Story : Love And Prudence: Shaukat Thanvi

It was about this time that Cupid must select me as a target on which to practice his skills. As a matter of fact strange feelings had been developing in my heart about a girl who was closely related to me ; and now I declared them, and told my cousine Arshad Thanavi, who had now also become my brother-in-law-my sister’s husband-of my choice. Actually the girl was his sister. Arshad did not evince any deep interest in the matter, probably because he did not think I was serious about it; he thought it was perhaps a passing, childish emotion which would not last. But the strength of my feeling grew from day to day. I don’t know about her, poor girl, but I had reached the conviction that more likely than not, this feeling which had arisen in my heart was what they call love, and that if the outcome should not be what I wanted it to be, then God alone knew what would become of me. What had really happened was this; most of my friends were already in love, and were always telling one another about it. One would show us a love-letter proving how his beloved was restless with longing for him. Another would read out the letter he was writing to his beloved or to his fiancee.Another used to carry around with him a dried flower-‘ My beloved fixed this to my coat with her own hands as a memento of her loveto me.’ One of my friends was so deeoly in love that he was looking after an extremely repulsive , emaciated cat, and when he was asked to explain this manifestation of his sound taste , would explain that it had belonged to his kind beloved , but that when she moved from the neighbourhood she had entrusted its care to him, so that he might experience the love Majnun felt for his beloved Laila’s dog. In such circumstances how could I be content not to be in love? I already felt on friendly and affectionate terms with my cousin and my regard for her was completely sincere, but when these feelings took form of love, it was undoubtedly under the influence of fashion that they did. Accordingly I informed my friends of my love, and they showed an interest in it, because we would get together to sigh and weep over our sad state.

The nightingale laments the rose’s coldness

And we lament the wounds upon our heart.

My cousine poor girl is dead now, and may God grant me his forgiveness and not put her soul to shame, because she was absolutely without blame in this matter. All the foolishness was mine. I didn’t want to be seen to be outrun by any of my friends in this race, and so I forged letters in disguised handwriting in reply to mine, and showed them to my bosom friends, whose love letters I had seen. My object was simpy to show that I too could hold up my head among them, that they must understand that I too was someone with whom beautiful girls could be infatuated-though the fact is that only a beautiful girl whose eyesight was seriously defective could be infatuated with me. The poor girl of whom I am speaking had not the remotest idea that her promising young cousin and candidate for marriage was composing forged letters as documentary proof of her passion for him.The most she knew was that I wanted to be married to her. So I went on forging these letters, and at the same time pestering my elder sister and her husband Arshad to see to it that our marriage was arranged.

In due course my father came to know of this. He refused outright to agree to the match. But, I ask you, do we true lovers succumb to such threats? I had decided once and for all that I should be married to her, and if I could not marry her then I would never marry anyone. Things reached a stage where my mother tried to reason with me, and I summoned up all my courage and said that if they would not arrange my marriage with this girl than I would commit suiside. Now my resolution was at its highest pitch. I was a lover, and not afraid of anything. If one is not prepared to face disaster, if one is intimidated by opposition then one should not fall in love. In the end I wrote a letter to my father saying that if my marriage to this girl was not arranged I would commit sucide. My father took his revolver, loaded it with six bullts and said to the servant, ‘Take this to your young master and tell him to go ahead.’ This was not the response I had expected. The sight of the revolver took my breath away. Meanwhile my mother was frantic. ‘What are you doing?’ she said to my father.’He’ll kill himself.’ But my father, experienced police officer and old hand that he was, replied with the utmost indifference, ‘Be quietand don’t worry. People who’ll say they’ll kill themselves never do; and if he does commit suicide then you can rest assured that he’ll have done the right thing> In the long run, people like that either come to their senses or go on until they hang for murder’Anyway I picked up the revolver with trembling hands summoned up by my courage, put the barrel to my temple, recited the Kalima , fingered the trigger-and then suggested to Cupid that it would be well if he would reconsider his decision. He agreed. I lowered the revolver from my temple, laid it on the table, and at once realised love is a pleasant pastimeuntil such time as it puts one’s life in danger. The revolver went back to my father, and I went to fall on his feet and ask his forgiveness…

Some time later my cousin was married to much better man than I was…but she had not been married long when she caught pneumonia, poor girl, and departed from this world where love like wild animals, runs away from revolvers. It was I who threatened to die, and she who died. T^ruly, it takes a man to trace the trials of love, and I probably do not need to throw any further light on my manhood.

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