In a remote corner of Punjab, there was a small village, surrounded by rich green fields. At a short distance, there was a thick forest, which had a large pool in it. This was used as a watering hole by the wild animals. So it had become a favorite hunting ground, and a lot of people used to come there looking for prey.
On the out skirts of the village along the main road lived a rich farmer called Sharma. His married daughter was to go to her in-laws place and the whole house was full of people and the smell of delicacies being prepared. The shadows grew long as evening approached and a slight breeze began to blow.
The young girl, whose name was Saraswati went into the open yard behind her house when her friends were playing.
Like a flock of birds they chattered, sometimes bursting into song while they clapped and danced. Saraswati was the most beautiful of all of them, and when they saw her they made a circle around her, and began to sing. Nearby was a grinding stone with a wooden pole, in which some women had put rice to de-husk it. The 'Thump! Thump!' of the pole became like a drum – beat to the song and they were soon lost in the beauty and poignancy of the words relating the closeness between mothers and daughters.
When the song ended, the girls were horrified to see a young Mughal soldier on a horse. He had probably been attracted by the singing. Now he sat astride his horse and stand unblinkingly at Saraswati. The girls were completely unnerved and looked as if turned to stone.
The young Mughal moved forward suddenly, and grabbing Saraswati's tender wrist pulled her forward and lifting her on to the horse, rode off and soon vanished from sight.
Hearing Saraswati’s agonized screams and the shrieks of her friends, the family members and other villagers rushed to the spot. Everyone heard the shocking story. But no one came forward to go to the young girls rescue. No one had the courage.
After a lot of discussion, it was decided that the girl's father, brother and husband should go to the Mughal's camp and beg him to let the girl go. Maybe he would take pity and give in to their pleadings.
The Mughal's camp had been set up about a mile away from the village, and the young man, who was the Nawab of the area, had come there for hunting, He had some servants and a few Soldiers with him and they had accompanied him on the hunt. While chasing a deer he had left his companions far behind. The deer managed to escape and he, being thirsty turned towards the village for water and there he found a different prey in the form of a young and beautiful girl. When he reached his camp, he pushed the girl into a tent and went to tie up his horse and to drink some water.
By this time the girl's relatives also reached, The girl sat in a corner, sobbing quietly. The Nawab sat down on the cot and looked angrily at the villagers. They came to him and bowed low.
Shama joined his hands and said, "My Lord, She is my beloved daughter and she is married. Today she has to go to her husband's home. Please set her free. The rulers are like one's mother and father, always caring for their subjects."
Nawab - "Go away all of you. What I take I do not qive up."
Shama - "My Lord, I can offer you her weight in silver, but please let her go."
The brother also spoke up - "Surely you have no shortage of beautiful women, If you like we can offer you gold instead, Please release my Sister!"
The Mughal however, continued to shake his head obstinately.
It was the turn of the husband now, to catch the Nawab's feet and beg for mercy, "Please spare us this shame . I am ready to offer you anything valuable - jewels - anything you wish, but please return my wife to me, and save my honor!"
The Nawab now turned his head and looking slyly at them said. "You seem very moneyed people - but I don't care for your silver, gold and jewels. Leave right now or I'll have you thrown in prison.
The husband realized that in their eagerness to get his wife free they had revealed how wealthy they were. He had no wish to lose everything for the sake of a mere girl. Quietly, he slipped away.
Seeing the Nawab's adamant attitude, the girl's father began to wail loudly and her brother fell down in a dead faint.
Saraswati looked at them, then drying her tears and pushing back her veil she came close to her brother and began to whisper softly in his ears, "Wake up dear brother, wake up and go home" I will not drink the water from a Mughal's home, brother. I would rather set fire and kill myself!"
At these words of quiet confidence, the brother and father got up. They knew they could gain nothing by staying except the Nawab's anger. With slow, dragging steps, they returned to their village.
The house, which a short while earlier had been a picture of joyous celebration was now turned into a place or mourning. The people collected around to console the girl 's family and to condemn the injustice and tyranny of the rulers. But they were helpless to do anything.
Continued to Part II