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Love Across the Salt Desert
The story “Love Across the Salt Desert” by Keki N Daruwalla depicts a love affair of two true and sincere lovers namely Najab and Fatimah. There are many characters in the story but Najab has got a pivotal position. This specific story I am discussing is set in an Indian town at the outskirts of India and Pakistan in the Salty Deserts of the Rann of the Kutch (somewhere in Gujarat or Rajasthan). The village is completely parched and dry and it has not rained there for three successive years. Many villagers earn their livelihood by smuggling goods across the border braving the BSF(Border Security Force), Pakistan Army and bringing back goods from Pakistan as exchange.
Najab and his father Aftab too smuggle stuff into Pakistan and bring back spices from a Pakistan village. In the early part of the story, Najab is a very shy, introvert and reserved boy. He was known to have blushed at the mere mention of a girl. He had dreamy eyes. None of his friends had ranked him among the braves. Even his father Aftab feared the boy would waste away all that he had and his ancestors had acquired. He considered him too shy to be able to charge money what would he sell.
But all these predictions proved wrong in the latter part of the story. Najab turned to be courageous, brave and determined hero for a romantic movie after his first meet with Fatimah who ignited a spark of love in him. On one visit to Pakistan, The Hero meets the Spice Seller’s daughter, “Eyes Meet, Love at First Sight” – The Eyes do all the talking and it is understood that the Hero will come, “aur Dulhania Le Jayega”.
The Hero returns home with his father then informs his mother of his love and that he will be going to bring home his bride. As do standard Indian Movie mothers she wants her son to be happy, but his concerned of his safety and finally she courageously sends off her son with some food and jewels. He undertook a dangerous journey, crossed the border and met his love. He did not care for bullets and difficulties. He faced all the hardships, he met during the trip with a smiling face. He was true, sincere and faithful in his love. He had understood what love really means. He felt his love and saw the image of Fatimah in every object he touched, imagined and articulated. Najab braves the border forces in style. The Spice Seller is hesitant but he sees the love in their eyes and does not stand in between their love.
“The Rann of Kutch is a vast, lonely desert, almost impossible to cross, yet some people do cross it for reasons of their own.”
Yes, Najab Hussain wanted to be with someone he loved and he had already reached his destination mentally uniting him with ‘ hoor-eyed ‘ Fatima, the spice -seller’s daughter long before he could meet her physically overcoming every fatal impediment through the salt desert.
To reach Pakistan, Najab crossed the border and met Fatima there. While it wasn’t that easy for Najab to fight shy of Zaman, the cross – border trafficker, and Indus Ranger’s strict vigilance, Najab did it with all the strength of mind. His life was in stake but he didn’t bother. The storm of sand couldn’t keep him from being flooded with exuberant love feelings.
“At one level of consciousness, he knew that this was madness.”
In the recent past, Najab had the opportunity to meet Fatima for the first time while travelling with his father. Fatima’s fascinating eyes did not take seconds at the very first sight to convince Najab of the most important discovery that he would no longer be called an ‘ introvert ‘ who, with his dreamy eyes, went out for his love, Fatima.
“What would he not do for her, the daughter of the spice-seller; she who smelt of cloves and cinnamon, whose laughter had the timbre of ankle-bells, whose eyebrows were like black wisps of the night and whose hair was the night itself? For her he would cross the salt desert.”
Najab was inspired by a sense of success as he saw he saw that according to the religious custom, the food offered by him to the Panchmai Pir on the hilltop happened to have been eaten up by the Jackals. Najab was blessed and set off on his journey. He firmly believed that the lamp lighted in honour of the Pir every night on the hilltop would illuminate his hope . The ignorance of Najab about the unfair means of crossing the border with Pakistan was a major mistake that might take his life. The BSF people at the border with Pakistan began firing and chasing him for a mile and then came the sandstorm that kept the hunters away saving the life of Najab.
“Najab was in a trance now, events flashing past him like figures on the screen.”
Najab waited for the night to cover his identity and then hobbled at the door of the clove – seller across a mile’s distance on his toe. Fatima heard the soft call and her glittering eyes spoke wordlessly of her uplifted heart as she opened the door silently and found Najab standing outside.
