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In a quest for love

A search for the real tombs of Laila and Majnu uncovers deeper memories of tales of love

travel Updated: Mar 27, 2010 18:02 IST

I had not planned on going. On Sunday morning, I got a call from my friend. "I have to go to their engagement. There is no way I can't," he said. After a pause, he said, "You know Rahul was telling me that there is some mazaar there, of Laila and Majnu." What a coincidence, I thought: the coming together of two lovers in a place where another two were buried and the journey of two more lovers, if I agreed, to witness the ceremony. "I hope I make the train," I said.

Laila and Majnu's mazaar is in a village called Binjore, near the India-Pakistan border. We took a bus to Anupgarh, a town located 10 km from Binjore, and then a tempo to the village. I asked an elderly co-passenger where the border was. He pointed at the horizon and said it was 3.5 km away. Army bunkers were planted at the roadside.

Outside the mazaar, a sapling was decorated heavily with flowers and bells. The first thing I noticed as I entered was that Majnu's grave was bigger than Laila's, and placed slightly higher than hers. I felt irritated. Even in death, Laila was reminded of her place. Perhaps their love was greater than such minor trifles, I thought.

We left Binjore and arrived at Anupgarh famished. At Charlie Restaurant, where we had lunch, we met a shopkeeper, who suggested we speak to Kattar Singh -- the oldest person in Binjore -- to find out more. Would we ever get the chance to travel to Binjore again, we asked ourselves. We decided to stay. I asked our tempo driver if he knew a Kattar Singh in Binjore. He did. The receding sunlight danced on the green fields. I saw a palm tree gently curving into another and a group of elderly men, huddled together playing cards, as the sun carved out their shadows on the walls of a mud hut. Kattar Singh was not home. I asked the driver if he knew of any elderly people in Binjore.

We drove to his grandparents' place and waited outside. He returned with his aunt, who declared: "Dekkho jee, aisa hain ki poore Rajasthan mein iske bare main kisi ko nahin pata (You won't get information about this in all of Rajasthan). Pata hoga to sirf miyaan logon ko pata hoga (If anyone knows about the mazaar, it would be Muslims)." Which miyan would know? I asked. Anwar Bhai in Anupgarh.

When we got to Anwar Bhai's, he was not there. His brother suggested we speak to the maulvi at Jama Masjid. Maulvi Mohammad Irfan Chisti started talking to me as if in mid-conversation, "Dekhiye, yeh Laila-Majnu ka mazaar to hain heen nahin. (This is not Laila-Majnu's mazaar)."

This was his story: There was a pir -- Pir Bughdad Shah. He had a mureed (disciple) who lived in Balochia village, 40 km away. Every week, the mureed would visit his pir. When he passed away, the disciple continued to travel to Binjore. Villagers then started likening his love for the pir to that of Laila and Majnu. In his will, the student made just one request -- that he be buried next to Pir Bughdad Shah and so he was.

Meher's ambition in life is to travel to Cuba and meet Fidel Castro, before it's too late

Getting there
You take a train from Mumbai CST to Lalagarh Junction (136 km) or Bikaner Junction (139 km from Anupgarh) and take a connecting train to the city. From there, Binjore is 10 km away by road.
Anupgarh is on the border of Rajasthan and Punjab. It is one of the few districts in Rajasthan with a good canal water irrigation system.
Leave Anupgarh by 7 pm to catch the last bus to Sriganganagar.