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“Akhri Station” and the Voice of the Wretched

“Akhri Station” and the Voice of the Wretched
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It is series inspired by the real stories of ordinary women, which lays bare the menacing structure of patriarchy and inspires women to fight it out

DAR AAQIB, AABID YOUSUF

Akhri station, a Pakistani drama, written by Amna Mufti, and directed by a critically acclaimed director, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, is a metaphor for the trials, tribulations and injustice, faced by women, in highly patriarchal and misogynist societies. It is drama unlike many others on the same theme, in the sense that it portrays women as the real heroes of their own stories. It covers the story of seven women who comes from different social backgrounds, each with their own tales of agony and struggle, told in the most profound way, thus laying bare the harsh realities of our society, like any good work of art should.

The most interesting aspect of this series is that, each of these women come from different social backgrounds, thus helping us understand that patriarchy is not as much a class-issue, as it is a more structural one, at a social level.

This drama is a work of Kashf foundations production. This production house mostly addresses complex social issues, such as child marriage, infanticide, drug abuse, and other social issues plaguing our society. Akhri Station, to our understanding, is their best work thus far – a must watch for our generation, to understand how rotten the patriarchal and misogynist societies are.

The series begins at the Lahore railway platform. A woman named Tehmina, makes her way to the train compartment, where all the seven women, the seven different characters in the drama, have their first rendezvous. As the train starts its journey, Tehmina introduces herself to other fellow passengers, and thus unfolds a series of soul-shaking stories of hardships and struggle, each of these women have faced.  It is a remarkable scene, which highlights two important aspects. One, that each woman, invariably has her own story of struggle, and two, there is almost a natural bond of sisterhood among women, who have gone through different ordeals in life, a bond, which is based on empathy, warmth and understanding.

The series begins with a story of  a woman named Yasmin. Her agony is that her husband, a perpetual patriarch, and a gambling addict, sells all the meager household property till only four walls are left as his property.  With nothing  left to sell, he pushes his wife into prostitution. Yasmin suffers doses of physical abuse from her husband, and she finally recollects all her courage and leaves her home for her life from further abuse and torture. It is a struggle of a powerful woman, pushed to extreme by constant abuse by her husband, who first fights immensely to save her family from destruction and upon realizing that it is lost cause, has the courage to leave it all behind and start a fresh life.

each woman, invariably has her own story of struggle, and two, there is almost a natural bond of sisterhood among women, who have gone through different ordeals in life, a bond, which is based on empathy, warmth and understanding

Pakistan has been a victim of continual terrorism by non-state actors. A couple, Yusuf and her wife Gul Mina, who happens to be pregnant, leave their village after the Pakistan army launch an offensive operation against the terrorists. After much suffering in the migrant tents erected by the Pakistan army, she gives birth to the healthy baby. Within hours, her husband dies, in a sudden cardiac arrest. Her greatest miseries start after that, when she is forced to remarry an old widower, who needed a cook and a baby-sitter for his children, by her mother-in-law. She is separated from her own child and constantly abused by her new husband. Finally, in the longing for her child, she left the house, to rescue herself and reunite with her child.

Farzana, a well-educated woman, madly in love with Sajad, an eccentric man, decides to marry him, despite his eccentricities, in the hope that things might chance, after they get married. Sajad is a perfect example of a man with insecurities, a trauma he has developed since his childhood, as a neglected child. After marriage, Farzana faces the brunt of Sajad’s real character, and gets abused for not admiring his superiority on everything. She gets beaten for raising her voice against the abuse, and she finally leaves Sajad with her baby girl.

HIV aids is an incredibly lethal disease, which also has a major stigma attached to it, in our society, owing to certain misconceptions. Rafia, whose husband, Pervaiz a drug addict, contracts HIV, through the use of infected needles. He comes to know that he has a disease of HIV. But, as is the case in all patriarchal societies, the blame has to fall on the woman. Rafia is blamed to have brought the disease home, and is subsequently disowned by her family. She takes refuge at maternal aunt’s house. The stigma attached with HIV, makes it difficult even for her maternal aunt to host her at her home, forcing Rafia to leave her house for good and continue to struggle on her own.

In our society, depression isn’t recognized as disease and it has lot of social stigma. Tehmina, who was traumatized at a very tender age, having seen her mother commit suicide right Infront of her, continues to battle mental anxiety and depression. She gets married to a man named Rehan, but her mental health issues make it difficult for them to have a healthy relationship. Her husband though, is extremely supportive of her. To pursue her career as a writer, her husband advises her to travel, to get connected with different people, to know their lives and struggles and find strength to deal with her mental health issues. It is a remarkable, perhaps most powerful scene in the whole series, where travelling alone, to fight her trauma, is normalized for a woman.

Shabana, another woman on train bound to Akhri Stattion, bursts with her part of agony. She faces enormous economic hardships, due to an illegal bank fraud by her husband, who later finds it hard to make both ends meet for his family. Being unable to do agrarian jobs at a village, she finally decides to move to the urban part of Pakistan, to do some better job with a good stipend.

While this story narrations were going on bangles hawker comes in their compartment. Tehmina orders bangles for all. In a hassle of wearing bangles in their wrists, the scarf from one of the the acid attack victims, Shumaila, comes down. Shumaila is married to a much older man who was driven by his insecurities. He accuses her again and again of wanting more than him until finally; he throws acid on her face. All these women leave their respective homes for a better life at some other place.

The final episode concludes with the message that these women should be given their due rights, education, and they must be empowered to live a dignified life. This mini-series concludes with the touchy line.

“  Kitne Sadiyoun Sae Main Dond Ti Houn Ussae

    Ek Woh Basti Jahan Muj Sae Woh Insaaf Ho.  

    Bae Basi Oor Tashadud Sae Yaksar Alag. Aek Aesi Fiza Jo Shifaf Ho

    Ayinae ko Mere Ab Chamak Chahiye Mujhe Apne Jeene Ka Haq Chahiye”

The purpose of this mini-series is to highlight the menace of domestic abuse, the women face in our society, and how normalized it is, even by women themselves, who become both active and passive agents of perpetuating it often. It is series inspired by the real stories of ordinary women, which lays bare the menacing structure of patriarchy and inspires women to fight it out. The most interesting aspect of this series is that, each of these women come from different social backgrounds, thus helping us understand that patriarchy is not as much a class-issue, as it is a more structural one, at a social level.

Tailpiece: Islam, offers women an honorable position, equal to that of a man. However, unfortunately, our society, which is patriarchal to the core, often ignores these teachings and willfully appropriate religion to abuse and dominate women. The foremost job in our society should be tackle these issues at individual and societal level, encourage education for women, and encourage women to fight the existing patriarchal power structure.

Dar Aaqib and Aabid Yosuf are pursuing Masters in Commerce  at university of Kashmir.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are authors’ own and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions

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