Aakhri Station ~ Episode 4 ~ A Women’s Day Review

That patriarchy is a defining feature of desi society is something we all know, equally commonplace is the knowledge of its harmful implications, particularly for women. Here then is the question: If we all know and understand patriarchy for the problem it is, how and why is such a system allowed to continue, particularly in this day and age?

Looking back historically, patriarchy grew out of a feudal context where  power was vested in men who were the heads of households. Familial legacies were carried forward through male children. Women did not count as individual entities, but on account of their reproductive capabilities were designated as repositories of male honor and their bodies turned into convenient battlegrounds for wars waged in the name of honor.

That such a draconian system not just survives but thrives is on account of the men AND women who are complicit in insuring its survival. Patriarchy exists because after centuries of conditioning, misogyny has been internalized to the extent that it is normalized as a part of every day ordered lives. It is this order that informs the world around us from which we derive our identity.

Any woman who dares questions these “norms,” or dares to defy the labels society places on her is immediately seen a being morally objectionable or abrasive or pushy or with a bad attitude – the quintessential buri aurat. Even today societal expectation of a “good girl” is to be seen not heard, not create ripples of any kind. Acchi larkiyan woh nahin kartein aisey nahin boltein yeh kaprey nahin pehntein … the list of do’s and dont’s is endless.

So ingrained is this misogyny that even well-meaning women don’t do anything simply because they don’t see anything wrong with the situation playing out in front of them. At the other end of the spectrum are women who enjoy making others suffer as a revenge for their own miseries. The victim of yesterday has evolved into the victimzer of today. Hence be it unconsciously or consciously we see inherited behavioral patterns being repeated and recreated.

Four episodes in Aakhri Station has been absolutely brilliant in underlining ever so subtly this particular aspect of patriarchy – the role of female complicity and its implications. In the first story Yasmin’s mother-in-law could have questioned her son as to the source of funding for new “business”, she could’ve looked a little closer into her visibly distraught daughter-in-law’s eyes, but she chose not to. Her son was happy, earning money and providing for his family, how could anything be wrong with this picture?

In Gulmeena’s story Amma Gul actively tries to stop her son from helping her daughter-in-law get much needed medical help. Later too she creates all kinds of problems for her young daughter-in-law which lead to disastrous consequences. It is important to note here that we tend to laugh off the saas-bahu angle, but when seen through this particular lens of analysis there is a lot of food for thought as to how we all have also normalized and accepted as routine two women’s rivalry over a man’s affections, and for what? Access to a man = access to power.

Farzana’s story was heartbreaking in how mothers choose to overlook warning signs because it might signal something wrong with her child or lead to questions about her upbringing.  Sajjad’s mother had more than a strong hint of her son’s mental health issues but she chooses to bury her head in the sand – shaadi ke ba’ad  sab kuch theek ho jayega… ab bahu aagayi hai woh sanbhal legi. And it’s not just the mother-in-law.

When her marriage breaks up, Farzana feels she has no choice but to leave the city. Were she to return home she knows her mother would  ask her to reconsider. Because that’s what good girls do. Divorces are for bad girls. That’s what society’s norms have taught us. So what if her husband beat her?

In this latest story, we see how little socio-economic status has to do with what we teach our daughters. Rafia gets the same advice from her well-meaning baji  that Farzana feared her mother would give. Baji’s is an interesting character. She is a product of a conformist society, hence despite meaning well she still offers the same old advice: He’s repented, go back.

Rafia’s husband is a drug addict and from him she contracts HIV. Had it not been for her sister’s timely illness she wouldn’t even have known that she was sick. But what good does knowing do for her? She’s kicked out of the house, and eventually is forced to leave her sister’s house as well. Here too, despite not wanting to, baji lets her go. Baji too has a husband to please.

Because Rafia dares question her husband’s suspicious activities her mother-in-law abuses her, casts aspersions on her character and later Parvez beats her. All for raising an alarm about suspected drug use. Like the earlier stories this 4th story too envelops a number of interrelated issues. The issue of drug abuse and it’s devastating impact on not just the user’s life but also his family was highlighted very effectively.

