Translated by Fazal Baloch
Once there lived a poor man. Despite all his efforts, he could not beget any offspring. The grief of being childless had almost emaciated him. Most of the time he remained grief-stricken.
One day he left his home and took the route to the jungle where he reclined against a giant jujube tree. He decided not to move unless he was blessed with a child. A couple of days later a voice in the tree addressed him: “Man! Why don’t you leave me alone? I’ve named this tree after my own name. It is my dwelling. I have left the entire world for humankind and spared this tree for myself. Here I worship my Creator. Please leave me alone.”
The poor man said: “O, holy fakir! I am an unlucky man. I have no child. I have decided not to leave the tree unless I am blessed with a child. No matter if I die of thirst or hunger, I’m not going away”.
The fakir said: “Go home you will be blessed with a child, If it happens to be a boy, it is all yours but if it turns out to be a girl, you are bound to marry her with me. I will be your son-in-law”. The fakir continued, “If he’s a boy, his name will be Hasan sol, and in case of a girl, her name will be Nokmadina”.
The poor man replied, “Master! I am a Baloch. I will honour my promise”.
Nine months later he was blessed with a girl. As advised by the fakir, he named her Nokmadina. Time passed by and Nokmadina grew up. One day, along with other girls and womenfolk of the hamlet, she went to the jungle and walked over to the giant jujube tree to pluck its ripened fruits. The moment she stretched her hand, she felt her scarf had entangled with a branch of the tree. Despite all her efforts, she could not free it. She heard a voice addressed her: “Nokmadina! Ask your father to honour his promise”.
She immediately left for home but forgot to convey the message to her father. The next day when she went to the jungle, the same voice echoed again but Nokmadina couldn’t remember either. On the third day, when the jujube branch held her dress, Nokmadina apologised to it that she couldn’t remember his message.
The voice emanating from the tree said, “If you put your hand in the jar to pick up a dry date, a wasp will sting your finger and remind you of my words.”
She freed the hem of her scarf and quickly rushed towards home. Unmindful of the fakir’s words, the moment she ran her hand into the jar, the wasp stung her, and she broke out crying. Her father rushed to her and asked her what had happed to her. She recalled and told her father what the fakir had been telling for the past three days.
Her father did remember his promise. Though he did not want to marry his daughter with the fakir, he still wanted to fulfil his promise. His wife said, “May the Holy Quran cripple the old fakir! Do you have the heart to abandon your grown-up daughter in a jungle at the mercy of wild beasts? I am not going to allow you”.
The poor man said: “I’ve to honour my words. Let’s settle with whatever our fate has for us. First, we didn’t have any child. When we were blessed with one, it turned out to be a girl. And I have to marry it with the tree”.
Then he turned to his daughter and told her to be ready for he was going to leave her in the custody of the jujube tree the next morning. Everyone in the house including the girl and her mother cried inconsolably.
The next day he held Nokmadina’s hand and walked down to the jujube tree. Hasan Sol descended from the tree and they solemnised the marriage accordingly. Nokmadina’s father took the road back home.
Hasan Sol had already two ghoul-wives whom he visited every Friday in Mount Qaf and stayed with them for three days. He asked an old crone to stay with Nokmadina during his absence. Feeling envious of her, the old woman put Nokmadina in an underground den nearby and placed a huge rock on its opening so that she could not come out. When Hasan Sol returned, she produced her daughter before him and said, “Your wife has grown prettier than ever.” On the other hand, she secretly fed Nokmadina with just a few morsels.
On a Friday morning, when Hasan Sol was about to leave, a dove perched on the tree. He shot at the bird and put it in the oven to roast it. Suddenly, the birds said: “The old woman has put Nokmadina in the den and brought her daughter in her place”. The bird repeated it over and again.
Hasan Sol thoroughly scanned her wife to determine the truth. He concluded that the bird was right. Hence, he held her hand, spun it in the air and hurled it off like a stone in the sling. She landed beyond seven mountains. Nobody found any trace of her. Then he called out the old woman. He seized hold of her legs and thrusted them beneath the ground. Then he went to the nearby mountains to look for Nokmadina. He searched in each cave and cavern but could not find any trace of her. On his way back, he heard someone’s groan coming out of a jackal-den. He removed the rock from its opening and helped Nokmadina out and carried her home. When she fully regained her senses, Hasan Sol told her that he was going to Mount Qaf to visit her ghoul-wives. He warned her thus, “Never follow me. The road to Mount Qaf is long and tedious. You will wear out seven pairs of shoes made of steel, till you reach there. The ghouls will kill you there.”
