“Time Flies” she said as she looked at the ruins of an abandoned fort that had many sweet memories associated with it.
Sukhpreet had seen a lot in life at an early age. She had come back to her village after 10 years of endless struggle in a foreign country
In these ruins lied an untold and unfinished love story. The agony and pain reflected on her face as she opened the Pandora box of her eventful memories.
On the banks of Sutlej river , atop the roof of an abandoned fort ,ad-mist the melodious sound of iktara ,a stentorian voice enthralled every passer-by. This was a teenage folk singer who had made the abandoned fort into his music workshop where he created fantabolous music with his two best friends
His name was Gurnaam and he sang about unrequited love. In Punjab the two most famous sad love stories are Heer Ranjhaa and Mirza Sahiba
Most musicians recreate the old folk songs in their own style as the melody and rhythm of these old folk songs and love stories is spellbinding
Gurnaam and his friends spent their entire day creating music , writing lyrics and singing their songs. These boys were sought for whenever anything was needed anywhere They were the most selflessly helpful boys in the entire village.
They completed any task assigned to them within minutes and all they asked for in return was to listen to their new compilations and requested the villagers to provide them a platform to showcase their musical talent.
Sukhpreet was fascinated by Gurnaam ever since she realized he existed. As a child she used stand on her terrace and wonder , How this boy could hit the Tyre with his stick and run alongside it at the same speed. She always fumbled and fell when tried it at home
Usually girls were not allowed to venture out. But sukhpreet and her best friend Tanvi had found a way .. They used to secretly jump from their roof onto the roof of the abandoned temple and cross over slowly through the roof to the abandoned fort.
They used to hide behind the bushes and see these boys sing, dance and perform. His voice echoed through the fort. His words loud and crisp. The poetry in the song made her heart skip a beat. She had been madly in love with this young singer and she could not remember since when.
Tanvi laughed her heart out and made fun of her. Gurnaam had grown into a very handsome man. His voice and impeccable singing talent was now not only the reason for girls to fall for him. He had an amazing charm ,his surma clad eyes and a gorgeous dimpled smile that made him the young heartthrob of the village, To add his qualities he had a heart of gold. he unconditionally helped everyone in the village.
Hiding behind the bushes ,as the two girls were giggling. Gurnaam suddenly appeared and stood in front. An eyebrow raised and with a frown he stared at both the girls Tanvi suddenly uttered ” She drags me here everyday, She loves listening to your songs”
Gurnaam’s frown suddenly turned into a goofy smile. He loved being complimented for his music. His friends cleaned a charpai and made the two girls have a comfortable seat. Another friend served them lassi while gurnaam cleared his throat and tried to catch the que on his iktara. He sang a terrific romantic number, the lyrics were flawless. the poetry was like a flowing river. the music comprehended with the mood of song. Listening to him live was indeed an enchanting experience.
The Two girls were fascinated. As the mood of the song enhanced. the rythm improvised. the boys started dancing and broke into an impromptu bhangra Tanvi also shed her inhibitions and started dancing with them , this made sukhpreet burst into laughter ,but something sent a shiver down her spine. Gurnaam had been looking at her, his eyes completely focused on her as if he was trying to look at her as long as he could and soon as their eyes met, he sang a long unbroken trance of aalap , the vibrations in his voice were extremely attractive. That beautiful song had en-carved his name permanently on her heart
It was just after dawn , she stood at her roof and stretched her arms. The distinctive chirping of birds which was beautifully pleasant as the sun slowly covered the earth with its light. The sound of the continuous bicycle bell broke her trance and made her see down. The Usual teenage boy who distributed newspapers in her locality as his morning job was accompanied on the backseat by Gurnaam. As the newspaper boy aimed at her roof and threw the newspaper, gurnaam aimed at her and threw a crumpled piece of paper. As she opened it, his dimpled smile made her realize before reading anything that this was her first love letter
A rude deep toned voice suddenly echoed in the quiet morning “Sukhpreet , Are you going to serve us tea today, or should we order it from the nearby teastall” She panicked and hid the crumpled letter in her duppata and tied it around her waist .Her face had turned red in anticipation and nervousness of reading what was written inside but every time she tried to read it, one of her family members either showed up or called out her name.
After running around and completing all her daily chores. She met Tanvi in the evening and they jumped from their roof onto the adjacent roof of the abandoned temple. They hid there and she slowly opened the letter.it read ” Will you come to meet me alone near the lake tomorrow, i need to tell you something really important ” It brought a smile on her face and she blushed. She hugged tanvi and said ” I guess my dream is going to come true. i am surely going to have a beautiful love story”
As she was getting ready to go towards the lake, She looked at the mirror and covered her face with her duppata. .She hummed the same melody he had sung as she slowly looked at herself through his eyes. She was a stunning beauty with flawless skin and beautiful eyes.. She Rehearsed what she would say to him, once he proposes ” I have been fascinated by our singing ever since i heard you for the first time. Your songs make me feel so connected to you. All the lyrics appear so real. Every song you sing, it makes me feel that you are singing for me. Every word makes sense. it makes me blush. it makes me fall deeper in love”. She had to confess to him. They had a strong connection. His soulful music instantly made her feel so awesome. She wanted to spend the entire life listening to his voice and looking at his handsome innocent face.
The Husky voice of her father broke her trance. His name was Dilawar Singh. He had been an police officer and the entire village had tremendous respect for him. “Sukhpreet” He called out again. As she walked out of her room, she was shocked.
