Just as all festivities of a fisherfolk life are connected to the river, their dreams and nightmares are riverine too.
“For several days I’ve been noticing something different in the river’s flow pattern-familiar calculation just don’t seem to hold. The current where we knew it to be slanted is now straight, where we knew it to be straight is now slanted. There is no fish. The fish leaped a little away from where I laid the net, where I expected the flow. Finally, I went near the mouth of the Kurulia Canal. Found the current there turning like a top. I couldn’t sleep and all of a sudden I had this dream, Titash has gone dry.”
take on the mighty river.” (Seeking the Beloved, translations of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s Poems)
In the inky, starless night, beautiful Sohni plunged into the flooded River Chenab to meet her beloved Mehwal, knowing well that she will never make it to the other side. Sohni is one of the seven heroines brought to life by Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a remarkable 18th Century Sufi poet, mystic and reformist living on the banks of Indus. Sohni was the wife of a potter, in love with Mahiwal, a cattle herder from the banks of the Chenab. Like all poignant love stories, Sohni-Mahiwal’s tale was short-lived, but 300 years later, the legend of Sohni flows through the Chenab and lives on in the songs of peasants. In Punjab, the land of five rivers, they sing of Sohni, of the roaring, helpless river and of mad, wilful love. The narrative is so unwrinkled and dewy that till this day, silent figures sweep the modest tombs of Sohni and Mahiwal, hoping that their love will meet a better fate. Like Sur Sohni (Sohni’s poem) from Shah jo Risalo (Poetry of the Shah) prophecised:
Everything about this song: its words, its music, its picturisation and Sachin Deo (SD) Burman’s evocative voice mesmerizes me (I’m one of many others, I’m sure). I loved this song’s connect with rivers and used to repeat it over and over, till my (visibly exasperated) husband told me, “But did you not know? Rivers have influenced SD’s music a lot. He has talked about his lone ramblings on the Gumti in Tripura, listening to folk music based on rivers many times”. I did not know that.Continue reading “Bhatiyali: The Eternal Song of the River”→