The Saga of Jaanki Raman Pandey

Zakia Mashhadi translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon and Faruq Hassan

Read time: about 2 minutes

This story, again, is from the collection called The Greatest Urdu Stories compiles and translated by Muhammad Umar Memon. It is a saga or Jaanki Raman Pandey as the title suggests. Jaanki Raman Pandey was a devout Hindu who grew up believing that his religion was the best out there as most of us are. He married a girl of dark complexion on his Didda’s (older sister’s) insistence, deciding in his mind that the next wife is going to be of his choosing.

Cover: The Saga of Jaanki Raman Pandey

Pandey could have had anyone but he had to fall in love with the beautiful Raushan Aara of Rasoolpur. He adopted Islam but did not abandon Hinduism. He could recite kalima but could never forget his Chalisa. A man forever dedicated to his own religion became a heretic. The story talks about the two religions of Jaanki Raman Pandey and how even after his death his religion was a matter of dispute.

This story, as others in the book, talks extensively about religion and how it is the matter of convenience now. Jaanki Raman Pandey lived his entire life in a Brahmin community where each knew the other. But he chose to die in Rasoolpura where the walls graffiti took the form of massive hatred- ‘two places left for Mussalmans—Kabristaan or Pakistan’.

The story touches the sensitive spots of religion with unashamed spontaneity. Why should Taliban be associated with a religion and why should a religion be thrust upon someone with sword in hand.

This story talks a lot about the great losses that one has to bear in the name of religion when one could be just human and be happy forever. The author has such beautiful art of expressing through words.

There is so much I want to say about the story, such impactful it is. But I am in loss of words so I am going to leave you with a quote from the story-

The fact is, mankind needs a God, especially one they can see. It’s very difficult to worship an unseen God like the one you have. That requires a profound metaphysical understanding rarely found in human beings. But of course, with a cudgel in hand a person quickly learns how to smash it hard on another’s head and beliefs. To overcome the nasty devil hiding inside man…now take those magnificent statues at Bamiyan, your Taliban—

Now Raushan really got angry,’Why are the Taliban mine? Because they share my religion, is that it?’

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH