Last week Yasmin’s story served as a gut punch to not only us the viewers but also her companions on the train. A furtive glance from one, self-conscious peek look-around another, an uncomfortable smile from the third, the pursed lips of the fourth – Yasmin’s was a story as unfamiliar to these women as it was familiar. Details were different but the pain, suffering and depth of despair resonated. It was as if her story was theirs. And it may well have been. Their discomfited reactions affirmed their stories were but only variations on the theme.
Then it was Yasmin and today it was Gulmeena’s turn to reflect.
Wedding songs bring to mind memories, of times when one home is left behind for another; the tinge of sadness associated with leaving behind the safe and familiar is replaced with the anticipation and excitement of starting life anew. But not everybody leaves home out of choice. Not everyone gets to choose. Gulmeena and her family are forced to move due to conflict and strife in their hometown.
As a displaced person, moving from one town to another, Gulmeena’s life changes forever. Not only did she lose her home but lost alongside were her dreams of a happy ever after. She who had once been a beloved wife with a baby on the way was now fleeing a miserable existence – an abused wife of a man old enough to be her grandfather – to look for her son who had been forcibly taken away from her.
Had Yasmin and Gulmeena been by themselves they would’ve continued on suffering in silence, weighed down by the burden of their lives. For that’s how it works in societies governed by patriarchy, a system where women are not allowed to be authors of their story. Their voices muted whilst others decide the direction of their lives. But Yasmin and Gulmeena are not alone, they have children.
It is the concern for a better future for their children that causes Yasmin and Gulmeena to challenge the status quo and they opt out of what was essentially bonded labor. Their lives might have started off being scripted by others but from hereon forward they were going to author their own narratives.
Exchanging stories is not only an act of catharsis but also creates up a safe space where these women can speak without the fear of being judged. Opening up to a peer group allows them to share doubts and confusions about their actions, talk about the guilt that society places on women who dare walk away.
Tehmina’s gentle assurances help allay not just Yasmin’s misgivings but also resonate with those listening carefully to each word exchanged between the two. It is only after the past has been dealt with that the healing process can begin. Last week it was the blue nail polish, this time the red lipstick is rubbed off. Slowly and gradually Yasmin is ridding herself off the unnecessary and unwanted reminders. And thus begins the process of self- realization, one tiny step at a time.
Seamlessly picking up the threads from last week, this second episode of Akhri Station made for a compelling watch. Gulmeena’s story enveloped a number of inter-related issues included among them: socio-economic disruptions in everyday lives on account of political unrest, trauma of displacement, gender bias, cultural bias against medical aid for women, lack of healthcare facilities at refugee centers, problem of being a widow/single woman, wives being treated as bonded labor, and no protection of mothers’ rights.
Even as the two stories we’ve seen so far have been very different in tone and texture and in terms of issues they’ve touched on, I am loving how well-knit these two plus the frame story are, and appreciating the expertise with which the various issues have been threaded in alongside. I liked how Yasmin’s story got a proper closure today, the song leading into Gulmeena’s story was very nicely done and made the transition very smooth.I like how Tehmina’s character is being gradually built up, acting as it does as the bridge between various stories.
While I enjoyed Gulmeena’s story I have to say I did not find this episode as compelling a watch as the first one. Partly because the dialogues sounded stilted and in some places foreign to the setting and the overall narrative was a bumpy ride. Gulmeena played by Amara Butt was better in the latter half of the episode. The rest of the actors were not very convincing though they looked the part and had accents right. That old husband was creepy!!
Among the other actors, Eman Suleman was again very good. With their reaction shots Farah Tufail and Malika Zafar have me intrigued about their stories. The star of this episode, apart from the cinematographer, has to be Sanam Saeed. She had only a few clichéd lines to say, but the way she said them and her performance throughout, the little smile, the glance away out the window, little touches that added much-needed gravitas to this episode.
I had complained about the sound last week and it was gratifying to see that issue fixed. Visually this episode was as much of a delight as the first one, the shot of the door latch was quite terrifying. The village scenes were all beautifully shot. The precap has me looking forward to the next episode.
So yeah, I’m still on board this train – what about you all? Looking forward to your thoughts.
Written by SZ~