Najab’s mother’s gold bangle kept the hardcore businessman, Kaley Shah busy with buying Najab’s cloves who, finding Kaley Shah snoring in deep and profitable sleep, didn’t waste time setting for his return trip to Kutch. But he wasn’t alone this time. Fatima had deep love in her heart. She was offered by Najab to experience a maiden test – drive across the Runn on Allahrakha. Her silent approval of such an offer reciprocated the indomitable, free-flowing trust of Najab. They knew quite well that they could not be held back by any geographical border.
“For her, it meant just a shift in dialect,
a smear of Kutchi added and a little of Sindhi sandpapered away.”
They reached Khavda carrying the blissful love among the raindrops that came down after three years of drought to quench the thirst of the land. Thus, the success of love across the salt desert was proven by Najab and Fatima. The village hails the girl as the saviour.
“Love Across the Salt Desert” is a beautiful love story based on the theme that true love transcends all barriers like religion, region, caste, colour, and creed. It depicts union between two lovers despite their hailing from two opposite sides of the International border between India and Pakistan — two hostile countries.
The story bears its title not only because of the fact that sole and the main avenue of the entire dramatic action is the Thar or Kuchh desert, known for its salt lagoon, but also for other reasons like its being the hottest desert in the subcontinent and as such not so easy to cross unaided, its being devoid of water bodies; it’s being chequered by mirages and also because of its being guarded by Pak rangers on one side and BSF personnel from their watchtowers from the other side. Needless to mention that “Salt” is a symbol standing for a harsh and inhospitable nature.
Najab, a reticent and diffident budding youth from Khavda, Runn of Kutchh is captivated by the peerless and bewitching beauty of Fatima ( a clove seller’s daughter from Sindh, the Pakistani side of desert referred to as “Hoor” and elopes with Najab. None of the lovers spare even a moment’s thought to petty considerations like Nationality, linguistic barrier, Parental permission, etc. They are not even deterred by the danger of crossing the inhospitable and dangerous desert unaided illegally.
To start with, Najab is introduced as a diffident, strangely introverted youth with dreamy eyes notorious for blushing even at the mere mention of a girl. Despite his being only 20 years of age, he had trudged across the desert with his father Aftab – a smuggler – four times and knew everything about the desert and was confident enough of crossing the desert alone if so needed.
Fatima- a paragon of beauty, the daughter of Pakistani clove seller, a witty old smuggler – being under pressure of marrying Mehfooz Ali – a far off relative with extremely slurred speech, was taken by innocent and all smiling face of the young Najab who had come to stay at her house during his fourth illegal trip across the desert. Having failed to elicit even a word from Najab in the morning, she did receive a positive response from him in the evening thus brings about a sea change in his personality.
Najab, after falling in love with Fatima, turned out to be a “ Dare Devil” as for his return to Khavda, he shipped away alone with his camel Allahrakha determining to bring back Fatima as his mother’s daughter-in-law. He braved all the perils and dangers during his desert odyssey. His daring was crowned with success when he finally stepped on to the Khavdan soil with Fatima bringing in torrential rains which ended three years of death-dealing drought and thus bringing relief and new lease of life to Khavdans’ who in return welcomed Fatima with open arms as a bringer of joy to them.
Theme of ” Love Over the Salt Dessert “
“Love Over the Salt Desert” is a romantic love story focused on the idea that true love transcends all boundaries such as culture, place, race, colour and creed. It portrays union between two lovers despite their hailing from two opposite sides of the Indian-Pakistan International Border – two violent nations. There may be many obstacles and problems in the way of true lovers, but their love wins the day after all.
Najab, an Indian boy, falls in love at first sight with a beautiful Pakistani girl named Fatimah. She is engaged to be married to another man called Mahfuz Ali. She does not want to marry him. She gets ready to elope with Najab to India. They have to face a lot of hazards. They have to face the guns of the Pakistani rangers, but they succeed in their mission.
Thus the story clearly shows that true love does not yield to any pressure and it is above everything.
This story also presents the gory truth of the developments in no man‘s land near international borders. The message conveyed through the story is that there are enemies of nations who do illegal trade and trespass the borders while smuggling toxins, banned drugs, tranquillizers and false currency thus indulging in destroying the innocent lives of people. In this story, Najab, a young man from India, in paranoia trespasses the border while following his father and fellow villagers‘ illegal acts and crosses over the border with mixed intentions and luckily comes back alive.
Character sketch of Fatima
Fatima is the heroine of Keki N. Daruwalla’s “Love Across the Salt Desert”. She is referred to as “ Hoor” a paragon of heavenly beauty . She is bestowed with such a captivating beauty as to be able to drag Najab- a lifelong reticent, shy and diffident youth off his stand and hold her in a tight embrace for quite a while.
