Neil’s Reincarnation- Ageless Love
Part two: Amber’s Reincarnation
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Neil, the famous mad sculptor was an obsessed man. Ever since he could recall, every night when he slept, he felt he was drowning desperately trying to breathe and save his love and himself from a watery grave. He would get up, wet and shivering and his hands would itch to etch that beloved face. Gradually he started sculpting that face and form that haunted and lived with him night and day. He only drew, painted and sculpted that one particular face on every surface, material that he could lay his hands on!! His family would collect his finished pieces and after his permission would sell them at a local gallery where his work was in great demand. Thus his family and he survived on this dream love of his. Valentine’s day was in two weeks’ time and he had been commissioned by his teacher who was also his guide and master to sculpt a piece that could be entered in the national competition as its prize money was half a million plus a trip to USA for entry into international art competition. He was very keen to sculpt something unique and was looking for inspiration…
Sohni was the daughter of a potter named Tula, who lived in a Gujrat town in the Punjab near the banks of the Chenab on the caravan trade route between Bukhara and Delhi during late Mughal period.
As soon as the ‘Surahis’ (water pitchers) and mugs came off the wheels, Sohni etched floral designs transforming them into masterpieces of art.
Izzat Baig, the rich trader from Bukhara (Uzbekistan), came to India on business but when he saw the beautiful Sohni in the town of Gujrat on the Chenab in Punjab, he was completely enchanted. Instead of keeping ‘mohars’ (gold coins) in his pockets, he roamed around with his pockets full of love. Just to get a glimpse of Sohni, he would end up buying the water pitchers and mugs everyday.
Sohni lost her heart to Izzat Baig. Instead of making floral designs on earthenware, she started building castles of love in her dreams. Izzat Baig sent off his companions to Bukhara. He took up the job of a servant in the house of Tula, Sohni’s father. He would even take their buffaloes for grazing. Soon, he came to be known as “Mahiwal”(buffalo herder). That name stayed with him for the rest of his life — and thereafter.
When the people started spreading rumors about the love of Sohni and Mahiwal, without her consent her parents arranged her marriage with another potter.
Suddenly, one day his “barat” (marriage party) arrived at the threshold of her house. Sohni was helpless and in a poignant state. Her parents bundled her off in the doli (palanquin), but they could not pack off her love in any doli (box).
Izzat Baig renounced the world and started living like a “fakir” (hermit) in a small hut across the river. The earth of Sohni’s land was like a dargah (shrine) for him. He had forgotten his own land, his own people and his world. Taking advantage of the darkness of the night, when the world was fast asleep, Sohni would come by the riverside and Izzat Baig would swim across the river to meet her. He would regularly roast a fish and bring it for her. It is said that once, when due to high tide he could not catch a fish, Mahiwal cut a piece of his thigh and roasted it. Seeing the bandage on his thigh, Sohni opened it, saw the wound and cried.
From the next day, Sohni started swimming across the river with the help of an earthen pitcher as Izzat Baig was so badly wounded and could not swim across the river. Soon, the rumours of their romantic rendezvous spread. One-day Sohni’s sister-in-law followed her and saw the hiding place where Sohni used to keep her earthen pitcher among the bushes. Next day, the sister-in-law removed the hard baked pitcher replacing it with an unbaked one. That night, when Sohni tried to cross the river with the help of the pitcher, She discovered, to her horror, that the pitcher had begun to dissolve and disintegrate.
What shall she do now? Different thoughts rushed through Sohni’s mind. Abandon the trip? Or continue trying to swim without the help of a pitcher — and drown? Her inner struggle at this point is expressed
translated into a song as follows:
Sohni (addressing the pitcher):
It’s dark and the river is in flood
There is water all around me
How am I going to meet Mahiwal?
If I keep going, I will surely drown
And if I turn back
I would be going back on my promise
And letting Mahiwal down
I beg you (O pitcher!), with folded hands,
Help me meet my Mahiwal
You always did it, please do it tonight, too
(The pitcher replies):
I wish I, too, were baked in the fire of love, like you are
But I am not. I apologize; I cannot help
Hearing Sohni’s cries, Mahiwal, from the other side, jumped into the river to save her. He barely managed to reach her. As the story goes, their bodies were washed ashore, and were found the next day, lying next to each other. With their death, Sohni and Mahiwal entered into the world of legends and lore. And, in their death the sinners became saints.
The Tomb Of Sohni In Shahdapur City Sindh, which is 75 km from Hyderabad, Pakistan. According to the legend the bodies of Sohni Mahiwal were recovered from river Indus near Shahdapur and hence are buried there.
The border between India and Pakistan had been opened and many Indians were allowed to visit historical places and also the old homes of their ancestors. Neil’s family hailed from Uzbekistan and a few members had settled in Sindh, Pakistan. Eagerly he boarded the ship for Karachi, Sindh. After sightseeing to his heart’s content the cab- driver suggested that as the tomb of the famous lovers Sohni- Mahiwal was very near- would he like to see it and Neil agreed and he had time to spare before his family returned from another place. The minute Neil entered the tomb, he felt very much at home and his agonized spirit was at once at peace. He had arrived at his destiny. He felt he was very close to his beloved. Then he saw the numerous paintings on the wall of Sohni and Mahiwal and it was like déjà vu- Mahiwal looked just like him and the face and figure he had been drawing all his life was Sohni!!!. At once he felt that itching in his fingers and he needed to carve something quickly. He cut short his trip and they returned home. Neil shut himself up in his studio and emerged after three days drained but elated. This was his best work yet. He had sculpted the figures of Sohni and Mahiwal in the throes of love, embracing one another and the two faces showed the ecstasy and peace of union of two loving souls and kindred spirits. The sculpture was mesmerizing as though crafted by cupid himself!!
He won both national and international prizes. The dreams stopped too.
All pictures and Sohni- Mahiwal info from internet- not mine