Jahangir-e-qahraman (Jahangir the champion) pulled on the reins and balanced himself as his horse reared up majestically and the sound of its neigh echoed in the buzkashi field amongst the other dozens of horses that would be competing. He felt his heart beating faster and the adrenaline pounding through his veins. Years, he had experienced this moment over and over again but he could never get tired of it. He was 76 years old but he felt as alive as he had in his first game, when he was 21.

He remembered that day clearly.

He had been terrified of falling off his horse, of getting stepped on by the other horses, of getting seriously injured. But what terrified him the most was losing. His team had to win, and he had to be the champion. Pari was watching the game. He knew that because she had promised him she would hide and watch from behind the tree on the hill, and send her prayers to him so that he would win. And then he could ask for her hand in marriage with his head held high, as the best chapandaz in Sheberghan.

Jahangir had loved Pari with all his heart and soul since the very first day they had met. But her father wanted to marry her off to a village elder’s son. A champion. A man. And Jahangir had been nothing. That was the day he would fight for his love, he would become the buzkashi champion, and all the tribes and villages would chant his name. Jahangir-e-qahraman! He wouldn’t even have to introduce himself to Pari’s father. He would already know him as the chapandaz champion.

Jahangir chuckled as he remembered all the injuries he had sustained in his first game. Pari thought he was going to die. She cried for days. But he had done it. He had won. He married his beautiful Pari with his head held high and played as the Buzkashi champion every single Nowruz since that day.

The sound of the crowd cheering brought Jahangir back to reality, and he gazed at the tree on top of the hill, where his Pari had stood, praying for him. Although she had passed away, he knew she was there now, he could feel it. He turned his horse towards the field and began to ride, knowing that Pari’s prayers would protect him, as they always had.

Story and illustration by @rasmorawaj ©

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