MULTAN - A red handkerchief was embroidered by a radiant Mishal for her to-be-groom Zahid to hold in his hand as a ritual on his Walima. Though Zahid could not fulfil this ritual, the handkerchief was still in his use. It was laid on his white shroud.

The fairytale of Mishal and Zahid, cousins before tying knot, ended in just a couple of days after their marriage when their boat capsized in swollen River Chenab and the groom drowned. The bride was rescued.

Mishal and Zahid tied the knot on an embankment in the flooded town of Muzaffargarh on September 12 as their village Sonikay came under water. They set out for Multan where their Walima ceremony, a ritual observed by Muslims after the marriage, was to take place. However, it was a different journey. They had to take a boat as the flood had cut the road contact between Multan and Muzaffargarh.

As the newlyweds set out for home, they met with the worst tragedy of their lives – just before reaching the riverbank. The boat carrying them capsized and all onboard fell into water. The rescuers of Pakistan Army, Navy, Rescue 1122 and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation jumped into the river and brought 20 passengers alive and 17 dead out of swirling water. Mishal was among the lucky 20 but her groom Zahid was pronounced dead.

“When they brought her out of water, she was out of breath. We rushed her to a nearby health facility and they tried to bring water out of her lungs,” Jam Faryad Ali, father-in-law of Mishal, recalled. No one is quite sure what happened, but a survivor remembers that the women and children on board got panicked after seeing a helicopter hovering over their heads.

The tragedy has left Mishal in severe shock, though she uttered a few words while talking to her mother. She recalled that just before boarding the boat, Zahid took her hand in his hand, pressed it and said that ‘we would be okay’.

“He had promised me to take me to the beach. We were scheduled to go to Karachi on September 20 for honeymoon,” Mishal was quoted as saying. For Mishal and Zahid, their union was a match made in heaven. She now faces an uncertain future as the people in rural areas still strongly believe in good and bad omens.