Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

handmaid tale

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It took me a while to digest Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. When I first start reading this novel, I had no clue what world I was about to discover and let me tell you it was all doom and gloom. The storyline was disturbing and stayed with me for days.

The Canadian author has hit all the right buttons to stir up the reader’s uneasiness. The dystopian world she describes in the novel is stark and skewed by religious fundamentalism. Written in 1985, the story revolves around Offred, a handmaid (female slave) in the new Republic of Gilead. The Gilead was formed after attacks on US government. The totalitarian state that took control has rigid laws against women. Women rights like equality, sexual reproduction rights and general human rights are deemed punishable by the men of the society. The fictional world has food rationing, class hierarchy and public hangings for wrongdoing especially for women. Does this ring a bell?

Offred (not the real name) is part of class called the handmaids. The purpose of handmaid in the society is to conceive and bear children for the families. They are dressed in red colour and symbolism of fertility. Women here are only considered for childbirth and taking care of household. The Commander, where she lives as handmaiden, sees her as more than simply a surrogate.  Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, is naturally jealous of Offred, but she is desperate for a child so, when Offred fails to become pregnant, Serena Joy arranges for her to sleep with Nick, the chauffeur.

margaret atwood

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Offred is reluctant to accept this world and she cannot suppress her desires. This is why she thinks about her past life and how one day she can leave this dark world. The end of the story leaves you in suspense of whether Offred has found the freedom or prison.

The narration is very erratic as it jumps between past and present, and at times makes you confused due to obscure description. It is what author has emphasised to show in the novel. She wants readers to be perplexed while reading the novel because the world of Gilead is extremely disturbing and secretive.

The story is about power, fundamentalism and misogyny. It’s horrific but somewhat true to reality. I felt hopelessness and sadness while reading this story.

A word of caution: This is not a happy read. So if you want to have a nice weekend, do not pick this novel.

“Remember forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven.” – Excerpt from book

The Handmaid’s Tale

By Margaret Atwood

Vintage Fiction, London

ISBN: 978-1-0-099-74091-9

320pp.

 

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Sibling’s love-hate relationship

This article has already been published on Geo Vision website. I wrote this article for the website and now sharing a few chunks over here on my blog so that my readers can read. This was a different drama of its time produced by Pakistan Television Industry. 

meri behan maya“Our women are strong but in our serials, they are depicted as fragile and connivers,” states Hasina Moin, an acclaimed writer who has also written some of the epic dramas including Tanhayein, Ankahi and so on. After taking a long break, she started with the serial ‘Meri Behen Maya’; a story of two sisters where you saw the bond of love and support which unfortunately lacks in our dramas now-a-days.

So, what was the main concept behind writing Meri Behen Maya (MBM)? According to Hasina Moin, I feel really hurt to see women cry and wallow over petty issues, and unable to stand up for their rights, this is one of the significant reasons that compel me to resume writing again.

Women face domestic violence, they are harassed outside their homes and are treated as suppressive beings. Hasina Moin asserts that this is not the true picture that we see; she is of the opinion that these women have the potential and strength to uphold all the hardships with courage.

x1080-LeSMoreover, the other idea behind the serial is to defy the wrong depiction of sisters’ relation that promotes only hatred and nothing else. Hasina Moin believes that sisters do not deceive each other; rather they protect each other against the world. In her serial, she projected the positive side of sisterhood. One of the primary reasons to resume writing was to clear misconceptions regarding women, Moin adds.

MBM promoted the love-hate relationship between two sisters who at one moment were seen fighting with each other and at another moment they were sharing interesting stories while munching popcorn.

The portrayal of sisters in this serial was played by two female protagonists who are fearless and lively, and believe in living on their own terms. Annie Jaffri played the character of a younger sister Maya; she is upfront and bold, also expressive and does not conform to anything that she cannot relate to. According to Jaffri, the character is more like me, I am outspoken and love outings, even her family relate to her role.

Whereas Neelam Munir played the role of older sister Zarmeena; she is sensible and tries to cover Maya’s mess. Munir is the complete opposite of her character, and therefore she had to work on her body language, style and the behaviour. Munir shares her experience that to perform it accordingly, she observes her elder sister which helps a lot in understanding her character in the serial.

meri behen 5In replying to the question regarding the ‘look’ in the serial, both Munir and Jaffri say that western attire was more preferred for their characters, the decision was made after having a thorough discussion with the team.