She is the only daughter of the wily old clove seller and smuggler of Sindh. Having lost her mother quite early, she manages the domesticity quite appreciably. She is under a lot of pressure from Kaley Shah to marry Mehfoz Ali – a far off relative from her mother’s side – a proposal she abhors as Mehfoz Ali is notorious for his slurred speech and stammer so much so that urchins mimic him and get ready to hound him like a madcap.
Fatima falls in love with Najab at the first sight and it is so profound and strong that she gets ready to abandon her father, her country and everything else and run away with Najab—another far off relative from her mother’s side hailing from Indian part of the desert. Fatimah entices and dares Najab and he flings his arms around her. As she elopes with Najab, she does not care for the village and country she is leaving for good. For her it means just a shift in dialect.
Fatima’s stepping on to the soil of Khavda is taken as ominous by Khavdan’s as torrential rains pour down the moment she steps in, thus ending three long years of death-dealing drought.
Character Sketch of Najab
Najab is a handsome and dynamic young man. In the early part of the story, he is a very shy, introvert and diffident boy. He is been known to blush at a mere mention of a girl. He had eyes which were dreamy. Neither of his peers ranked him among the braves. Also his father Aftab worried that the boy would lose everything he had and his ancestors had earned. He says, “All that my ancestors and I have acquired during a hundred years, this lad will squander away, not because he is a spendthrift but he will be too shy to charge money for what he sells!” He found him too shy to be able to demand what he might do for money.
Najab proves all his critics wrong. After his first encounter with Fatimah who sparked a flame of love in him, Najab turned to be a bold, confident, and determined hero for a romantic movie. He proves to be very daring and brave. He does not care for his safety in order to be able to meet his beloved. He turns out to be confident and courageous. He faces all odds but does not give up hope and ultimately he is successful in his mission. He wins his love. Najab keeps his word. He gives a promise to Fatimah that he would come back.
Fatimah also encourages him as she does not want to marry Mahfuz Ali. Najab shares his plan of elopement with his mother. He does not lose heart. He manages to stage the drama of business and elope despite all the dangers. He
truly acts on the proverb “Only the brave deserve the fair.”
Najab is a true hero. He falls in love with Fatimah. It is love at first sight. Fatimah responds to his love. She remains faithful to him. Finally, he marries
her and brings her home.
Q. Describe how Najab fooled Kaley Shah and brought Fatimah house?
Ans. Najab had fallen in love with Fatimah. He reached her house facing all difficulties and leading his life into danger. He had been chased by police also.
He was able to win the confidence of Kaley Shah by tempting him with a gold bangle. He assured him that he had come for business of cloves for gold.
While Kaley Shah was busy arranging clove for him, he was successful in befooling Kaley Shah. He brought Fatimah in his village Khavda on his camel Allarakha.
Thus, Najab was able to befool Kaley Shah and bring Fatimah, his love to his home.
Q. Why did Najab Hussain cross the Rann of Kutch alone?
Ans. Najab visited Pakistan with his father for business purpose. During one of such visits, he fell into love with Fatimah, the daughter of Kaley Shah, the clove-seller. Najab promised to visit her alone with no father or uncle. He made up his mind.
He didn’t tell anybody except his mother. The mother gave him a golden bangle and her blessings. On his way, he faced many obstacles but crossed the international boundary for the sake of him to bring his love to his motherland.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q.1 Why is the lesson has been titled “Love across the salt desert “? Why is the desert called a “Salt” desert?
Ans. The lesson has been titled “Love Across The Salt Desert” because a lover from India across the international border by entering in the territory of Pakistan to get his bride. While staying at Kaley Shah’s house, Najab had fallen in deep love with his daughter Fatima and had promised her that he would come again and take her away. He fulfilled his promise and eloped with her. The desert is called a salt desert because it is very difficult to cross.
Q. 2 Aftab asks Najab “Have you brought anything”? Do you think Aftab when he saw Fatimah?
Ans. Aftab was very worried about the safe arrival of his son Najab. He was happy when he saw his son along with Fatima though he does express happiness on his face.
Q. 3 The story ends with the coming of the rain that swept away years of drought. Do you think this helps Fatima in being welcomed into her new home?