An unknown family of three people were seated on the sofa and her mother handed her the expensive tea set which had been kept hidden for a special occasion. As she ventured out to serve the tea to the unrecognizable guests. She somehow sensed that it may be something terribly heart breaking for her
As her eyes surveyed the faces of the strangers she saw a
1)A Moustached man of her fathers age,
2)An Extremely Overweight Aunty,
3) A Shy and Dark Young man and
4) a finally recognizable face of the Village Panchayat Sarpanch.
The Moustached man asked her a few questions about her studies, academics and future plans and then they looked at the shy dark skinned boy who smiled and felt more shy .
The Moustached man then announced ” We Like the Girl… The Engagement Ceremony will be held tomorrow and the marriage will take place six months later “
Tears flew down her cheeks as her father embraced the moustached man. All her dreams were shattered in a few minutes where her elders had made a decision without even informing or asking her.
Girls in Rural india do not have a choice when it comes to choosing a life partner. She walked back slowly to her room her tears had no respite. They were shamelessly continuing to show up, even when she tried to wipe them off desperately
Meanwhile Gurnaam waited endlessly at the lake and kept throwing pebbles in frustration .
Next Morning he climbed up to her roof with great difficulty. As soon she entered the roof , he held her arm. She gave him a crumpled piece of paper in his hand and asked him to leave before he gets caught and beaten by the team of pehalwans
The Note read ” They fixed my marriage. i am getting engaged today. I do not want to be Heer , i want to be Sahiba. Ranjha just turned insane and kept being pelted with stones.. Mirza rode on a horse and took his sahiba away. I will stand by you and we will fight the world”
He could have done what she wanted. But he chose not to. He was a small time folk singer. he hardly earned enough to make ends meet. She was the daughter of a rich police officer who was being married to an NRI from London.
“What could we possibly achieve by eloping . The Panchayat would interfere and have us killed or Dilawar singh would have us killed. Honour killings are very common and these people place their honour above and beyond their children ” he answered Tanvi when she came to ask him his plan of action.
Nevertheless he decided to enter the engagement ceremony with his friends. They disguised themselves as caterers and started serving food and drinks to the guests that had arrived
Seated as the centre of attraction, wearing a beautiful pink dress. She sang a folk song in her beautiful voice.
“Do not call me Heer, I want to be Sahiba
So that he comes on a horse and takes me away
Mirza comes on a horse and takes me away “
were the words she sang
He had heard her voice for the first time. She had a flawless voice and he felt extremely helpless about the situation,
She was expecting him to do something, take her away somehow.
Teary eyed she acknowledged the claps from the audience. Her groom to be then exchanged rings with her and the ceremony went off perfectly without any disruptions
That night he climbed on the roof again,Her eyes were searching for the passion in his eyes. She wanted many answers from him and he said ” I stand nowhere. I am poor folk singer , My Father is a cobbler who mends shoes for a living”
” I need time to make myself something and prove a point. Your father will not place his daughters hands into the hands of a folk singer who does not have any future ahead of him”
She said ” Six months is all you have. You need to become something and come and stop this marriage.. Otherwise let us elope today” I can never fall in love with anyone else”
He assured her ” I will become something and come back soon”
“So Did Gurnaam Never return” Tanvi asked
“He had come back” Sukhpreet Said
“He looked smart as a policeman, i was the first person he met dressed in his uniform.” We sat near the lake, the fierce training, the arms and ammunition had changed the soft hearted, sweet and charming folk singer into a tough ,quiet guy but she still sang with the same flair” The tone was different, the melody was no more romantic . The song he sang was patriotic”
With just a few days left for Sukhpreet’s wedding. Her holding hands with another man sitting near the lake was considered an outrageous sin. The news spread like wild fire and within a few moments Dilawar singh stood there with his gun. His eyes were full of rage. She tried to play mediator. She had never spoke to her father before. She had never had the guts to look into his eyes. But she tried to explain to him that she loved this guy.
But they took her away forcefully. The last thing she saw was Dilawar pointing his gun towards Gurnaam and while being dragged away by her brothers she heard a gun shot.
She instantly fainted. When she woke up she was already in her wedding mandap in her red wedding dress , decorated with ornaments. She decided to go through the ordeal out of fear
Her ordeal lasted for ten long years where she was physically and mentally abused in London by her husband and in her in laws and finally she decided to end the nightmare by filing a police complaint of domestic violence and returning back to her country.
Today she stood there where she had dreamt of a beautiful love story with a boy who had transformed himself into a policeman from a folk singer she had fallen in love with
but she had lived all these years with the guilt of his death and she had held herself responsible for it.
She entered her house and she was greeted by her mother and a broken and shattered Dilawar singh who had lost all hopes of life. “I forgive you dad, i spent ten years in hell, just trying to save your reputation and your prestige”
“I did not kill him” he said. With tears in his eyes he looked at her and said ” I had fired my bullet on his leg”
“He could not become a policeman because of the disability he suffered due to my bullet”
but today he is a police informer and he runs a drugs rehabilitation center. He exposes rave parties and motivates youngsters to leave drugs. His songs are now dedicated to life. To look at life from positive perspectives. He is doing much more for the society than i did in my entire police career” You had made the right choice, but i was hell bent on getting you married to the guy of my choice”
He opened his palm and showed her a crumpled letter ,
It read ” i am still the same guy who had fallen in love with you ten years back, still waiting near the lake for you to come and meet me, i still have something very important to tell you”
Tanvi Said “ I feel that you are definitely going to have a beautiful love story”
As she ran towards the lake, it seemed the torment and misery of the last ten years had been wiped off in a moment and there he stood with his dimpled smile and surma clad eyes opening his arms to embrace her and all she wanted to do today was listen to his song and die in his arms.