History has time and again indicated that stories of true love have seldom had a happy ending. Tales of star-crossed lovers have captivated our hearts and been immortalised across all cultures. The story of Shireen and Abdul from the beautiful valley of Kashmir in North India is no different. When the only daughter of a village landlord fell in love with the shepherd boy, everyone knew it had to have a sad end.
Shireen was also engaged to the son of a Nawab (a Muslim nobleman), in a neighbouring village. Abdul, the third son of a poor shepherd, had nothing apart from a fiery spirit and great love for the girl. This was enough to capture her heart, but far from enough to convince her father.
Like many love stories, class and wealth were the biggest deterrents which drew them apart.The day before Shireen was getting married, Abdul in desperation and frenzy, went to her home. He was caught by her brothers, beaten up and thrown in a lake, on the outskirts of the village.
This tale actually begins where their love story ends, well kind of. The lake was home to a family of swans, who were believed to be mystical, and therefore never troubled or killed by the locals. As Abdul’s body sank to the bottom of the lake and life started seeping out of him, the swans surrounded him. They were in despair to see him die like this, their sensitive soul could feel his pain and anguish. They knew they could not bring his body back to life, but they wanted to help.
Being mystical creatures, there was no difference for the swans between this world and the other world. So they connected to the dying Abdul and asked what they could do for him. “There is only one thing I want, to be near my beloved Shireen all the time. She is my great love. In life or in death, nothing else matters for me,” came the answer.
The swans asked,“If it is only love that you seek, then there is another great love, our journey is on the path to discover it. Would you like to join us?”
Abdul refused. So they granted him his wish.
The next morning, about 50 miles away, in a carpet weaving centre when the master craftsman reached his workshop, he was in for a surprise. He, along with his apprentices had just finished work on a beautiful Persian carpet which had to be delivered that very day to the home of the Nawab, as his son was bringing his new bride home. The indigo blue carpet had multi-coloured floral motifs.The master weaver was astonished to see the image of a white swan amidst the flowers and leaves. It was not there when he had left for home the night before. He wondered which of his apprentices would have created the beautiful life-like image, so quickly.
The day Shireen went to her new home, the carpet was already there in her chamber. As she stepped on it, her heart fluttered for she could feel Abdul very close to her.
Right under her feet, another heart was also beating fast, as he could feel the touch of his beloved. Despite the pain of seeing her married to another man, he was grateful that he was so close to her, could see her all the time and feel the touch of her feet.
As the years passed, Abdul’s love became a distant memory for Shireen.
And Abdul, who was neither alive nor dead, had also come to realise that the love of the woman he thought was the reason for his soul’s existence, was not enough. There was much more.
Exactly 7 years, 2 months and 5 days from when Shireen had first set her eyes on the carpet, she was shocked to find one evening that the image of the swan had disappeared from it. She was unnerved by this strange occurrence. She had been thinking of replacing the carpet, ever since her eldest child had dropped a bottle of blue ink on it a few months ago.
Not too faraway, when a few children came to feed the family of swans at the lake, they were delighted to find a new swan, it was as beautiful as the others, but had some blue marks on it.
Once a boy named Abdul, had finally started his journey of finding the greatest love.