Ans. The drought in Kutch had lasted for three successive years and everything was badly affected. But with the arrival of Fatimah in the village, the clouds burst and the drought ended. The people heaved a sigh of relief. This helped a lot to her in being welcomed into her new home. The people of the village still consider her arrival auspicious and a symbol of love across the border.
Q.4 How does the drought affect the following? Earth, Camel, Oxen, Cattle
Ans. Earth: the earth crakes and it looks as if chunks of it are being baked in a Kiln.
Camel: The camel alone survives the drought comfortably.
Oxen: The oxen die.
Cattle: The cattle become thin and emaciated.
Q.5 Why was Najab’s father worried about Najab’s future?
Ans. There are two reasons that made Najab’s father worried about Najab’s future. First, his son had crossed the border without taking Zaman into confidence. He thought that Zaman might harm his son, for it was not easy to cross the border without his support. Second, he feared that he would grow too shy to charge the money on what he would sell and as such would spend wastefully everything whatever his ancestors and he had acquired during a hundred years.
Q.6 Why was a visit to Kala Doongar important for the people of Khavda?
Ans. Visit to Kala Doongar was important for the people of Khavda because they would go there for seeking the blessings of the Panchamai Peer who had left his footprints on the hill over hundreds of years ago while trudging this salt desert and serving the people.
Q. 7 Was the trade that was carried on across the border legal? Give a reason for your answer?
Ans. No, the trade was not legal. The people of Khavda and the adjoining area would smuggle Indian goods into Pakistan and vice versa. They would bribe the officials and deputed troops through agents like that of Zaman. Had the trade been legal, there would have been no question of bribery.
Q. 8 When he heard about his son’s disappearance, what was Aftab’s first suspicion?
Ans. Aftab suspected that his son might have gone to Pakistan along with the bundles of tendu leaf which he had brought.
Q. 9 What made Aftab suspect that his wife knew about Najab’s going away?
Ans. Aftab had thought that his wife would faint on hearing that his son had disappeared. But his prediction proved wrong because his wife didn’t even blink in surprise. His eye fell on her bare arm and he found the gold bangle missing. All this made him suspect that his wife knew about Najab’s going away.
Q.10 Zaman was an important person in the village and was called the chief because (Tick the right answer)
a) he was the strongest man in the village b) his family had ruled the village for years
c) he arranged the smuggling trip across the border and had close contacts with officials on both the sides of the border.
Ans. Zaman was an important person in the village and was called the chief because he arranged the smuggling trip across the border and had close contact with officials on border the sides of the border.
Q.11 What was the Zaman’s reaction to Najab’s absence from the village? Why?
Ans. Zaman’s reaction was a wave of great anger and disappointment to Najab’s absence from the village. He told Najab’s father that his son was not innocent and introvert as the world believed and there was no limit to his annoyance. He was the chief of the smugglers and none of them would cross the border without his permission. But Najab was the first person who had not sought his permission and for the same reason, he was very much upset.
Q.12 The absence of man and a camel from the village was significant because (Say whether true or false)
a) It meant that someone had across the border
b) It meant someone had come into the country
c) It meant the camel would be confiscated by the officials
Q.13 Fatimah says ‘just my luck to run into mutes’? Who the mutes she refers to? Why does she make this statement?
Ans. Fatimah and Najab fell in deep love at the first sight. She had been under pressure to get engaged to a stammerer namely Mahfuz Ali. She wanted to elicit a word from Najab but could not, for he was a shy, quiet and pleasant young man so ready with his smiles. So, Fatimah found herself in a dilemma and started thinking that there were mutes in store for her and the mutes were Mahfuz Ali and Najab.
Q.14 Najab knew that Fatimah loved him because ( Tick the right answer)
a. She made special dishes for him to eat.
b. She told him that she loved him.
c. She made suggestive gestures.
Ans. Najab knew that Fatimah loved him because she made suggestive gestures.
Q.15 Was Kaley Shah happy to see Najab? How did Najab win his trust?
Ans. No, Kaley Shah was not happy to see Najab. He expressed his unhappiness saying that he had come unannounced, dragged the police behind him and had not brought tendu leaf with him. But Najab was very quick to understand the situation. After showing the gold bangle, he told Kaley Shah that he had come for cloves and would pay in gold. In this way, he won his trust.
Q. 16 Though Fatimah belonged to a different country she did not hesitate in eloping with a boy from another country. Give two reasons?