However, when asked about the atmosphere on the sets and how did they find working with each other? Both female protagonists spoke highly of their team and they found it very helpful. Though Jaffri’s association with Azfar Ali is not new as she has also worked in Dreamers with him, so far it’s been good for her. Moreover, the teasing which was seen onscreen of both sisters was only for the serial, quips Munir and Jaffri with a smile; nevertheless on-set they both had a very congenial relationship.

The script was a refreshing one and every actor had performed well. Moin is all praise for the team. She had a very good working relationship with Iqbal Ansari who is also the Project Head of MBM; overall it had been a good experience.

untitledMoin signifies the importance of making children bold and confident, so that no one sabotages their rights and fight for themselves.

Seconding Moin’s opinion, Jaffri also says it is important for young girls to be strong in these times and do not give in. Munir on other hand believes that fathers should avoid second marriage and do not try to impose step-mothers on their children, it leaves a bad impact on the minds of the kids.

In a nutshell, dramas are always a revelation of our society, whether it’s good or bad but these days, where every other drama emphasises more on negative side of our society, Meri Behen Maya highlighted the ups and downs of familial relations.

 

 

 

Reality Over Fantasy

This article has already been published on Geo Vision website. I wrote this article for the website and now sharing a few chunks over here on my blog so that my readers can read. This was a different drama of its time produced by Pakistan Television Industry. 

682581_home_banner“People make a world of their own fantasy, especially girls,” says Zanjabeel Asim Shah the writer of the drama serial ‘Saat Pardon Mein’ (SPM).

Media make stars and ordinary people idolise these superstars. These fans not only follow them blindfolded, they are so crazy that they may even go to any extreme for a mere glimpse of their most loved celebs. Some admirers fantasise spending time with their icons; a dinner date or a ride at seaside is just few to name.

There are some unusual fans that fall in love with their favourite celebrity; nevertheless the scenario gets quite weird if someone is not allowed the outside exposure to the world. Thus, at this time what one will do in this case?

saatAsim opines that a girl more likely to fall in love with the characters of the actors; at times they are so much obsessed in their love that they forget about the reality and this is actually what you will also witness in this serial.

However, every drama is made for a reason; either to portray a particular aspect of the society or to entertain. The reason of SPM is to bring change for the viewers in terms of creativity and presenting a wide canvas, says Noor-ul-Huda Shah, the Project Head of SPM.

She states that Geo TV is a trendsetter channel and it is the only channel that tries to work on content no matter how strong it may sound. There is a dearth of genuine writers but the narration of Zanjabeel in this drama is phenomenal, says Shah.

She further reveals that by this drama, she wants to break the trend of cheap dramas that have destroyed the taste of viewers; her main priority is to give a good drama to the audience.

Moreover, Yasir Nawaz, the director of SPM says, “My motive to direct this play is firstly because of Noor Appa who narrates a story in a way that I cannot resist the temptation and secondly, it has a substantial message.”

x1080-iqrThe hardest part is the delicacy of the subject which needs to be treated well but in order to hook the viewers, the serial has certain entertainment punch that adds a filmy mood to the drama, elaborates Nawaz; in fact it is the demand of time.

Basically, the story revolves around an unusual fan, Darakshande Badar (Sohai Ali Abro), a name so unique but an ordinary girl, who belongs to a small town of Bahawalpur. She is madly in love with a famous drama actor Ahsan Murad (Meekal), who is charming and adorable as chocolaty stars need to be.

x1080-uqDDarakshande lives in a conservative environment where she faces restrictions from her big brother and father. This is one of the reasons that she has made a world of her own fantasy where only love blossoms and everything is sweet and simple, and to win her love she will break all the barriers by running away from her home as well.

Interestingly, the name of the leading character in the drama is rarely heard so why Darakshande? Some names are attached to you for life long, says Asim and this name reminds me of the small girl which inspires me to write this story.

Sohai Ali Abro is the leading face of SPM, and she is doing it first time as main lead. It is not easy to find Darakshande, states Nawaz, we had several auditions after which Abro was selected. She is novice and choosing her was a big risk, though he believes that she has done better and he is satisfied with her performance. Seconding Nawaz, Shah also adds that Abro is the breath of fresh air in the drama.

This is not only the story of crazy fan, there is also an interesting angle to the story and that is Ali Khan who plays the role of Badar Suleman. On the surface, he is a famous producer and friend of Ahsan in the serial but deep down inside, he imagines himself to be a female who is confined in a man’s body.

hqdefaultTransgender is not accepted in our society and many people are against the idea, says Asim. She maintains that it is more or less related to our perceptions, and sometimes considered as a disease.

Doing a role like this needs a lot of guts, it is a very sensitive character, and no one can do better than Ali Khan, emphasises Nawaz. He also adds that Ali Khan was purely chosen on the basis of his acting skills, and there is no other reason of his selection.

