Apney aap sey milne ka waqt ~ Khud ko pehchanney ka waqt ~ Main se mujh tak ka safar taey karney ka waqt ~
What does main mean for women in our culture? Actually, you know what mitti pao meaning ko, sawal yeh hai ke does this word even exist in a mashriqi shareef aurat’s lexicon?
When was the last time we heard a woman say she was taking time off – time for herself – enjoying a well deserved break from playing the dutiful daughter fulfilling her parents’ expectations, a wife accommodating her shohar sahab’s demands, a mother responsible for her children’s tarbiyat, a bahu catering to her in-laws? When does she get to take a day off? To put herself – main – first?
And, were that an option how many of us would allow ourselves to avail it? Would we able to put aside our innate sense of guilt – walk away from family, from responsibilities, from the constant demands – leave everything behind? Just for a day or two?
Seductive as it sounds and talk as we may, of the importance of giving time to ourselves, few among us would be willing to take a chance and live for ourselves, if only for a weekend. Apni hi zindagi se apni zaat ke liye aik do din churatey huey dar lagta hai … what will the parents say, how will the husband react, what will the in-laws think, bacchon ko kaun dekhey ga, laog kya sochenge… the fears are never-ending… the eyes staring back in the mirror are not our own .. these questioning, accusing eyes belong to those around us …. and it is through these eyes that we are conditioned to view ourselves, value ourselves. Looking past the pat judgments, breaking free of these shackles of societal expectations is easier said than done – ask Laila.
Laila has turned out to be quite the woman – a far cry from the sheltered pampered girl who lived in a world filled with love, laughter and lyrics. This woman, Mrs. Mansoor, has a spine of steel. Gone are the days when she reacted passively. Now she is in charge and she is the one calling the shots. She is the one who brushes past her husband, ignoring his ire, calmly asking, no, silkily ordering him to go collect the bacchi from her mother’s house – main thak gayee hoon, she offers airily as she disappears into the bedroom. Now it is Mansoor’s turn to feel caged in. Where is he to go?
Unlike the mashriqi aurat, who is taught the art of compromise, asked to do sabar from the day she is born, our mashriqi mard has never had the occasion to think about, let alone learn, these very complicated, to say nothing of extremely painful, concepts. Why would he need to? Yeh tau mardon ki duniya hai, nahin? Yahan mard haakim aur aurat mehkoom hoti hai, isn’t that still the conventional wisdom? Where then is this new Laila emerging from? Why is she not behaving like their mothers and scores of other women have done through time? Mansoor is puzzled.
Well, miyan Mansoor things are changing, one woman at a time. First Laila thwarts you and now even Kuku. Socheye, socheye, shayad koi hal nikal aaye… Clearly your dhamkis and threats are no good, both women have seen through you and your snakelike charm. Perhaps its time to try a new tactic … hmmm … perhaps viewing yourself through Laila and Kuku’s eyes will help? Isn’t it about time our mashriqi mard began to read what that reflection in the mirror has been trying to tell him since forever, no?
So busy is he wallowing in self-pity ke he is blind to the immense pain he has caused both women. What Mansoor does not see, or more importantly will never be allowed to see, is Laila trembling on the inside, how she visibly strengthens her resolve every time she confronts him. He will remain unaware of tears Kuku sheds as she steels herself to tune out his pleas. He does not look down to their feet as they walk away from him, see their feet bleeding from treading on a path littered with shards of shattered hopes and expectations.
Walking away from a marriage is easier said than done. There is too much invested in this relationship, more so for a woman than a man. She is the one who will be pinpointed and talked about, jab ke nobody will question the man for walking out on a marriage or for cheating on his wife.
Honor, naam, izzat, all these are a woman’s burden to bear, and this burden Laila and Kuku are bearing with grace, but with a twist. No longer are they going to lead their lives according to the terms spelled out by the duniya, but ones they themselves have penned. Laila will continue to dutifully serve chai to shohar sahab, but will do so while ignoring her saas’ taanas and responding to Mansoor’s slights with heavy duty tanz-es of her own.
Standing alone in a room Laila might question her choices, think twice about applying lipstick, but outwardly she is dignified and calm personified, unlike Mansoor who is busy sulking and blowing hot air. This is the strength of will that a mashriqi aurat has always possessed – she was born with it – but has forgotten through centuries of socialization in a patriarchal society. Laila has started to assert herself, will wait to see how much Mansoor is capable of dealing with before he blows up. Don’t think he’s gonna last half as long as Laila did, or even Kuku … woh tau sirf ek aurat hi hai jo bardasht kiye jaati hai…
Laila might seem to have the upper hand for now but the battle of sexes has only just begun. And not to be forgotten here is Kuku- the all important third angle in this triangular relationship. It was she who laid bare Mansoor’s hypocrisy, she who forced Laila out of her stupor, she who pointed out her naïveté– men like her husband were never going to change, and nobody was coming to her rescue. If she didn’t want to die of suffocation then it was up to Laila to carve out an opening allowing fresh air to come through.
And its not just Kuku talking the talk, she’s actually walking the walk too, unlike our beloved Mrs Khan. She may have given refuge to Khurram for now, but the hurts of past have not been forgotten and forgiven. Every time he comes close she is reminded of yet another scam he had pulled on her.
The sense of entitlement these two men have is amazing. Just because she cries at the thought of how close he came to losing his life, Khurram thinks he can go back to playing happy houses. A few babys here and there and he thinks Kuku is his for the asking. What he does not know is that Kuku is done with him. Even though it breaks her heart to finally close the book on her marriage, and not just that but also her dreams of love, family, children, she knows it is finally time. Now however many tears he may shed, his time with Kuku is over. Like she had told Laila, it was up to them as women to give themselves time – time to return dignity and meaning to their lives, time to appreciate and value themselves, time to recognize themselves as individuals in their own right.
Apney aap sey milne ka waqt ~ Khud ko pehchan-ney ka waqt ~ Main se mujh tak ka safar taey karney ka waqt~
Pehchan is not merely about Kuku and Laila and Mansoor and Khurram’s lives, it is about all of our lives, our society, jo main bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho. Pehchan is a story we see playing out in and around us on a daily basis. To pen so intensely personal a story, to stand in front of the mirror and not flinch at the grotesque image that stares back takes a lot of courage and Bee Gul deserves a huge round of applause for doing just that.
Week after week I am left awestruck by the stark honesty of the story, superbly offset by the the stunning beauty of the visual narrative. Khalid sahab, I don’t know how you did it, but your directorial eye, your exquisite handling of so sensitive a story, and superb acting by the cast has managed to elevate Pehchan to a whole other level, one where mundane things like ratings and reviews, and annoying VOA interruptions, don’t matter – this one is a keeper.
Where do I sign up for my copy of the DVD?
Written by SZ~