As the train chugs along, now past Multan, the stories may differ in detail but at the core are all the same. Its about women and their victimization. It is this shared pain that has them listening to each other with great interest, the universality that touches them, and causes them to overlook their cultural and socio-economic differences. They are now so bonded that even the fear of the dreaded HIV disease cannot stop them from rallying around Rafia to hear her story.

What I am really appreciating in Aakhri Station is that unlike other issue-based dramas we are actually seeing a solution, albeit not in a they lived happily ever after manner. What Kashf Foundation is showing us here is more real. In walking away from an abusive situation each of these women have taken the first step towards breaking the cyclical pattern of abuse. Secondly, by talking about their problems they have  broken the code of silence surrounding such societal problems. Thirdly, by showing an attentive audience we see there is no shame in talking about such matters. Others have similar stories too. These may seem like very small things, but small steps are what lead to big changes over time. Women can effect change in society- by talking to each other, listening and supporting each other. A very apt and empowering message for Women’s International Day.

In terms of writing and screenplay I am liking the interlinking of the various stories and the weaving in of the various threads. Tehmina’s story is being revealed piecemeal and not only does it make very intelligent connections with the story of the week but also has us looking forward to the next clue. Amna Mufti’s done a great job with this unsaid unfolding of the final story. Quietly introduced are also the next two storytellers: Shabana, who got on last week and this week’s newcomer, the lady who hides her face. Shabana’s quizzical glances have me very intrigued. Looking forward to her story!

Finally, despite the dark subject Sarmad Khoosat’s Aakhri Station is a visual delight. Markedly different from the earlier three stories this one echoed visually the somber tone and texture of the text. Farah Tufail was very good as Rafia and Kanwal Khoosat and Tahira Ali were very effective as the baji and the evil saas.  All in all another winner of an episode!

Written by SZ~

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20 replies

  1. Assalamoalaikum..
    Well ,this is indeed a very different piece of writing which we come across on our screens..
    To me..Farzana’s and Rafia’ s stories were relatable probably former being of same socioeconomic class and later having a similarity with some of the patients we come across…
    True,women should not suffer abuse,they are not in the world to b abused in any way !
    but i have few questions
    The abuse all 4 women faced were of different nature
    All of them have left ‘taking the first step’ to break the cycle of abuse..so the first question arises…is leaving the marital home for an unknown destination is wise ? keeping in mind the eyes of all men around? Will every women may find’irfan khoosat’on her way? a very vague chance..It would have been and should be that these women(who had parents) would have gone back fo parents..I know very well that once u r married ,u never find ur parent’s home like before…but still all men in that house will b ur mehram..no matter what ur bhabi’s etc would think!but if u go to non blood relatives..more chances of getting trapped in a new situation..
    2nd question regarding difference of situations…
    Yasmeen’s story ..a complete no…no second option or opinion….she should get a legal divorce from such a sick minded person…baqi phir dekhi jayegi
    Gulmeena…(i did not watch her story,cannot comment)
    Farzana…ok…what she thinks her future will be? I know one pretty highly educated woman married to her cousin who had psychological issues.She enjoyed her 4 years long marriage apart from tantrums her husbands had which finally led to divorce.She did not have kids and now she is near 40 ,afraid of getting married on one side and 2ndly she is reminded of good days she spent with her ex husband;it’s more painful I must say.
    other educated divorced(due to mistreatment by in laws who were relatives ) lady got married to previuosly unmarried man in no time!
    what I want to say is who can predict what life has for them on next step?
    Well,now role of a man in woman’s life..Is it deniable?
    If we suppose that such women (like farzana) who are funancially stable,will their kids won’t need a father in their life? but again is abusive and psycho father will make them a better human?
    Here women are shown with kids …what about a woman without kid? she will always be a bechari(shadi nhi ho saki ya divorce ho gye,society ki nazrain and batein alag ) no matter how educated and well earned she becomes!
    These are very complicated questions the answers to which sometimes suggests a mere luck next time or giving up one aspect of life for another in order to get PEACE only and not HAPPINESS!
    and i feel everybody needs happiness…
    even if we say that happiness is from inside,despite that we do indeed need relations/material things to be happy!
    Han sabar aur shuker tak muamla lay jain to Farzana..Gulmeena..would not have left their homes..
    aur even if they have left…rest of life pee sabar and shukr ka sochain to muamlat asan ho jaingay(that is the only conclusion I could make)
    I don’t know I have been able to make my point or not!!!