When Hasan Sol flew off, Nokmadina made it to an ironsmith and ordered seven pairs of shoes made of steel and set out for Mount Qaf. After a long and tedious journey, having worn out all seven pairs of shoes, she finally reached the Mount Qaf.
A few children were playing at the door of a garden. She asked them if they knew anything about Hasan Sol. One of the children said that the very garden belonged to Hasan Sol and he would come there for his ablutions. She put her ring in the earthen jar, which he used to store water for cleaning himself, and hid behind a tree.
A little later, Hasan arrived there. When he noticed the ring in the bottom of the jar, he overturned and spilled the water on the ground to retrieve the ring. He assumed Nokmadina had disobeyed him and made it there. He asked the children if they had seen someone around.
The children told him about Nokmadina who was hiding behind a tree.
Hasan Sol walked over to her and asked her why she came there. He advised her to be careful otherwise the ghouls would eat her flesh. Hasan Sol transformed her into a knife and slipped it into his pocket and went home. The moment he got there, his ghoul-wives blurted loudly, “Human Smell! Human Smell.”
Hasan Sol said, “Where is the human? There’s no human but me. Are you want to eat my flesh?” He picked up spear and with great effort, he managed to silence them. He took his meal and strolled towards the garden where he transformed Nokmadina back into a human and together with her, he ate his meal. Then Hasan Sol transformed her into a pomegranate and tucked in a tree and told his ghoul-wives, “This pomegranate is meant for a sick man. Whosoever lays her hand on it, I will gouge out her eyes”.
When Hasan Sol left, the wives suspected it was a human. Thus, they cut a small piece and shared it together. When Hasan Sol returned, he asked them who spoiled the pomegranate in his absence. But they feigned ignorance. In the very instant, Hasan Sol transformed her back into a human and found out her that the ring on her little finger was missing. Infuriated, he shouted at them and said, “I swear by my sanctity, next time if you even touch her, I will tie you with chains and throw you before the dogs.”
One day when Hasan Sol had gone on an errand, one of the ghouls called Nokmadina and said, “You damn good-for-nothing human! Go to our mother’s house and bring us hair oil, comb and mud-soap.” They also gave her a letter as well. She complied and left. Midway through, she saw Hasan Sol who asked her where she was heading.
“I am going to deliver the letter to your mother-in-law,” she replied.
Hasan Sol asked her to show him the letter.
It read, “The moment this daughter of human delivers you the letter, kill her.” Hasan Sol changed the letter and wrote instead: “She is your granddaughter from your youngest daughter.” He further advised her thus, “Down the road you will see a dog with some grass before it and a goat with a piece of bone before it. Place the grass before the goat and the bone before the dog. Some distance further, you will find a mosque, replace its old mats with new ones. Then you will come across a dry pond. Unblock the watercourse and fill it with water.”
Nokmadina did exactly what Hasan Sol had advised her. When she delivered the letter, the ghoul woman hugged her and showered her with boundless love and affection. Nokmadina noticed a cage with four doves in the house. She asked her about them. The woman said: “One is my spirit; second one is your mother’s; third one is your stepmother’s and the fourth one is their grandmother’s”.
She took the cage and trampled the dove that was her co-wife’s sprit and ran off. The woman chased her. When she reached near the pond, she called the pond to stop her but the pond told her that she filled it with water a while ago so it would not stop her. When she drew close to the mosque, the woman asked the mosque to not let her go, but the mosque said that a while ago she replaced its mats, so it let her go. Then she asked the goat and the dog for the same, but they too refused as she fed them a while ago. At last, she reached Hasan Sol’s garden. When he saw the cage in her hand, he said, “Lo! You brought the cage along”.
“Why shouldn’t I? They don’t let me live. So now I’m not going to spare them either”, remarked Nokmadina.
“Alright. Kill all of them,” said Hasan Sol.
So, the story ended. And they headed home.
 This folktale is translated with permission from Geedi Kessah-4(Folktales Vol: 4) compiled and retold by Gulzar Khan Mari in Balochi, published by the Balochi Academy Quetta in 1971.
Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies.
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