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21 Feb

Episode 2: ‘Aakhri Station’ narrates the woes of displacement and abuse

Aakhri Station

Off to a strong start, the first episode of Aakhri Station highlighted the issue of forced prostitution at the forefront and how in a society so harrowing, the agency of women is shunned as a routine. In the second episode, the story takes an even darker turn.

Starting off in the same train bogey, we find the women comforting Yasmin (Eeman Suleman) after she reveals the details of her husband’s torturous ways. She is not only distraught but knows that in a society when misogyny is so prevalent, she may find herself not far from revenge. However, there’s one thing going for her and that’s the empathetic voices of the other women who are also survivors.

Evoking the literary techniques of Manto, Aakhri Station has quite impeccably brought in the lost magic of storytelling into the limelight. Whether it was the first episode or the next, if there’s one thing which remains solid, it’s the carefully weaved narrative.

This episode, the story delves into the life of Gul Meena (Ammara Butt) and her husband Yousaf – an expecting couple from the rugged lands of Waziristan – who have suddenly become IDPs because of the ongoing warfare. The couple, along with family are settled in a refugee camp temporarily, –where much to the horror of the women, they find sexual abuse extremely prevalent. In such a situation, Gul Meena’s pregnancy becomes a point of vitriol from her mother-in-law, who doesn’t want her son to be so caring of his wife.

 

Aakhri Station

Life for the young couple changes with warfare entering the lands of Waziristan.

As the story goes further, we learn through flashbacks of the couple’s peaceful life in their village, which not only has ended, but will probably never be the same. To add to her pains, we soon find the recently born son and Gul Meena at the crossroads of despair when her husband passes away from a sudden cardiac arrest. This serves as the final blow to Gul Meena’s standing in her household and soon, she is forced into a marriage with a much older man. And adding insult to injury, her son is not accepted by her new husband.

Seeing a life of domestic and emotional abuse ahead of her, Gul Meena has no other choice but to run wherever she can, as fast as she can.

Much like the majority of Sarmad Khoosat’s work, the direction for Aakhri Station is also done in a colour palette that adds to storytelling. In this case, life in a refugee camp is highlighted with the tones of dark greys and light whites. In other scenes, it’s the fields of poppy juxtaposed with the dusty browns of the mountains, which make a stark contrast. The art direction in all its subtleties makes the show even stronger, and that truly showcases how production design could be!

Although there are moments when the show’s dark ethos may become too hard to take accept any longer, the show is a welcomed change in pacing, narrative, and acting prowess.

What reality and pain will the next episode bring? Time will tell…

Shahjehan Saleem

The author is Deputy Editor at Something Haute as well as a professor in the Media Sciences department at SZABIST, Karachi. Socio-cultural theories and geography fill up the rest of his time.