    Like

    • Wasalam @Doctor: Lovely to hear from you – its been a while 🙂

      As usual, you raise very interesting points and while I am responding to you I do invite all others readig to respond as well.. my hope is that we can use this excellent drama to start a much needed discussion on this very important topic that we dont typically discuss in our real life convos with friends …

      Im penning my two two cents but i think no matter what we see or say or think we should always keep in mind that there will never be a one size fits all answer/solution .. every case is different and we can never understand the entire situation till we have actually walked in that woman’s shoes …

      1. Is it advisable to leave the marital home for an unknown destination:

      For me I see this train journey and leaving for destinations unknown more as a metaphor, to signify a clean break, as in there is no going back, leaving the past behind and making a fresh start.
      Re: the male gaze, I can only say that we worry about the men on the outside but lets also take into consideration what these “mehram men” or their own family members have done for/to these women… they were all being abused by those whom they thought were going to protect them … and after undergoing such harrowing experiences I would think that these women have learnt how to fend for themselves. Under normal circumstances they would have never taken such a big step but everything has a limit, which is individual and contextual. and I would say these women had decided that those limits had been crossed. Again, as I have said earlier, it is entirely dependent on individual cases. Also, we dont know what went on behind closed doors. And how much time elapsed between that first beating and the time she left home.

      As to what awaits them: I dont think anyone can answer that, but then should that fear keep a woman in an abusive situation?
      Re: getting trapped in a new adverse situation: Again, its precisely this fear that holds women back. This is not to say bad things dont happen but as say in Yasmin’s case she had alredy seen the worst, what more worse could happen to her? Where her own husband pimped her out? Or in Gulmeena’s case where her inlaws deliberately lied to her, dumped her like an unwanted pkg and took her child away…. she was already living like a slave …

      2. The role of a man in a woman’s life:
      Absolutely, men have a very important role to play in a woman’s life, I dont think anyone can deby that at all. But if for some reason or the other a partnership/marriage doesn’t work out it is best for all concerned to end it, again not a one size fits all solution. Lets take Farzana’s situation: She had a daughter, now she wouldve grown up with the constant fighting with a very unhealthy understanding of a man- woman relationship, no clue about what a happy marriage means plus no understanding about equal partnership. Plus psychological issues arising out of a father who thought she wasnt “pretty” enough… now rather than carrying on such a damaging relationship wouldnt you agree that it is best for all concerned to end that relationship?

      The one point I do wish that would address, that your very insightful comment has brought to my mind, is that of happiness. How does one attain peace with one’s decisions and not look back with regrets just because the world makes you feel like you made a wrong decision…

      I would say counseling is so critical in such situations. All of these women have taken the first step, but to live with it, on a daily basis, while the world around tells you that youve done wrong, scare you about the future, your later years etc.. I work with survivors of domestic abuse and have several friends who are psychiatrists and psychologists who work only with such women, and we talk about this all the time, the need to raise awareness that working on yourself on the inside is so so important. And to get help from professionals who are equipped to teach you how to value yourself and learn to find true happiness that is not dependent on what others think of you or say to you.
      Sabar and shukar are important aspects of this same process but we need to be careful that we are ot settling for less than what we deserve.

