A 17th Century Tale by Shah Abdul Latif

A 17th Century tale retold in the Risalo of Shah Abdul Latif

“A potter’s daughter, Sohni was married against her will to her cousin, but she had always loved Mehar, a merchant who took up buffalo-herding and pipe-playing to woo her. Every night, Sohni crossed the river to meet him. One night, her sister-in-law, having observed her assignations, substituted the fired pot that Sohni was using as a float, for an unbaked one, and when Sohni plunged into the river as usual, the waters of the Indus soaked into the soft clay and the pot dissolved in midstream. Latif begins his poem at this moment, as Sohni is being swept to her death:

Pot in hand, trust in God, she enters the waves;

Her leg in the dogfish’s mouth, her head in the shark’s,

Bangles twisted, hair drifting through the water,

Fishes, big and small, crowd around her

Crocodiles waiting to devour her.

From Alice Albinia, Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River. NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010, p. 90.