Tag: haseenamoin

I want a one-way ticket to Haseena Moin’s Pakistan.

Haseena Moin, Pakistan’s legendary and beloved playwright, dramatist and scriptwriter passed away on 26th March 2021. With her an era of hope ended. The hope of a Pakistan I would stumble upon through a secret door to a beautiful world.

I always wanted to be Haseena Moin’s heroine. They were spunky, spirited, humorous and even sarcastic. They erred, failed, rose, loved, lost and owned up to their mistakes. They weren’t perfect and didn’t care to be. They weren’t apologetic, oppressed or downtrodden. They were strong, wilful and empowered. No wonder, I wanted a bit of their gold dust. I wanted the carefree charm of Sana in Ankahi, the spunk and cheekiness of Zoya in Dhoop Kinare, the integrity of Zara in Tanhaiyaan and the bravery of Tara in Shehzori.

I’ve binge watched most of her plays in a day or two, but I can’t imagine anyone having to wait the whole week for that 8pm slot on TV before Khabarnama at 9pm and then suffer through numerous adverts in between.  I could  tolerate it for any other play but not her plays. It would be pure torture.

The world Haseena Moin created around these confident, bubbly young women was a better world. A world where women weren’t subjugated and persecuted by barbaric brutes or perverts. A world where every man, no matter how broody, short tempered or foolish, was a thorough gentleman. Even the supporting male cast wore three piece suits, dressing gowns or sherwanis. Their intense looks could put any mills and boons hero to shame. Their confessions were poetic, deep and measured.  These men were close relatives, lovers, friends and neighbours. They were funny, intense, sweet, sad, but none of them were predators and misogynists.

Growing up, taking a lift from a harried handsome stranger, teasing and joking with a neighbour or turning up at his door in the middle of the night, arguing aggressively to prove a point with a stranger, crying on the shoulder of a random older man in a lift, expressing feelings for a colleague or friend were all a normal occurrence in her plays but were unimaginable and could lead to very harrowing consequences in my real world.

Did Haseena Moin live in this better world, created one for our entertainment or was she trying to give us a layered, between the lines message? I wanted to ask her this question but have lost this opportunity forever. Given Pakistan television’s erstwhile conservative policy to stay away from bold topics, it still didn’t explain the wholesomeness and lovability of almost every character in her plays. Very rarely did she touch upon unpleasantness.  Did she never come across it? Did she always encounter men like Dr Ahmer and Dr Irfan, Uncle Urfi, Mamu and Timmy in Unkahi and Qabacha in Tanhaiyan?

For me, Haseena Moin herself was the heroine of her plays. She was independent, unmarried, probably courted and idolised, successful, graceful, professional, principled and humorous. Did unpleasantness not seep through the world she experienced? I wonder why she stopped writing later on life. Did that world shatter, did she become disillusioned with the changing world around her or was her world no longer appreciated by a television industry that ran after sensational money making gimmickry?

From her response she was passive to writing later. ‘I don’t go anywhere myself for film or television. I’ll write if I’m asked to write.’ Why didn’t television producers ask her to write? Was no new age TV producer a fan of her great work and why didn’t fans like us make more noise to request new plays from her? If we’re quite satisfied watching ‘Mere paas tum ho’, ‘Bala’, ‘Jalan’, ‘Sangat’ etc. we deserve to get the regressive content dumped on us.

Women can aspire to be like a role model but their wings are clipped by their circumstances and societal constraints. They might fight to get from point A to point C on the path to emancipation but that road is fraught with unpleasantness, threats, abuse, assault and even murder. That journey isn’t easy or pleasant. A woman can only be empowered if the very real patriarchy in Pakistan facilitates her and misogyny ceases to exist. A woman can be like Haseena Moin’s heroine if the men in Pakistan are not only like Haseena Moin’s heroes but also her supporting star cast of men. Confidence, optimism and joie de vivre aren’t genetic traits, they’re learned, imbibed and are a product of our experiences.

If the argument is that art imitates reality and we have gruesome, regressive, ‘realistic’ content to watch day and night we start accepting that as the norm. But who will show us a better world? Someone needs to light that torch to show us the way out of darkness. Till we have a Haseena Moin world, women will continue to look over their shoulder for uninvited lewdness, shrink with fear at a raised male voice, be marginalised and harassed at their workplace, adopt and promote toxic gender roles that are ingrained in our psyche through internalised misogyny, and imagine they’re empowered by the crumbs thrown at them by benevolent patriarchs when the meaning of that word was never demonstrated or explained to them. Till then, I urge you to look at her world as a guiding light. This is where we should be as a society

International Women’s day.

Image by ALBERTO FABREGAS from Pixabay 

As international women’s day approaches, I wanted to quote some women writers who have inspired millions with their wit, wisdom and courage. Quoting only a few of them is difficult because there are so many women out there, some living and some in a better place, who are torch bearers and the reason that a modicum of love and harmony still exists in the world today. They define the spirit of feminism. I’ll start with women who come to my mind first and since I am in love with words, those who give them their due importance.

‘A word after a word after a word is power.’ Margaret Atwood.

‘The words that come out of our mouth do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time.’ Elif Shafaq.

In today’s digital world, words have a power that is unprecedented. They can spew hate, be brand ambassadors to misogyny and prejudice creating a world of intolerance. They can also be used to uplift progressive causes and be the precursors of change as they spread their wings to spread love. A typed word sent out, like the written word in eons gone by, now has a power akin to a weapon. We as soldiers just need to know how to use it.

In the words of Atwood again, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

This sentence harks true specially today when the blanket slogan of ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ and a group of women coming out on the streets for a peaceful march to protest against the crimes committed against her person has become a topic of heated debate. Is it right or wrong? Is it vulgarity prompting these women or aligning their views to the west? The slogans appear confused, varied and disjointed, you wander? It’s not the fault of the women scribbling them because the crimes against them have been so varied and so confounding in themselves. There is a story in each billboard, a dark terrible story if someone were only to stop and ask.  

This line from Atwood, sitting so far away from our Aurat March, explains why men hold the reins a little tighter around a woman’s neck. We cannot laugh at a superior, can we? Only at an equal. We can joke with an equal, we can mock them but we dare not stare in a superior’s eyes and demand they behave themselves. Men in a misogynistic culture expect women to know their place, that place is not of equality, it’s the same place as their mothers and sisters have and the women before them. ‘A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.’ Atwood. As long as they don’t talk openly about all the abuse they face on a daily basis, they are free to think. That’s progressive. The freedom to think but, ‘As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.’ Virginia Woolf.

Islamic values are used to make sure women like the colouring of a toddler stays inside the lines. The same Islam vanishes from their vocabulary and line of thought, when they grope women in crowded streets, when they leer at them, rape them, beat them black and blue and finally kill them in spirit and body. Why are women marching, you ask? Because they are afraid that men will kill them one day, they will kill their soul, their spirit, their dignity before they kill their bodies. They cannot articulate what it is they are shouting for. But can we just take heed that they are shouting? They are in agony. Taking notice there is a problem is the least you can do.

The role of media in bringing about change for women is undebatable. Women binge watch TV plays and if a repeated message plays on like persistent advertising with a narrative calling them weak, helpless and put upon, subconsciously they won’t be surprised when it happens to them. Media has the power to open forums of discussions and debate or to cash in on cheap ratings. Of course they can show the ugly truth of our world ‘as is’, putting up their hands helplessly and saying this is exactly what happened or ‘happens’ in our society but they can also open a narrative saying this is how things should happen and let that out as the accepted practice.

A writer that I have admired from a long time, Haseena Moin, says, “I wrote strong female characters that were bold and courageous and could have a good laugh along the way. Today’s plays either show the women to be weak, submissive and oppressed or the conniving home-wrecker. This simplification of complex issues needs to stop.” I grew up watching Tara of Shehzori, Sana of Unkahi, Zara of Tanhaiyaan and Dr. Zoya of Dhoop Kinare and I aspired to be as bold and brave as them, their feet firmly planted on the ground and a humility and humour that could laugh at their own weaknesses but never doubt their inner strength. I look for these characters in vain these days. No matter how strong a female character, it never inspires a dream in me.

Personally, for me there are so many stars that I’ll have to write a novel on all my favourites, some well-known, some unknown and some fictional. For me the brightest of them all is still my mother. Not because she is a saint, has never done anything wrong and I have placed her on a pedestal like we are wont to do with our maters. She is a strong courageous woman, who has lived life on her own terms, has made mistakes, fallen, stood up and marched right ahead with her head held high. My favourite quote from her is, ‘Fall, fail, or weep but never accede to disrespect and final defeat.’

To sum it up, women should set the standard and template of how we need to be treated. ‘I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.’ Jane Austen. It’s not as simple and we will be mistreated multiple time in the process. As long as we know what the goal is and that goal is clear of how we want to be treated we need to fight towards it. It’s an ongoing war to change mindsets and culture but you only need three weapons to win any war; courage, intelligence and persistence. And I really hope we win this one for our daughters and granddaughters.