By Sohail Abid
Na mar Qazi chhamkan, na de tati nuñ taa
نہ مار قاضی چھمکاں ، نہ دے تتی نوں تاء
Strike not, holy Qazi, beat not the wretched.
Peelu’s Mirza SahibaN is important for various reasons. It is a more realistic account of life in Punjab, with its treatment of love as a plainly secular phenomenon, not as something approaching the divine. 
The version of Peelu’s kissa that reached us is not complete. While reading it, one recognises the missing pieces, especially at the end where it does not give a description of what happens to SahibaN. The story Peelu narrates goes like this: SahibaN was born in the house of the chief of Kheiwa and Mirza at Danabad in the house of Wanjhal Khan, the chief of the Kharal tribe. The story takes a jump here and they are studying at a mosque. From the later narrations we know that Mirza was sent to Kheiwa to complete his preliminary religious education. They fell in love while studying together.
SahibaN parhdi pattian, Mirza parhe Quran
Mirza is sent back to his village. Why? Peelu doesn’t tell us. Maybe it was because he completed his studies or perhaps because their love had become public. The next thing we know is that SahibaN’s father betrothed her to a man from the Chadhar clan. SahibaN then sent Mirza a message, all ready to save her from the wedding she certainly doesn't want. But before Mirza could leave for Kheiwa, close members of his family entreat him to abandon his trip
Mirza ignores them all and leaves. Upon arriving in Kheiwa, he manages to meet SahibaN and they elope to Danabad, more than 100 miles away. They are followed by her brothers and their companions. Mirza is so confident about his abilities as an archer as well as the speed of his mare Bakki, that he plans to take a nap, despite SahibaN’s consistent warnings of danger. It is worth quoting Peelu here:
There is a long discussion between the two at this point. One wonders why Mirza is so stubborn and insists on resting when he knows they are on hostile Siyal land. Multiple reasons come to mind: One is SahibaN’s taunts about his mare Bakki, which is very dear to him. Another reason could be the traditional expectations of “masculinity”, which demands that he not run away, but face threats “like a man”. The verses suggest that he wants to kill her brothers and those accompanying them. In fact, right in the middle of this “rest-phase”, her brother Shumer arrives but is taken down by a single arrow aimed by Mirza, an excellent archer. But SahibaN thinks it an inappropriate time to display those qualities. It is not difficult for the present-day reader to understand the motives behind SahibaN's action later in the legend that are considered betrayal by Mirza. She hangs his quiver up in the tree before others could arrive. They eventually do and then:
Chutti kani ghazab di, le gai Mirze nu naal.
Peelu doesn’t tell us what happened to SahibaN (or maybe he did, but the account is lost in time) and ends the legend saying:
The feud, however, continued. Indeed, it was considered unlucky to give birth to daughters, thus leading to extensive female infanticide by strangulation, on the lines of SahibaN’s tragic end. The Siyals till date resent a reference to SahibaN as they do to Heer, the heroine of the tale of Heer and Ranjha (Heer, too, was a Siyal woman).
1.R C Temple, The Legends of the Panjab Vol 3, Page 2 and 11, 1890.
2.Dr. Faqir Mohammad Faqir, Preface to Mirza SahibaN.
3.Surindar Singh Kohli, Budh Singh Bawa, Encyclopedia of Indian Literature, Vol 1, Page 599.
5.Sant Singh Sekhon & Kartar Singh Duggal, A History of Indian Literature, 1992, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
6.All the excerpts from the legend are from R. C Temple's version of the legend of Mirza SahibaN from the above mentioned The Legends of the Panjab Vol 3, ref #1.
"Hri" - a sound or a vibration, the utterance of which awakens the empathy that is an inherent part of every sentient being. Regionalism must no longer remain a prisoner of platitude, since there is a consensus that geopolitical friction, poverty and pressing environmental issues as well as cultural and social dislocation must be addressed through the regional framework. There is a need to revive and energise discussions of regionalism on the platform of mainstream politics, public information and research, with a dynamic Southasian sensibility.
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