In 2012, a drama-serial by Hum Television took Pakistani women by storm. It was called Durr-e-Shehwar.
The lead character whom the drama was named after, hailed from a well-to-do, closely knit family, and was married off to an austere army officer – Mansoor – from a relatively lower income household.
Life for Durr-e-Shehwar was never easy, thence. But with her father’s eloquent letters to back her morally, Durr-e-Shehwar persevered her way through the initial years of marriage, and grew strong enough to compromise through the rest.
At least, that is how I saw it.
The message of the drama came clear as its beautiful setting, and had the same impact in shaping the views of its audience, as its screenplay, on pleasing their aesthetics. It put across the idea that the preservation of the household calls for the wife/mother/daughter-in-law to patiently bear with unfavourable circumstances and endeavour to hold the fabric of family together. For, in the end, it will all pay off.
The message of the drama came clear: the preservation of the household calls for the wife/mother/daughter-in-law to patiently bear with unfavourable circumstances and endeavour to hold the fabric of family together. For, in the end, it will all pay off.
It is not rare for women to describe their married lives as analogous to that of Durr-e-Shehwar. But recently, an interesting parallel hit me. Durr-e-Shehwar’s domestic life was not much different from our national one.
Consider this: Preservation of ‘institutions’ calls for the ‘citizens’ to patiently bear with unfavourable circumstances and endeavour to hold the fabric of the ‘system’ together. For, in the end, it will all pay off.
Institutions are more venerable than individuals. A few injustices here and there, now and then, are no excuse to topple a system altogether. Sacrifices are necessary. Compromises, perpetual compromises, vital.
All this, is what we are told. All this, is what they desperately want us to believe. Because as long as we do, they can get away with everything and we can get away with nothing. Even in the likely event of a systemic collapse, the brunt will be upon us and we’ll be running back to those who first pushed us into the abyss, to pull us back out of it. We are conditioned into believing that we are helpless without them. That we have no existence outside of theirs. That they are the masters at whose mercy we, the slaves, are.
But it is actually the other way round. In theory, at least, we are the masters. They, the servants.
Coming to the present, it is good to see the PML-N act out its ‘political maturity’ on the national stage. I stand for everything they say they stand for. I stand for Democracy. I stand for the constitution. I stand for institutional development. I stand for political stability and I stand for the citizens’ rights.
But here’s what I don’t stand for. I don’t stand for a government that cannot prove its credibility. I don’t stand for selective implementation of the constitution. I don’t stand for institutions functioning in compliance with the whims of individuals and I don’t stand for political stability at the expense of the citizens’ ignorance.
In theory, at least, we are the masters. They, the servants.
Granted, that Democracy was never given a chance in our history. Granted, also, that this was the best opportunity to put it to the litmus test and see what it was worth. But how long will it be before our political leadership assumes serious responsibility for making it functional? How long will it be before they stop committing mistakes that invite the military to intervene and the people to protest? How long will it be before they stop living off of the taxpayers’ money, stop interfering in bureaucratic functioning and spit at the notion of superseding meritorious officers to favour friends and family?
If X is how long it will take, then for X, Democracy and political stability shall be a dream, the constitution – a bunch of papers, institutions – ineffective, and citizens – suppressed.
I need to make a disclaimer here before I bring this write-up to a close. I do not believe in Naya Pakistan and I do not believe that Change can be of one person’s making. But I do believe in standing up against what is wrong and bringing those who are responsible for it, to justice.
The Durr-e-Shehwar mentality may be rewarding for wives, mothers and daughters-in-law. But it is certainly not rewarding for citizens, and it never will be.