“The role of Ali Khan is not a conventional one; and therefore we wanted a performer who can play the role well,” states Shah. Besides, she points out that Ali has an ability to carry the manly looks along with a slight touch of femininity easily.

For Asim, both Nawaz and Shah have high hopes and consider her to be a strong drama writer in her coming days. Asim is happy with the end product and for the viewers, she says that life is not a bed of roses, therefore following fantasy is ridiculous.

Furthermore Nawaz mentions that issues are not shown to ridicule any one, it’s just a reality and he urges people to see in a positive light.

Shah aptly says, “Viewers need to change the perspective towards dramas for the development of society and instead of hiding behind the cover of fantasy, it is more important to see the issues in real picture.”

 

You Deserve To Be Happy…

 

madiha 1

Photo by the writer

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel you are no good? Has anyone made you feel worthless? Have you ever thought why you always feel bad about yourself? Are you doing right? Is all what is happening is your fault? Are you as bad as a person? Is something wrong with you?

These thoughts have all been with me for the past five to six years. Every day when you are told that you are a selfish person and you only think about yourself; gradually you begin to think that you are nothing but a useless person with no heart.

I had been there in that situation where I was constantly assuring and reassuring myself that it’s just normal to feel this way but fighting each day with these thoughts really consumed my energy.

Recently, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen toxic as its word of 2018. Toxic means poison and living in a toxic relation or environment suck the joy and happiness from within you and replace with anger and sadness. And who knows this better than me.

Let me tell you honestly, coming out of it was not an easy feat. It took me a while (read many years) to realise that I am not wrong but I am actually stuck in a wrong situation. The only thing which pulls me out of this mess was me! Yes, nobody can help you until you help yourself and that what I did. And the strength I receive, to do this, was one and only my Almighty Allah.

The best solution to come out of this poison is to surround yourself with your loved ones and say goodbye to those who add nothing but negative energy into your life.

  • Be with positive people, work and relation.
  • Explore the inner side of you which you have lost down the line.
  • Do not be scared to be on your own.
  • Learn to forgive yourself and the one who has inculcated toxicity in your life for your sanity (but don’t forget what that relation did to you).
  • Focus on the goodness in your life.
  • Keep in mind that you are not a bad person to leave this relation or environment, you have only done this for your mental and emotional stability.

And lastly, do remember, YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY!

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Mental Health: Dealing With Depression

 

mental health 1On November 26, 2018, I read about the suicide news of Rushaan Farrukh. It’s disheartening to know that a young girl, who was studying visual arts at BNU in Lahore, took away her life. Her last Instagram posts proved that she was suffering from depression.

I wonder what might be going through Rushaan’s mind when she was standing on the building’s roof. Giving up your life is not an easy decision rather it takes guts and a lot of negativities for Rushaan to jump off from that roof.

These days, youngsters and children are suffering from depression and the reasons are heartbreaks, failure at studies and bullying.

Depression is not a fluff; it’s real and valid issue. I do know what it’s like to be in this state because I had also gone through this phase. A couple of years ago, I had zero motivation for life and I totally gave up. It’s not because of bullying but yes I was heartbroken and this affected my studies. Despite being an A-Grade student I failed miserably at my fifth semester. And on top of that, my mother started looking for my rishtas because I turned 21, luckily I faced rejections many times (pun intended). Consequently, I felt bad and all of this just broke my spirit and I fell into depression.

At that time, I don’t know how and what happened but I only remembered that my parents, sister and most importantly my connection to Almighty Allah restored my strength.

Mental health is a big predicament and it should not be taken lightly. There are several mental health problems a person faces which include anxiety, insomnia and depression. Unfortunately, people suffering from these mental problems are mocked and derided by their surroundings and society.

mental health 2

Feeling anxious or low is normal but if this persists for longer period of time, then this is alarming. Depression is chronic, it can kill people. Depressed people tend to let their lives slide away from their hands. They feel safe in their own cocoon and don’t want to come out. Usually we think that people who are unsuccessful are depressed which is wrong. Several successful celebrities have also been reported to be in severe depression. Hollywood bigwigs such as Robin Williams and Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) took away their lives. In Bollywood, Deepika Padukone was the first female protagonist who came forward and acknowledged that she is suffering from high functioning depression. Now, Padukone helps create countrywide awareness about mental health.

So the question arises how to deal people with clinical depression? As society, it’s important to show concern and listen to the people who are depressed. Don’t shut them up by saying that you should be thankful for your life. The person is in pain and only he/she wants you to listen and not to be judgmental.

