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7 Mar

Episode 4: ‘Aakhri Station’ questions the taboo on HIV

Aakhri Station

Exploring the lives of its seven protagonists, Aakhri Station’s journey towards highlighting the plight of women in Pakistan has reached its fourth and probably most jolting episode.

Delving into the issue of substance abuse and its subsequent ailments, the episode narrates the story of Raffia (Farah Tufail) who contracts HIV/AIDS due to her junkie husband’s hidden transgressions. Living a life of torment with her emotionally abusive mother-in-law, Raffia is torn between keeping her household intact or questioning her husband’s depravity, as her daily-life starts gradually filling up with financial woes.

Despite such a situation, Raffia keeps her head above water and tries to rehabilitate her husband who does want to get better and only gets worse due to continuous drug abuse. Seeing a life of misery ahead, we find Raffia at crossroads between rehab and domestic life. However, things take a turn for the worst when blood reports reveal that her husband has contracted HIV because of his drug abuse and use of contaminated syringes.

Living with continuous taunts from her family over the ‘taboo’ infection – and how ‘she must have spread it to her husband’ – Raffia fails to draw onto her own peril that her husband may have spread his ailment. Soon, when she does realise this, she has no choice but to think about her own life in a world where she will be cruelly accused for her condition.

Showcasing the dejection of a survivor at the hands of an over-judgmental society, Aakhri Station quite explicitly explains the taboo behind contracting an infection such as HIV. However, what it manages to explain even more intricately is the lack of awareness in Pakistan about the risks of drug abuse and how HIV/AIDS is almost always linked to sexual transmissions.

Having said that, a few things in the episode do make us wonder the drug abuser has been stereotyped. While it is now a known fact that Pakistan has more than six million drug abusers and counting, it is an issue widespread in all economic strata. However, within the show, the exposure remains limited in its view over the socio-economic class it targets. The urban, middle class is also at risk of HIV transmitted by the means shown in the episode. We really wish that the narrative opens up a further exploration into the issue – perhaps in the future.

Directed by Sarmad Khoosat and written by Amina Mufti, Aakhri Station has managed to do what decades of hackneyed narratives had struggled with – which is illuminating the art of storytelling. With only three episodes to go, we really hope the show manages to keep highlighting the issues women suffer in forced obscurity each day.

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.