The past three four reviews have all discussed patriarchy and its attendant evils, domestic violence being one of the several other equally ugly presentations. In reading the various characters that populate the visually bright but emotionally dark world of Mera Naam Yousuf Hai we’ve seen the hows of why an ossified system like ours not only exists but thrives, and identified those responsible for the perpetuation of this skewed societal setup, one which is heavily skewed towards those in a position of power, be it economic and/or social. So deeply embedded are notions of izzat, naam, ghar, khandan, loag, duniya, that often times even those who want to protest the system end up repeated and reiterating the status quo.
Highlighting social evils, underlining religious hypocrisies, pointing out prevalent double standards, holding up the mirror to evidence collective responsibility for all that is wrong, this is all well and good, but after this depressing scenario should we take the moral to be that change can/will never happen?
Are we destined to only hear lambay lecture aur josheeli taqreerein? In ka kiya faida? Kya hum yahan nahin rehte? Kiya hamein nahin pata ke kahan kahan kiya kharabi hai? Tau phir sirf batein or n’arey hi kyon? Kiya tabdeeli kabhi nahin ayegi? Hum kab dekhenge… woh din … jab taaj uchhaley jayen ge?
Where many dejected cynics might shake their heads and walk away, to give them credit Khalil ur Rehman Qamar and Mehreen Jabbar offer us an alternative way of thinking, a way out of this morass. Rather than talking in broad macro terms – m’ashra badal dena, naya nizam lana – they push for individual responsibility, asking for making micro differences. Instead of waiting for radical change to be foisted on from the outside, why not take charge of the process and usher in change from within, one person, one ghar, one khandan at a time?
When Wajih returned Afia back to her parents she had no other alternative but to become Noor Muhammad’s wife. After all what were her other options? An unmarried single woman living alone without familial support? The concept might sound romantic on principle but a difficult one to practice when pragmatically viewed within Afia’s socio-economic context. Hence she married a man who took particular delight in torturing her, egged on as he was by his sister who had her own axe to grind against her beautiful bhabhi. But that was then.
Twenty some years later, overall desi society might’ve remained the same but there was this one thing that had changed, Afia had evolved. Zulekha would not be raised by a bechari majboor maa. She brought up her daughters with a mind of their own, educated them so they could think critically, empowered them by sharing hard-earned lessons from her past. She tried her level best to protect Zulekha but when push came to shove she couldn’t save her from ending up in Imran Mughees’ bedroom as his bhagori dulhan. At least that’s how it seemed to Afia that night.
Zulekha, however, was not her mother’s daughter for nothing. And for that matter she’d inherited quite a bit of shrewdness from her phupo as well. Not only did she manage to retain her honor and dignity, but also gained an advocate in the smitten Imran Mughees. One night with her hard-hitting truths and he was willing to play her knight in shining armor, albeit kuch dara kuch sehma sa...
Where Afia has faced and continues to face the cruel and harsh realities of patriarchy her daughter is more optimistic. She sees and wills change to happen. One could either dismiss her as naive or perhaps hand it to her for being smart enough to play the games her genteel mother was unable to so many years ago. Whatever it may be and however it happens, there are more than a few signs that the combo of Afia’s tarbiyat and Noor Muhammad’s genes has started to bear fruit. Its not just Zulekha, Wali too has given his share of jhatkas – she to her phupo and he to his dad.
Going by all that we had seen of him so far, Wali had not really impressed as someone who’d ever had a single independent thought – it was either his dad or Tehmina who had done this job for him. But seeing how he’d been used by his father and phupo served as a real eye opener for him. Afia’s slap and ghar nikala did the rest. It was like a blind man seeing for the first time. End result: khushkhabri for his mother and for his father, not quite.
By not allowing herself to lose hope, pushing as and when and where possible, Afia was able to bring about change. It maybe too late for her and Noor Muhammad, but for her children the time is right and it is now. Wali has seen the error of his ways, and Zulekha, no matter what her marital status vis-à-vis Imran Mughees, is in a position to make her own life choices.
And on life choices, fighting against not just the world outside but the world within as well is tearing Madiha apart. On the one hand she wants to protect her sense of self but then on the other there is Yousuf. It was fabulous to see her holding her own, refusing t cave into pressure from not just Nudrat and Wajih, but also from her own brother. Whether its pleading Yousuf’s case or looking out for her happiness, both parties seem blissfully unaware that Madiha is not an object to be given over to somebody at will. Both need to see she is fully capable of making her own choice – even one as painful as saying no to someone who’s always been her first option.
As for the first option in question, rather than being thankful for the well-meaning people in his life and recognizing how much trouble he’s put everybody through, we see him pouting at his mother and slapping his best friend – say what?!? Itney hazaar nakhrey when he’s basically unemployed and mooching off of his parents and best friends! Wah, aisi halat mein tau forget about Zulekha I would advise Madiha also to tell you to go take a hike! Or at the very least make him work for you, girl! How dare he show up at her house and throw her love in her face?!?
All in all this was one heck of an episode – each scene better than the one before. I am loving the delightful blend of humor and pathos, and enjoying how the darkness of the story is offset by the brilliant visuals. The actors, each and everyone is perfectly cast and all appear to be relishing their meaty characters. Above and beyond all else, for me the true hero here is the empowering moral of the story. Rather than being handed the circa 1930’s advice- beta sabar karo, jo Allah ki marzi, tumhari qismat, Allah par yaqeen karo, sab theek ho jayega, ek din tumhare bhi din phir jayenge – we are being shown that in addition to having yaqeen in Allah there needs to be a concerted, honest effort from the human as well.
A few more Afias and Zulekhas, and Madihas and Hajras and Tajis and Imran Mughees-es and Walis – all of whom are far from perfect – and who knows … hum dekhen ge!
Written by SZ~