Layla aur Majnun

A friend recently reminded me of this classic tale of forbidden love. Because it was indeed a man who brought up the subject, I thought it very appropriate to include it in this week’s Man’s Opinion. I have often made it a point to write here about the pain and strife that men experience in terms of love. When a couple breaks up, the woman has her support group to help her voice her hurt and frustration, while the man usually sits inside his prideful, self-imposed agonizing jail of feelings unexplored. It is why men have more heart attacks than we women and the main reason why our pain most often gets turned into anger, simply by talking to our girlfriends, while our male counterparts experience deep hurt and lonely pain. I cannot even begin to count how many of my male friends suffered the deep sorrows of a break-up, only to discover that their exs were dating and had already moved on, much faster and definitely cleaner than them. So, this folk tale is a reminder that it takes two to love and two to hurt. If you enjoy the fable, then check out the Hindi film “Aaja Nachle” where the story within the story is a theater production of “Layla aur Majnun”. The music, dancing – by the great Madhuri Dixit – and acting – think Konkona Sen Sharma and Kunal Kapoor as part of an stellar ensemble cast – make the movie a true delight to watch. “Aaja Nachle” is coming soon to Netflix or ITalkies.

Following is the story by Nezami of Gandja:

“The young lovers Layla and Qays become acquainted at maktab, a traditional school, and fall desperately in love. Qays – later renamed “Majnun”, which means madman – is so besotted with love for Layla that he can not conceal his emotions. He begins to write poetry describing his love for her, and recites his poems to every passer-by.

Majnun’s father tries to ask for Layla’s hand on his son’s behalf, but Layla’s father refuses as he believes that Majnun is a madman who is destroying his daughter’s reputation by his open declarations of love on every street corner. Majnun’s father then takes him on a pilgrimage, but he can not forget Layla and his madness intensifies.

In the mean time, Layla is unable to leave her house, as Majnun’s poems have made her the subject of people’s gossip. Layla’s father is intent on keeping them apart at all cost. A man by the name of Ebn-e Salaam asks Layla’s father for her hand in marriage, but is told that she is too young and he should come again in a few years’ time.

Majnun leaves everything and heads for the wilderness living a miserable life. No one can console him, not even the generous Nawfal. Nawfal tries to give Majnun advice, but when he does not succeed he is so saddened by his plight that he even goes to war with Layla’s clan, demanding that Layla and Majnun should be united. However, even when Layla’s clan is defeated, her father refuses to allow his daughter to marry Majnun. He says that Majnun has destroyed his daughter’s reputation – quoting “not a wind passes without uttering my daughter’s name” – and he would rather kill her than give her to him. Nawfal realises that he can not pursue the matter any longer, and Majnun leaves once again.

Time passes, and with Nawfal no longer appearing as a threat, Layla has many suitors. Ebn-e Salaam uses the opportunity and returns to ask for Layla’s hand, and this time he is successful. They are married and he takes Layla to his own home. Majnun is devastated when he hears the news and sinks further within himself refusing to return home to his family.

Majnun’s father dies of a broken heart. Majnun had been his only son, and he had loved him dearly.

Although Layla is married, she has not forgotten Majnun, and her love for him is as strong as before. She sends a letter to Majnun trying to console him after his father’s death. She also explains that her husband knows she does not love him and she will always remain faithful to Majnun.

Shortly after, Majnun’s mother also dies and Layla sends him a message through an old man who has met him on his wanderings, to come and visit her. Majnun returns, and the lover’s see each other once more. However, Layla’s husband has always loved her, and knowing that he can never win her love, falls ill and dies. Tradition demands that a widow must remain in her house for two years and not see any one in that period. Layla can not bear the thought of living without Majnun any longer and consumed with sorrow, she dies. When Majnun hears the news of Layla’s death, his world comes to an end. He visits her grave, weeps desperately and dies.

I admit, a little depressing, but very poetic and quite poignant, when you think that so many men lost their lives because of one woman…

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