Love, they say, has lost its sanctity. In the age of Tinder, where finding love is just a matter of a few swipes, the emotion seems to have lost its worth. Like someone? Swipe right. Don't like someone? Swipe left. Don't like the person you liked earlier? Start swiping again. It's as simple as that and it's as messed up as that which is precisely why modern love stories have lost their charm.
But deep down, we pine for a love story that shakes us to the core. And for that, we need to look no further than the folk tales of Punjab. They have some iconic love stories from the ages and the last of the lot is the heartbreaking story of Mirza-Sahiba...
Mirza and Sahiba grew up together in a small town, Khewa in erstwhile Punjab, now Pakistan. Mirza was the son of Fateh Bibi while Sahiba was the daughter of Khewa Khan. Mirza's parents had sent him to a nearby village for his education and that is how he came to live at Sahiba's house.
Everyone in Sahiba's family - except her father - was against him staying there. They were not comfortable with a stranger living in their midst. While the rest of the family was hostile towards Mirza, Sahiba was indifferent. She wasn't rude towards Mirza, nor was she friendly. They were classmates and soon became friends.
As they grew up, Mirza became a valiant archer, the likes of whom had never been seen before. Stories of his unfailing aim spread far and wide, and everyone came to accept him as the mightiest warrior around. Sahiba, on the other hand, turned into a beautiful young maiden. Such was her beauty, that men around couldn't take their eyes off her.
One fine day, when Mirza saw Sahiba buying vegetables from a local vendor, he was blown away by her beauty and fell madly in love. It was as though the entire world around him had ceased to exist. All he could see was her!
Soon, they fell in love. And the two of them were lost in their own world. Nothing else seemed to matter to them anymore. But as is the case with such love stories, this didn't last long. There was a twist in the tale!
Sahiba's father and brothers found out about the two and they were furious. They were distraught with her for keeping them in the dark. They were upset with Mirza too, for whom they had opened their home. They sent him back to his village because they felt cheated.
The problem lay in the fact that as far as the families were concerned, Mirza and Sahiba were cousins. This was because Mirza's mother and Sahiba's father had been nursed by the same woman. Hence, they were 'milk siblings' and by that logic, Mirza and Sahiba could not be together.
This broke Sahiba's heart and she wept inconsolably. But her family was unperturbed. They immediately planned her wedding with Tahir Khan. Sahiba resisted but no one would listen to her. The moment Mirza found out about this, he got on his horse, Bakki and he rode to Sahiba's village.
Dressed in a bright red joda, Sahiba looked like a dream. Her hands were covered in mehendi and Mirza was mesmerized by her beauty all over again. It was as though he was seeing her for the first time. And the moment Sahiba saw Mirza, she came running towards him. Then, they eloped.
Meanwhile, Sahiba's brothers realized that she was missing and they were filled with rage. They swore to kill Mirza and rode out looking for the couple.
Eventually, after riding for hours, Mirza got tired. He decided to take a nap under a tree even though Sahiba begged him to keep riding until they were far enough.
But being the mightiest archer around, Mirza was arrogant. He knew that no one could touch him as he would see them all off. He refused to listen to Sahiba and went off to sleep.
But Sahiba was worried. She knew that if her brothers arrived and attacked Mirza, he would kill them. So she took his arrows out of the quiver one by one and broke them all in half. She knew that she could plead to her brothers to spare him as she believed that they wouldn't hurt the man who was the love of her life.
Unfortunately for Sahiba, that's not how things panned out.
The moment her brothers caught sight of Mirza, they shot an arrow that pierced his throat. Waking up from his slumber, Mirza reached out for his bow and arrow, only to find them broken. He felt deceived. His eyes begged for an answer from Sahiba as another arrow came flying in Mirza's direction and pierced him in his stomach. Sahiba was speechless at the turn of events!
Aghast at what had happened, she jumped on to Mirza's dead body, letting the arrow pierce her as well. As the brothers closed in on them, both Mirza and Sahiba died a silent death.
The tale of Mirza-Sahiba is often regarded as the last love story known from Punjab. The reason for this is that Mirza's true love was betrayed by Sahiba, who broke his arrows.
In every other folk romance from Punjab - Heer-Ranjha, Laila-Majnu - the girl's name comes first. But since Sahiba betrayed Mirza, his name precedes her name.
The story was first penned by Shayer Pillo, but has since become the inspiration for many other poets and song writers.
All the kickass illustrations by Aakansha Pushp