Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Yusuf Khan and Sher Bano

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The hill of Kharamar – Rearing Snake, stands on the north side of the Mardan-Swabi highroad near the village of Shahbaz Garhi. As one regards it from the road, the vertical escarpment below its highest point (1050 metres) does indeed look like the spreading hood of a gigantic cobra. On the northern slope, just below the peak, there sits a solitary grave shaded by a single palosa tree. Here, by one account, lie the mortal remains of Yusuf Khan; by another his beloved Sher Bano shares the grave with him.

Yusuf Khan lived with his sister and widowed mother in the village of Turlandi a few kilometres due south of the Kharamar peak. Now, in Pukhtun tradition, acrimony between paternal cousins (turboor), because of the division of a common grandparent’s properties, is as bitter as that of sworn enemies. And so, the orphaned Yusuf Khan and his family were turned out of the ancestral home by his turboors.

Yusuf Khan grew up into a strapping youth of great physical beauty and as is the wont of all good Pukhtun lads, took to the hunter’s way of life. With his two dogs, he daily hiked from his village to hunt deer and partridge on the pine-covered slopes of Kharamar. His route took him through the village of Shera Ghund that nestles below a knoll half a kilometre from Kharamar.

Now, in Shera Ghund there lived the lovely, doe-eyed Sher Bano who one day espied Yusuf Khan as he walked past with his dogs. Thereafter, every time she heard the tinkling of the bells that Yusuf Khan’s dogs wore around their necks, Sher Bano would coyly make herself obvious. Soon Yusuf Khan too felt the first stirring of love.

Time went by and one day as Yusuf Khan chased deer in the ravines of Kharamar, unbeknownst to him, his turboors lurked in hiding to do him in. Finding their chance, they pushed him over the precipice of the cobra’s hood. As he fell, Yusuf Khan was caught in the spreading branches of a tree near the base of the hill. There he may have died had his faithful dogs not acted.

They raced home to alert the family. Hearing the jingling bells and seeing the dogs without their master Sher Bano sensed something was amiss. And so when Yusuf Khan’s mother and sister came following the dogs, Sher Bano joined them. At the tree, the three women retrieved the injured man and the first admission of love took place between Sher Bano and Yusuf Khan.

When he was on his feet again, the two were wedded. But happiness was not to be their lot for long. Hunting on Kharamar, Yusuf Khan was blown over a sheer fall by a sudden gust of wind. When Sher Bano discovered the lifeless form of her beloved she fell over him in a swoon and gave up the ghost. And so the lovers who only shared life ever so briefly remain together for eternity in a single grave.

The lovers may actually have existed in real life, but as it evolved the legend sidelined the key players. In turn, it highlighted the envy of paternal cousins and the irony of fate: where cousinly spite failed, nature succeeded.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 08:42,


At 11 March 2013 at 09:24, Blogger Unknown said...

What a story of lovers....


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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days