If Yasmin’s story was gut wrenching and Gulmeena’s eye-opening, Farzana’s story hit where it hurt the most.
Domestic abuse, more particularly marital abuse is an unfortunate reality, but we the polite society tend to distance ourselves from it by thinking of this ugly truth as “their” problem. Theirs as in not ours. Ours as in we the educated classes. All the marna peetna … this happens among the lower classes. The unrefined them vs the refined us. Parhey likhay hum vs the unparh them. The sophisticated us vs uncouth them. Such are the false binaries behind which we hide ourselves and our dirty little secrets.
Emotional, physical, financial – all are forms of abuse and impact all strata of society, irrespective of whether we own up to it or not.
The rhythmic clickety-clack of the train makes for an apt accompaniment for songs of love and separation as each woman is lost in her reverie. Now that she’s managed to escape an abusive marriage Yasmin thinks of the challenges that await her in Karachi. Gulmeena’s story brings to Tehmina’s mind ugly memories she’d rather not remember. Even as they are opening up to each other – their body language more relaxed, seats swapped for comfort – not every woman is ready to look the other women in the eye and open up.
Farzana wants to share her story, the keen attention she’d paid earlier betrayed her interest. But it isn’t quite that easy for her, is it? Unlike the other two women, who were socio-economically less fortunate, Farzana is highly educated, financially independent and free to make her life choices. Paradoxically though, it is these precise privileges that hold her back from opening up, to either her fellow passengers or to her well-wishers earlier.
But open up now she does. In a beautifully executed scene I loved how Farzana chose to tell her story while laying on the top berth, hidden from the other women’s direct view, shielding herself from what she fears would be judgmental gazes. What she doesn’t realize is that far worse than what any one else can say is her own self-flagellation. Even after escaping her tormentor and knowing better, she still blames herself and diminishes her troubles. Haltingly first, then picking up the narrative she begins from the beginning, when she and Sajjad were a newly married couple.
Typically our drams tend to show women from the other side of the metaphoric train tracks as the victims of domestic or marital abuse. What made this episode so very particularly poignant and meaningful was that Farzana was not the “other” – she was like us, one among us. She lives in the city not in some village somewhere. How then could she get entangled in a situation like this? How could she marry such a loser? How could she not see the warning signs? Didn’t she know better?
Amna Mufti’s screenplay is effective in detailing the buildup to the abuse and depicts very well the mindset of an abused woman.The fact that Farzana saw herself and was seen as a “strong” woman made it harder for her to accept that she had made a wrong choice and was stuck in a toxic relationship with an insecure man. She had well-meaning friends around but their advice was ignored.
This leads to the question: Why have we as a society made it so difficult for all the Farzanas to admit to a mistake. Does education and financial independence mean that a woman should have to work harder and suffer in silence to prove that she can do it all, and that too perfectly? Isn’t this price too much to pay for the prized title of a perfect all-rounder?
Related to the issue of domestic abuse is the issue of the children. Even as we talk of adults as victims we must not forget the children: Those who grow up witnessing violence and those who are also victims themselves. In both cases children grow up with violence normalized to the point it becomes routine and an acceptable way of life.
Another bias, so strongly imbibed that it goes almost unnoticed, is the insistence on perfection. Gori rangat, rang ke hisab se kaprey, gora baccha, pyara baccha, larka hona chahiye – none of which the woman has any control over. The fact that such “demands” are made even by educated husbands and families goes to show that degrees on the wall are no cure for jahalat of the mind.
An important point highlighted is the lack of awareness about mental health issues, for men and women. Sajjad needs help but no one in his family seems to realize it; his mother covers it up while his brother cracks joke about his stern disposition. Farzana for all her education cannot see the signs of her husband’s increasingly serious condition. One can only wonder about the uneducated, rural populace if this is the state of awareness among the educated urbanites.
What I am appreciating here is the way the stories connect and overlap, hence even as each episode is self-contained there is a carryover element that opens the following episode on a familiar note. Also praiseworthy is the way the new stories are being gradually introduced. Tehmina’s flashback is very intriguing and I am looking forward to seeing her story unfold. Also the latest entrant in the compartment has literally brought her baggage on-board, so am looking forward to seeing her reasons for travelling alone.
Overall I found this episode a lot more cohesive, better knit and the tightly written than the previous one. Acting wise Malika Zafar was fantastic as Farzana, conveying her the ebbs and flows of her character’s emotions very well. Shah Fahad was an able partner as her parha likha jahil shohar. I am really liking the new faces we are getting to see here. Nimra Bucha made her entry today and that makes me a very happy camper. Irfan Khoosat is excellent in his cameo appearances.
Like the previous episodes this one too was a visual and aesthetic delight. I am loving the attention to details – the sound design, swapping of seats in the train, Farzana on the upper berth, accessories and costumes of the small town singers, Gulmeena covering her face when the chaiwalla enters the compartment, Sanam’s gradually vanishing eye liner – small touches, but they all go a long way in creating the necessary ambiance for the story to have the necessary impact.
Locked doors are a recurring theme and it is interesting how each door is different and is shot differently. But even as they are all unique the one commonality is they all hold darkness within. Thankfully all these women have managed to escape despite the locked doors. And this is what make Aakhri Station unique – there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Written by SZ~