As parents, it’s important to build a relation with their children. During Zara Hat Kay Show, one of the psychologists, Aniqa, suggests to parents that they should teach gratitude and patience to the youngsters. These two traits are lacking in today’s generation and they want immediate results and if any mishap happens which is against their plan, they become impatient.

As far as my viewpoint is concerned, I don’t want to say anything to society because it won’t make much of a difference. I will directly say to the person, who is going through depression, try to revive your connection with your Creator. As Muslims, we believe that Allah calls you five times a day. The call to prayer is a reminder that the Creator is there for you. HE won’t abandon you in your misery. Talk to Allah because HE will listen to you. Pray to Allah because HE is the one who can boost your inner strength. Try to create a strong bond with Allah, who never judge you by your physical appearance and do not see your status; instead your Creator only sees your beautiful heart. Seek help from your Creator.

Remember you are above all these materialistic objects and do not let anyone belittle you because no matter how much we talk about humanity, or showing concern to people, nothing will change. There will be people who will demean you, who will say rubbish about you so DO NOT LET ANYONE COME IN YOUR WAY.

Nobody is perfect in this world, not me, you or not even your bully. This time will pass. And you just need to stay firm. And keep moving, you will eventually find a far better place.

Movie Review: Badhaai Ho Beats Thugs of Hindostan at the Box Office

 

thugs and badhaai ho

Recently, Badhaai Ho has crossed 200 crore club and despite a month of its release, the movie is still giving a tough competition to the new big budgeted – and big starrer – movies such as Thugs of Hindostan.

A middle-class family, the intimacy between age-old couple culminating into pregnancy, saas-bahu family drama, an uninvited chota mehman, and breaking stereotype against societal norms; this is the premise of Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s most awaited Bollywood flick Badhaai Ho.

badhaai-ho

In September, when the trailer of the movie was launched, everybody was smitten by the novel idea presented by Sharma in a tongue-and-cheek humour. The expectations shot up sky-high when the old, married couple were shown breaking the news of their pregnancy to their two grownup sons. I became interested in knowing how the movie would go beyond the awkwardness fun part. There was a fear that the movie would turn into a typical Bollywood masala with no soul. And to my surprise, the movie delivers beyond its potential with power packed performances and crackling dialogues that split the audience with laughter.

Set against the backdrop of Delhi’s Lodhi colony, the story revolves around railway ticket collector in his early 50s, Jeetender Kaushik (Gajraj Rao) who lives with his wife Priyamvada Kaushik (Neena Gupta), his mother Surekha Sikri, two grown-up children, Gullar (Shardul Rana) who is in his teenage years prepping for boards and Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) who is in his mid-twenties and works at a multinational organisation. The movie gets you engrossed in minutes as the Kaushik family discover that Priyamvada is 17 weeks pregnant.

badhaai ho 2

The fun part in the movie is when couple has to share the ‘good news’ with their family. The scenes where Jeetender tries to awkwardly talk to his young sons and to his mother will crack you up. Nakul and Gullar, on other hand, cannot come to terms with the fact that their parents are going to have a third child at this age. Sikri is appalled when she hears the news and thrown the usual mother-in-law jabs at Priyamvada.

In another track, Nakul has a relationship with Renee (Sanya Malhotra) who belongs to an elite family in Delhi. She lives with her mother (Sheeba Chadha) in an upscale locale. The mother is fond of Nakul, but concerned about his family. She describes it as a circus she doesn’t want to buy tickets to. Although Sheeba appears in the film only for a few scenes, she leaves an indelible mark.

badhaai ho 6The strength of the film lies in the script (written by Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghidal and Jyoti Kapoor) that explores an uncomfortable subject delicately. The screenplay, written by Akshat Ghildial, is amazingly brilliant. For instance Jeetender woos his wife with poetry and mangoes, the couple steal glances at a wedding, the family visits a local doctor at a small dispensary – all of which add to an amazing narrative.

The film has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, especially in the first half thanks to Nakul’s grandmother, whose response to learning about the pregnancy is pure gold. Veteran actress Sikri steals the show with her comic jibes.

Moreover, the story has many scenes which are exceptional like Nakul going to Gullar’s school to teach a bully, the heart-touching relationship between brothers, and mother-in-law praising daughter-in-law Priyamvada when criticised for pregnancy will definitely make you smile as well as form a lump in your throat. Also, the scene when Nakul invites Renee’s mother for his mother’s baby shower display sheer honesty and emotional sentiment which leaves everyone teary-eyed.

badhaai ho 1

As far as characters are concerned, I will say that the loose ends left in the script have been covered by stellar acting of the protagonists. Ayushmann Khurrana has delivered yet another brilliant performance, after winning accolades for his work in Andhadhun. Khurrana has of late come as a mature actor with the selection of experimental scripts that gives him margin to explore his acting potential. In this film, he showcases the various emotions of anger, shame, repentance, sorrow and love with great precision.

