Updated: Jun 9

Chapter 5: The Emergence Of The Testing Times!

11 Jan 2003: Meeru’s house was extraordinarily decorated. On returning from the village haat, she could barely recognise her residence.

Getting off Aayushman’s cart, and patting Kumar on his back, she ran in to know what were the celebrations about.

The first man Meeru saw was Saqib Iblis. A tall, dark man with a hostile demeanor robed in black clothes since time immemorial coupled with his crooked face, blunt nose and broken teeth which had gone red with the continued chewing of tobacco and excessive drinking. As his name suggested, he seemed to be a true personification of Iblis or Shaitan, which means Evil.

As soon as Meeru saw him, she stood petrified. She felt a sharp chill running down her spine. Astonishingly, when he saw her, he smiled. He placed his hand on her head and blessed her.

Meeru smiled and returned thanks.

“You might not know me child! I am Saqib Iblis. The oldest living royal sightseer of your family. It was me who saved your great-grandfather’s life during our war with that crooked Maharaja Hari Singh and I’m Daniyal’s oldest friend.”

Meeru didn’t have words to express herself. She did not know anything about the man, though he claimed to be her father’s friend. Nor did she know anything about her lineage. All she was told was that they belonged to a humble background, with the only exception being that they have been amongst the oldest residents of the valley.

“And do you know Meeru.” He continued, “I have come here for a very special reason, which is….”

“Wait Saqib!”, shouted a voice from behind Meeru.

It was her dad. A tall, burly man who carried himself with utmost grace came and stood close to them.

“We mustn’t tell her all the details right away Saqib! You have foretold future for us for so long, and yet you couldn’t realise the outcome before opening your mouth!” said Daniyal in a mixed tone of anger covered under humour.

Saqib bit his tongue, but Meeru caught the topic and took her dad into her room and began inquiring about the same.

She called for her mother and a minute later, a beautiful lady robed in a white Pheran.

“Jasmine, please handle Meeru. You know I cannot keep things from her for long after I see her pleading face.”, he joked.

“Don’t worry Daniyal. I’ll tell her.”

Meeru became impatient. She now asked repeatedly about the matter in an annoyed manner.

“Wait child. I’ll tell you everything. First of all, sit here. Now, listen very carefully.”

Meeru was all ears.

“We are the descendants of Bulbul Shah.”

“What are you saying Ammi?”, Meeru’s shock knew no bounds. Bulbul Shah was the first Muslim priest who is believed to have introduced and propagated Islam throughout the valley.

“On the other hand, your great-grandfather had a very splendid and faithful friendship with Maharaja Hari Singh. One day, they agreed to marry their great-grandchildren.”

“Then what happened?”, Meeru asked.

“The Iblis’ were called to foretell the future. Shah Mir Iblis, father of Saqib Iblis, told us that we would be the bride’s side and Maharaja would be the groom’s side.”

“And I am that Bride?”

“Yes dear. But Iblis secretly coronated one of his apprentices to his position. He looked into the future and saw your vision. Driven by the thirst of power, he killed his master and his son and became Shah’s self-proclaimed son. He renamed himself as Saqib Iblis and carried on the business.

After that, things only got worse. Those days, records could be manipulated very easily. He fooled your great-granddad and created hostility amongst the two friends.

Relations between the two families became so bad that one day, Maharaja declared war against us.”

“WAR?”, Meeru jumped up in fright.

“Exactly. In that, he hired men to attack us and he killed them before our eyes, pretending that he had saved our lives from the attackers. He was successful in fooling Miyaan Ji and he promised his great-grandchild in marriage to his son.”

“And am I that great-grandchild?”, Meeru asked the same question, but this time she was upset and shaken.