‘Heer-Ranjha’ not just about forbidden love but also gender violence, says Pakiatan-based author : The Tribune India

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‘Heer-Ranjha’ not just about forbidden love but also gender violence, says Pakiatan-based author

‘Heer-Ranjha’ not just about forbidden love but also gender violence, says Pakiatan-based author

Pakistan-based Author Haroon Khalid at GNDU in Amritsar.



Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 15

Waris Shah’s classic Heer has been among one of the most significant folk literature of Punjab and over the years, a subject of various re-interpretations and adaptations. The most recent one is by author Haroon Khalid, in his latest book ‘From Waris to Heer’. The Literary Club of Guru Nanak Dev University hosted a riveting discussion with the Pakistan-based celebrated author and journalist, Haroon Khalid, on his retelling of the iconic Punjabi folk tale, Heer Ranjha.

In conversation with Ratnadeep Chakraborty, a student from the MA International Relations programme at GNDU, Khalid delved into the concept of “Qissa writing, or storytelling through short stories, which emphasises retelling familiar stories using new symbols and interpretations rather than striving for pure originality”. He grappled with the challenge of reinvigorating the well-known ‘Heer Ranjha’ narrative, whose ending is widely known across Punjab, while keeping the audience engrossed. “Drawing from the ‘Qissa’ storytelling tradition, I aimed to offer fresh social and political insights through his retelling,” said Khalid, whose earlier repertoire as author includes four books: A White Trail (2013), In Search of Shiva (2015), Walking with Nanak (2016) and Imagining Lahore (2018).

A key element of Khalid’s experimental approach involved blurring the lines between author, characters, and story itself. The characters in ‘From Waris to Heer’, he explained, “possess a self-aware quality, actively playing roles within the tale.” Attributing this meta-fictional technique, he said it enabled him to explore complex themes of history, politics, religion, and gender through the viewpoints of his protagonists.

Khalid shed light on the historical context surrounding Waris Shah, one of the central figures, noting the scarcity of concrete details regarding him, allowed greater creative licence in his depiction. He also unpacked how his writing organically reflects Pakistan’s rich composite culture —- a recurring motif across his body of work. In the current climate where tradition is often politically exploited, Khalid aimed to authentically capture this confluence of identities.

The profound concept of divine and earthly love in ‘Heer Ranjha’ was another focal point. According to Khalid, the perspective is rooted in the mystical tradition which synergises the two forms of love. The transformations undergone by characters like Heer mirror this merging of the spiritual and corporeal realms, catalysing profound shifts in identity.

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