      We as desi women are taught to put the entire world before ourselves, thinking of ones own happiness or doing something for one’s own self is considered selfishness.. which is a skewed way of thinking because its not balanced or fair to the woman. And this where I think counseling can go a long way towards adjusting the scales and make life a little bit fairer and kinder for women.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow what. An interesting comment.. very insightful .sorry couldn’t comment on Rafias story.. but your review was top notch..
        Looking forward to this week explosive story

        Like

      • Thanx SZ,for the detailed reply to all questions.
        Now with your reply,I got a sigh a relief for many women which clearly shows that what we feel or think and cannot do bcums possible even when someone only speaks to us about that…and there you did that! This again endorses ur point of professional help..I strongly agree how important is a role of a psychologist..I don’t know about abroad..but many psychiatrists in our country are not so patient to get along with counselling sessions and they are very quick in putting patients on antipychotics,which I disagree on.I think many people don’t know how to cope with stresses in life,it does not mean they are patients of Major Depressive illness.They just need training in how to think on proper lines.They can think rationally but have problems in decision making and getting confused with thoughts of society.Counselling and ventilation sessions with a professional can be really helpful.
        Again,some times a family member can play a role of psychologist but again I will say an outsider i.e psychologist is more beneficial because he or she does not have emotional bond with the patient..so the patient can not think later in life that he/she has been biased.

        and
        I am your regular reader,just don’t get time to comment. But I do comment when I feel it’s something to talk about.Otherwise ,you better know (because you also post less articles)there is not much worth to talk about on tv these days other than negative!

        Liked by 1 person

        • @Doctor: I so agree with you abt the counselors’ predilection to prescribe drugs – its very problematic and the patients really have to be very proactive in terms of their treatment and ensure that they are not being over -medicated etc .. Mental health care is still a developing field when compared to other health care arenas and so training in needed all around, patients, families and related medical personnel.

          Thank you for reading 🙂 I asked because I do miss hearing from all you guys – all of you have such interesting insights to share and many a times what may seem like a commonplace comment or observation may offer a very new perspective for another reader so its always good to read from everybody … so jab bhi time miley hello hi kar liya kijeye 🙂 Warna mujhe lagta hai ke main akeli hi boley ja rahi hoon 😦

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    • On this same note, I dont know if you watched the telefilm Nayyer Aapa Ki Silai Machine that I reviewed just last week … Its a lovely telefilm and interestingly enough has the same kind of questions that we are discussing here … do watch it .. actually I would recommend ot to all to watch it.. its all kinds of brilliant.

      Would love to hear what you all thought abt it ..

      Like

  2. This was much better that the earlier 2 episodes in terms of story telling. One thing i really liked about this series is that there is no such thing that good will defeat over bad or people will realize their mistakes in the end which makes it so real and relatable. Nowadays every modern girl claims to be a feminist just bcoz she speaks up her mind or dresses up the way she wants to but the real feminist are such women who irrespective of their background stand up for their right

    Like

    • @Shabina: agree with you re: the “real” approach to open-ended story telling. Interestingly though this kind of approach, the lack of black and white endings or simplistic winners and losers, is difficult to digest for many.

      Re: the kinds of “feminists” you describe, the less said the better :/

      Like

  3. All: This discussion about the world commenting on women who leave their abusive husbands or dont marry again or whatever brings to mind this brilliant ghazal by Noor Jehan

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review, SZ! I especially enjoyed the opening about patriarchy and the way it continues to define women and their social relationships, not only with men but also with other women. It’s endlessly fascinating that the worst–if well meaning–advice comes mostly for women. “So what if he beats you? Which man doesn’t do that?” or “You’re better off with him than without him; he’ll be better, just wait.”

    The eye-opener here for me here was that being HIV-positive was immediately pinned on Rafia, and not for once did anyone pause to think she probably got it from her husband. The man is never to be blamed, even when all the signs point in his direction.

    There was small details I enjoyed here too. I was a bit surprised at how openly Rafia talked about her illness on the train, but I suppose that a trust circle has been formed and her story is no worse than any the other women have told so far. It was really fascinating how Gulmeena initially cringed and moved away a bit, but she was also the first to reach out and pat Rafia as if to say “koi baat nahin, we’re all in this together.”

    I thought Farah Tufail was really good (even if she’ll forever be one of Mubashir’s many women from Pinjra for me, lol). There’s that scene when her husband comes back to her and she sees him ruffling their child’s hair, and for just a second, she’s SO hopeful. I think hope is the defining characteristic that runs through all these stories and these women: they genuinely believe that things will be better on the other side of the journey, and for that, I applaud them.

