Ah! I am in Panjab, Land of the Gurus. The sun is shining, a heady fragrance saturates the air. I’m delirious, to be finally walking on the banks of the River Chenab. Walking. No, correction: I am flying. Every pore of my being is being wooed by the elements. Such beauty; such grace. I want to sing, I want to dance. My feet move to the rhythm of the Chenab. The ground shakes, the soil shifts. Then, something shiny catches my eye. I move the earth around and find broken green and red glass bangles. Gently, I pick up the pieces. They’re beautiful, from an era long past.
“I wonder whose they are,” I say out aloud.
“They are Inder’s,” Chenab replies.
I stop. I sense something larger than myself is happening here.
“Would you like to share her story?” I ask gently.
“There’s not much to tell. She was only nineteen when she broke those bangles.”
I’m intrigued. I want to know more.
“Please tell me her story,” I say, respectfully.
Chenab speaks: “Inder came as a sixteen year old bride to our village. It was a strategic alliance between two clans. She was so young and naïve. He was dashing and brave; the heartthrob of Panjab. Riding on his horse, he led his men into battle after battle. Times were fierce. The Mughals were ruling the land and the men who fought against this tyranny lived on horse-backs. And to this charismatic man was young Inder married.
“Two days after their wedding, he was called to battle.”
“Dressed in bridal clothes, she waited for him for three years. But he never returned. She was a virgin-widow.”
“The village chatter began. She needs to be remarried, became the chant.”
“To me, she revealed all.”
“How can I let another man, touch me when my heart belongs to him?” she asked.
“But the pressure for her to remarry kept building. One afternoon, she sat where you are sitting, took a stone, and broke each of her bangles. Her wrists bled; she didn’t seem to care. I tried to comfort her; but she was beyond comfort.”
“Her last words to me where, ‘When he comes, let him know that I love him deeply. I will make myself worthy of his love. I will wait for him until eternity.”
“With that, she plunged into me. Deep within me she rests. I did not allow her body to surface. I did not want her to be violated. Her love was so pure. I had to honor it. I hid her broken bangles for as long as I could. But you have uncovered them. Maybe it’s time, to tell her story.”
“The story of the women who are left behind waiting as their husbands go into battle.”
My heart is in the same state as those bangles.
“Chenab, I promise to tell her story. I promise that she will always be a part of me. I will never forget her.”
Carefully, I pick up the bangles. They’ve become sacred. With a heavy heart and heavier feet, I return to my hotel room.
My evening is strange. Inder is with me. Reverently, I wash the bangles, and place them in a clean cloth. Tears flow, I know not why. But I am crying like I have never cried before. In fact, I am howling.
Its dawn. My pain is unbearable.
I pick up the bangles and walk out of the hotel.
I hear Sabad.
I follow the sound.
I enter and place the bangles in front of Guru.
With folded hands and flowing tears, I plead: “My Guru, she was young. She made a mistake. She loved deeply and that clouded her judgement. Forgive her, please forgive her. The House of Nanak is the House of Love and Compassion. In her name, I ask for forgiveness.”
I sit and listen to Asa-ki-Var.
Every Sabad speaks to me.
The Sound enters me.
My breathing becomes easier.
I leave with parshad in hand, knowing full well that I have changed.