Ans. True love does not know boundaries, hurdles, bullets and reasons. It is madness to put hurdles in the way of true lovers. Though Fatimah belonged to a different country but she did hesitate in eloping with a boy from another country and the reasons are obvious. First, she did not want to marry Mahfuz Ali who was a stammerer. Second, she was in the true and deep love with Najab.
Q. 17 Fatimah calls Najab a mute yet he proposes to her. How does he do that?
Ans. Najab was known to be a shy and introvert boy. He fell in deep love with Fatimah at the first sight but could not tell her straightforwardly about his love. So she called him mute. However, he proposed her through gestures. He flung his arms around her and promised that he would come again to take her to his home.
Q.18 Why did people of Khavda welcome Fatimah with open arms?
Ans. The people of Khavda had been in the grip of acute drought for three successive years and everything was badly hit. But when Fatimah stepped in the village, the clouds burst and the drought came to end.
Her coming to village proved auspicious occasion and brought prosperity to the villagers in the form of rain. So the people of Khavda village welcomed her with open arms and delight.
Q. 19 The writer has used a number of colourful phrases to describe Fatimah’s beauty. Find the expression to describe the following:
a. Eyes b. Hair c. Laughter d. Eyebrows e. Smell
Ans.a) Her eyes are so bright that they would have lit up the darkness of the underworld
b) Her hair was as black as the night itself.
c) her laughter had the timbre of ankle bells.
d) Her eyebrows were black wisps of the night
e) She smelt of cloves and cinnamon
Q.20 Najab as described in the early part of the story and Najab as we see in the latter part are different, but similar in some ways. Compare and contrast Najab’s characters before and after journey across the desert?
Answer. The story Love Across the Salt Desert depicts a love affair of two true and sincere lovers namely Najab and Fatimah. There are many characters in the story but Najab has got a pivotal position. In the early part of the story, he is a very shy, introvert and reserved boy. He was known to have blushed at the mere mention of a girl. He had dreamy eyes. None of his friends had ranked him among the braves. Even his father Aftab feared the boy would waste away all that he had and his ancestors had acquired. He considered him too shy to be able to charge money what would he sell. But all these predictions proved wrong in the latter part of the story. Najab turned to be courageous, brave and determined son after his first meet with Fatimah who ignited a spark of love in him. He undertook a dangerous journey, crossed the border and met his love. He did not care for bullets and difficulties. He faced all the hardships, he met during the trip with a smiling face. He was true, sincere and faithful in his love. He had understood what love really means. He felt his love and saw the image of Fatimah in every object he touched, imagined and articulated. In the initial part of the story his character is marked by shyness and diffidence but in the latter part of the story, his bravery and confidence are spoken off.
Q.21 Zaman, Aftab and Kaley Shah were all involved in same trade, yet they were different in many ways. Compare the three and rate them from the least villainous to the most villainous giving reasons for answer?
Ans. Zaman was a veteran smuggler. He was the chief of smugglers in the area where he lived. He would arrange illegal trips for the smugglers and keep the Rangers happy. He was a very influential person so far as crossing of the border was concerned. Though Najab crossed the Rann without his consent but had a close Shave.
Aftab was father of Najab. He was also a smuggler. He would smuggle things from India to Pakistan. He would take tendu leaf and sell them across the border. He was not hopeful about his son and would say that he would waste away everything on account of his shyness. He had never expected any act of bravery from his son. He was an affectionate father. His heart sank with grief on hearing about the disappearance of his son. He prayed that his son might come back safely.
Kaley Shah lived in Sindh. He was a spice seller. He would harbour the Indian smugglers and arrange spice like cloves and cinnamon for them. He thought only in terms of business. He got angry when he found Najab empty-handed. He had links with their local police and the guardians of law could do nothing against him. There is hardly anything appreciable about his character.
Zaman is the most villainous character. He would do anything for the sake of money. It is Aftab who seems to be the least villainous. He is trembled and terrified on hearing the news of his son’s disappearance
Explanation With Reference to the Text
What would he not do for her…… For her he would cross the salt desert
Context: These lines have been taken from the story, “Love Across the Salt Desert ” written by Keki N Daruwalla. Here the writer conveys a very important message that true love knows no boundaries, barriers and bullets but it brings nations closer by minimizing the impediments existing between them.
Explanation: These lines express that Najab would do anything for his beloved Fatimah. Fatimah was a paragon of beauty. Her laughter had the sound of ankle bells, her eyebrows were like wisps of the night and her hair was the night itself. To get his object of love, Najab was happily ready to face any challenge.