and accusing him of cowardice. Tordilai, however, asserts his bravery and love for his clan, despite being momentarily taken by the maiden's presence.

In a rather sarcastic exchange, the maiden urges Tordilai to focus on the reality of the battlefield rather than romantic notions. After learning the maiden's name, Shehi, Tordilai discovers she is the daughter of the Menandar chieftain.

Following the battle, a jirga is convened to address the conflict, and Munawwar manipulates the elders to blame Tordilai for the losses, resulting in his exile from the village. Tordilai's popularity among the youth leads many to accompany him into the wilderness, where they begin living in the forests and mountains.

Feeling deeply wounded by the unjust verdict of the jirga and discovering Munawwar's betrayal, Tordilai embraces a life of banditry and revenge. He becomes notorious for raiding, robbing, and killing without remorse, driven by a desire for vengeance against those who wronged him. As Tordilai's reputation grows, even Munawwar fears his wrath, haunted by the looming threat of Tordilai's vengeance.

Despite his love for Shehi, Tordilai is unwilling to resort to violence or abduction to wed her, knowing he lacks the strength for such actions. Instead, he visits Shehi's father, Mustajab Khan, to seek help, presenting himself as Tordiali. Initially hostile, Mustajab Khan listens to Tordilai's plea for assistance, learning of his unjust expulsion and subsequent hardships at the hands of Munawwar.

Moved by Tordilai's plight and recognizing his courage, Mustajab Khan agrees to help, albeit with reservations due to tribal enmity and honor codes. After contemplation, Mustajab Khan decides to adopt Tordilai as his own son and offers him a path to redemption, on the condition that Tordilai forsakes his criminal activities. In return, Mustajab Khan promises Tordilai the hand of his daughter, Shehi, cementing their newfound kinship and welcoming Tordilai into the Menandar family.

Tordilai, filled with gratitude and hope, begs Mustajab Khan for forgiveness and promises to abandon his criminal ways, envisioning a bright future with Shehi. However, Munawwar, fearing Tordilai's newfound alliance with the Menandars, plots to eliminate him. In a moment of peril, Mustajab Khan intervenes, saving Tordilai from Munawwar's attack and cementing his support for Tordilai's marriage to Shehi.

Meanwhile, Shehi grapples with conflicting emotions towards Tordilai. Despite her deep love for him, she struggles with the societal stigma associated with marrying a former bandit and a member of the rival Yousafzai clan. Despite her mother's admonishments and societal pressures, Shehi wrestles with her conscience, ultimately expressing her reluctance to marry Tordilai, prompting her mother to defend Tordilai's character and emphasize the importance of familial bonds over tribal animosity.

Overhearing Shehi's doubts about his past and her playful banter, Tordilai reassures her of his transformation and undying love. Mustajab Khan enters with news of Munawwar's departure, clearing the path for Tordilai and Shehi's marriage. As preparations begin for the wedding, the village erupts in joyous celebration. Amidst the festivities, Shehi teases Tordilai about bringing her a Sat-Lara Haar, a legendary necklace, igniting Tordilai's determination to fulfill her wish and prove his worthiness as her husband.

Shehi's world crumbles when Tordilai is arrested and sentenced to death for attempting to steal from the royal palace. She struggles with guilt and despair, haunted by nightmares and consumed by thoughts of her beloved. The news devastates Mustajab Khan, who falls ill from the shock, while Shehi's mother tries to comfort her daughter, assuring her of Tordilai's bravery. Meanwhile, a friend of Mustajab Khan, Bhagwaan Daas, delivers the tragic news of Tordilai's arrest, plunging the household into chaos. Shehi faints upon hearing the news, prompting urgent concern from those around her.

Bhagwaan Daas vows to rescue Tordilai and consoles Shehi, promising to bring him back safely. Despite objections from Shehi's parents, she insists on accompanying Bhagwaan Daas to plead for Tordilai's life. The next day, they set out for Attock Fort to appeal to the King. Upon arrival, they discover Tordilai's grim fate: to be buried alive and torn apart by the Emperor's hounds. Shehi's resolve is tested, but Bhagwaan Daas reminds her of her lineage and urges her to remain courageous in the face of adversity.

Despite Bhagwaan Daas's desperate plea, the keeper of the hounds initially refused to help spare Tordilai's life. However, after receiving some gold bangles as a bribe from Bhagwaan Daas, the keeper relented. The hounds leapt towards Tordilai but refused to attack him, the next day on the scene of the execution. When the Emperor ordered Tordilai to be trampled by elephants. He was cold to Bhagwaan Daas, so his daughter-in-law Lata, who was friends with the keeper's daughters, intervened.

As the crowd gathered again, expecting Tordilai's demise under the elephant's feet, they were astonished to see him unscathed. Rumours spread that Tordilai possessed magical powers. Enraged by this defiance, the Emperor demanded Tordilai's immediate presence. When Tordilai stood before the Emperor, Akbar questioned him and vowed to execute him for his audacity. However, Shehi, Bhagwaan Daas, and Lata cried out for mercy, prompting the Emperor to summon them to plead Tordilai's case.

Despite Bhagwaan Daas's fervent pleas, Emperor Akbar initially refused to spare Tordilai's life for trespassing into the royal harem. However, Shehi implored Munawwar, her brother and Tordilai's friend, to intervene. Munawwar, recognizing his tribal duty to protect his guest, defied the Emperor's orders and begged for Tordilai's pardon, offering his own life in exchange. Eventually, the Emperor relented, ordering Tordilai's release and granting Shehi the coveted Sat-Lara Haar.

Overwhelmed with gratitude, Tordilai and Shehi expressed their heartfelt thanks to Munawwar, who reconciled with them, accepting them as family. Bhagwaan Daas and Lata bid farewell to the couple, setting sail on the Indus River and embarking on a journey fraught with peril.

As Tordilai sought water for Shehi in a nomad encampment, he was tragically mistaken for a bandit and mortally wounded in a misunderstanding. Shehi, discovering Tordilai's lifeless body, succumbed to her grief, embracing her beloved in death. The nomads, realizing their grave mistake, mourned the loss of the innocent couple, whose tragic end brought together the Menander and Yousafzai tribes in shared sorrow. Just then, Akbar's soldiers pass by, carrying a funeral. When they learn that Tordilai and Shehi have died, they take their bodies along. United in grief, the Yousafzai's and the Menandar's lay the three martyrs of love and sacrifice together.

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