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  5. hi sz i am a new follower of you.you write amazing accurate and poetic reviews.i agree with everything thing you said.i appreciate that akhri station uses subtlety in underlying the dark themes. the fact that through whatever darkness women face ,, a glimmer of hope is always there. i just hope they had more openly explained the fact that hiv isn’t transferable by touch.no need for rafia to be isolated.
    btw can u advise me how get followers on my blog on wordpress the pakistani style?it is newly made and being fourteen i have no idea what type of writing would appeal to the public. i want to write diary entries but my mother would have a heart attack if i do and i a flying chappal. do u watch khudgarz on ary ? it is amazing

    Like

    • @ mariamirfan2007: Hello and welcome 🙂 Thank you for reading – glad you are enjoying the reviews and apppreciate your kind words abt my writing – shukriya!

      Yes, Aakhri Station has its shortcomings but I guess if they can make even one person pause and rethink their attitude towards what constitutes abuse – not all forms are visible and leave obvious marks – and be less judgemental towards survivors of abuse and instead of chastising them offer help then I think the serial will have more than achieved its objective.

      Re: your question abt blogging:
      First off, mubaraks on your new blog – very nice!
      Secondly followers will follow, dont worry abt that. It is more important to focus on figuring out your passion and finding your voice. Thats it. Its as basic as that. Once you find what you really wanna write about your writing will flow and honest writing will always find an audience. If you start the other way – by trying to first figure out what ppl like, the “in” topic, and then writing abt it, you’ll always be behind the curve, a trend follower rather than a trend setter.

      Re: your mom: LOL! Waisey why would she be mad? Given your age, if I were in your place I would share my entries with my mom and make her a part of this process .. and then rather than chapals coming your way you guys might end up bonding on a whole diff level – try it and keep me updated 🙂

      No, I havent had a chance to really check out Khudgarz … I tried the first ep but it didnt catch my fancy then I nevder went back to it … but I have heard lots of good things abt it 🙂

      What else are you watching these days?

      Like

  6. All: This very moving interview of Juggan Kazim by Samina Peerzada reminded me of our conversation here so thought to share this vid here… We have this lovely tendency of passing judgement based on outward appearances and feel no compunction in critiquing ppl’s choices, particularly when it comes to socially sensitive issues like divorces or walking out on abusive relationships etc ..even more so when it comes to celebs .. this indepth interview is eye-opening in terms of the detailed portrait it paints of what an abusive relationship looks like, why women continue to stay and what causes a woman to leave home .. .please do watch … would love to hear your thoughts after you’ve watched..

    Like

    • Gave me goosebumps.. never knew such detail on her abusive relationship.. and it made me happy how here too it was her son to walk out from the traumatic relation.. so happens that kids are motivating force for mothers.. her motivation and her perception towards life was worth listening.. such a brave woman.. thanks for sharing

      Like

      • @Rehmat: Thank you – I am so glad you watched this …. Juggun’s story is indeed very empowering and inspiring.

        Recently I have been reading critique about Aakhri Station – its showing problems but no solutions – and I wish I could show this vid to all those ppl so as to underline the importance and significance of what we are seeing in this serial. As Juggan shares very candidly the decision to walk out of a marriage is a very difficult one and not made lightly, even for a woman who comes from such a privileged background and with the level of education that she has.. and she also mentions how many times she went back despite the advice of her loved ones … so the fact that these women in this drama have walked out on their marriages, despite lack of family support or financial resources speaks to not only their courage but also a kind of solution … that first and very crucial step to breaking the cycle of violence and abuse.
        This doesn’t include Tehmina/Sanam’s story which we havent yet seen completely because that’s a different kind of violence and abuse … I am saving that for the last – planning to write a separate post on depression ….

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  7. thank sz for your advice. i will be posting on my blog on Saturday do read it. as for the dramas i watch ihore are shayed , aagan and dar si jati ha sila. i love all of them. though dar si jati ha sila is dragging a lot. i hope it picks up pace. but honestly i usually watch old dramas. i recently watched talkhiyan and ohhhhhhhh why did bibi die. stiil crying over that !!!!!!!!!!!now i must borrow quainchi from shireen to kill appo de ville and jaanu

    Like

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