Sanya Malhotra has limited screen time but gets into the skin of the character and comes up with a superb performance. Neena Gupta does a convincing and adorable job as a mother. Gajraj Rao is just too wonderful and I just loved his Mr Bean like expressions. Shardul Rana has also done a decent job.

badhaai ho 5The music is fair, but there are no standout tracks in the film. The absence of chartbusting music is sorely felt. Abhishek Arora’s background score is remarkable and adds to the impact of the drama.

Although the movie keeps you hook to the seat in the first half with its super fun and hilarious dialogues, the second half witness the dip in the energy. However, the climax is beautiful and extremely fulfilling. Overall, the movie is enjoyable and sends across a strong message which is heartening.

I rate this movie 3/5.

Book Review: My Feudal Lord

Living in Pakistan one is well aware about feudal system. It is deeply rooted in our society feudal-lord-1which has eaten up the lives of the ordinary masses. Feudalism has brought ruins to the nation and ongoing cycle of the rich becoming richer while poor pushes down to the pits, needs to end.

Tehmina’s autobiography ‘My Feudal Lord’ depicts an invaluable insight of women caught up in the complex web of feudal system. While reading this novel, what intrigues me is the struggle she had to face which is rare for a Pakistani woman this educated and elite, especially one whose life was fairly public, to be abused to this degree.

Tehmina Durrani was brought up in a privilege milieu of Lahore society. She was the daughter of former Governor State Bank of Pakistan and former Chairman of Pakistan International Airline S.U. Durrani.

Durrani’s first husband Anees came off as a polar opposite to her lover and second husband Ghulam Mustafa Khar. Unlike Khar, Anees was gentle, honourable, and treats women with respect. When Durrani asked for a divorce, though much pained, Anees granted one without much of a fuss. From first marriage she had one daughter only.

After divorce, Durrani married to former Chief Minister and governor of Punjab, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. She was in love with him and marrying him was like a dream come true

Her first encounter with Khar’s assault left her shocked. She was violently attacked by her husband every other day. He had a charming personality which is why people adored him, oblivious to the fact that this person behaved like an animal within his four-walled house.

Tehmina endured the physical pain which Khar gave her but her world was shattered when she got to know that Khar was in clandestine relationship with some girl. She was flabbergasted to know that it was none other than her own younger sister Adila who physically seduced Khar and put her older sister’s marriage at stake.   Tehmina and Khar had four children.

Constantly lying and being physically involved with Adila, Tehmina was gradually losing her sanity and could not endure his brutality. She ended her marriage of 13 years in divorce.

Her parents ostracized her for a quite long time. They weren’t happy of her decision because they believe in the notion, once the girl is married; she should come back in a coffin to her parents’ house.

Following her divorce, Tehmina wrote autobiography on her post-marriage life with the feudal. Originally published in 1991, the book was co-authored by William and Marilyn Hoffer.

In Pakistani society, where the Muslim patriarchs dominate, the entity of women is that of inferior beings, both intellectually and socially. Her main purpose seems to be an instrument for the satisfaction of the man’s sexual desires and perpetuation of the species.

Feudal system is uprooted in Pakistan. I wish women of Pakistan would stop bearing the torture after marriage and actually start living. I wish women would stop breaking the tradition of silence.

As in the words of an author in a novel: “Silence condones injustice, breeds subservience and fosters a malignant hypocrisy. Mustafa Khar and other feudal lords thrive and multiply on silence. Muslim women must learn to raise their voice against injustice.”

feudal-lord

In between reading

When her novel came out, it instigated uproar within the country because it was one of the  first times that a woman from the elitist of the elite revealed the deep dark secrets of the feudal society and politicians. Initially the book was derided but then with the passage of time, receiving an international acclaim, the book became an instant hit amongst the readers particularly women.

Agreed that Durrani’s novel reflected the lives of feudal system in the country, and it has ruined the foundation of our country. But I do have some issues while reading this novel. Why? Simple, Durrani bashed feudal culture and then again she married to a feudal lord, the present Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif.

I am glad that there are women like her who do not give in to the bigotry rather she fights back and challenges injustices of the patriarchal society. However, her third marriage to the feudal lord questions her narrative of whether what she said was true or it was an exaggeration.