Kankar: Standing up for the abused woman

Published: October 24, 2013

Mustafa grew up seeing his mother being regularly beaten by his father and then showered with flowers and jewellery once the guilt set in. So, if that was acceptable to his mother, surely it would be good enough for his wife. PHOTO: https://www.facebook.com/KankarHumtvofficial

Hum TV has outdone itself once again by airing the drama serial, Kankar, which is unfortunately, the story of every other household in Pakistan. What is even more remarkable is that as the plot unfolds, we find the lead actress making decisions that most would not have the guts to make in real life.  

In this serial, Hum brings to light the matter of physical abuse, highlighting that this downright degradation of women is not limited to the lower echelon of society; in fact, it is prevalent among the educated and affluent class as well. Marvellously penned by Umera Ahmed – the author who gave us brilliant works such as Meri  Zaat Zarra-e-BenishanDurr-e-ShehwarShehr-e-Zaat and Zindagi Gulzar Hai – the story revolves around yet another strong female character who is meant to endure all the hardships that our society imposes on women.

Kiran, the lead character, played by Sanam Baloch, is a cheerful and quick-witted girl, in the full bloom of youth. Unintentionally, she manages to attract the affection of her best friend, Arzoo’s intended prey, Sikandar who happens to be Arzoo’s cousin. Sikandar, played by Fahad Mustafa, belongs to a well-to-do family, has studied abroad and is in every sense of the word, an ‘eligible’ bachelor.

Well, long story short, Kiran and Sikandar get married. Although Sikandar is shown to be extremely besotted by his wife initially, reality soon sets in and it turns out that this much sought-after man has a dark side. He harbours an anger that knows no bounds, which first unveils itself in the form of scarcely deserved words and soon turns into physical abuse with the passage of time.

The story, sadly not uncommon to many in Pakistan, thus unfolds. Trapped in the face of such evil, Kiran tries to talk to her husband and her in-laws about the issue. When that does not help, she becomes withdrawn and tries to deal with her pain alone. She goes through all stages of grief and isolation in the hope that Sikandar will realise the pain that he is putting her through and will stop. Her hope is that perhaps, guilt or shame will set in and she continues to live in the delusion that it cannot get any worse.

However, it does. Like every other case of marital abuse, it keeps getting worse and it is only when she loses her child at the hands of Sikandar’s ill-timed rage that she realises that she has had enough.

The main factor that makes Kankar different from serials portraying a similar story line is that in spite of social and family pressure, Kiran stands up for herself and asks Sikandar for a divorce. Think about it – a girl from a lower-middle class family stands up against her affluent husband and in-laws, and does the ‘unthinkable’.

How many girls do you know who would dare to do that?

Moreover, the issue highlighted in this drama is not just that a middle-class girl was the subject of physical abuse by her husband. In fact, the serial also attempts to explain one possible root cause of marital abuse. As the story unfolds, the audience is made to understand that Sikandar grew up seeing his mother being regularly beaten by his father and then showered with presents once the guilt set in. Hence, from a young age, he understood physical abuse to be a ‘norm’ in the marriage relationship. Growing up, he perceived that it was completely acceptable to be aggressive towards your wife as long as you made up for it through flowers and jewellery. Therefore, his rationale was that if such treatment was acceptable to his mother, surely it would be good enough for his wife.

Within this narrative, lies the second focal point of the story, one targeted at women. If a child sees his mother being beaten and not reacting, he will think it is perfectly all right to abuse his own wife in turn. Marital abuse, therefore, can become a vicious cycle.

Needless to say, Kiran is criticised by her family and friends for her ‘mistake’. She is constantly warned about the outcome of a divorce; something which the serial will surely depict in the coming episodes. She will certainly be seen to face hardships being a divorcee in our society and is likely to be depicted as the ‘villain’ for asking for a divorce.

There have been many plays regarding marital abuse but no matter how many times the issue is raised, it is always refreshing to see a woman standing up for her self-respect. I hope that Umera Ahmed gives our protagonist a happy ending and I hope that Kiran finds her place in the world, against all odds, so that she may be a beacon of hope for those going through the same trauma in their lives.

Bravo to Hum TV for showing women all over Pakistan that it is okay to stand up for themselves;  that no matter how hard the journey or tough the obstacles may be, a woman should never allow herself to be degraded. Most importantly, I hope that women suffering from marital abuse find solace in Kiran’s story because for every hundred women who quiet down in the face of abuse, there has to be one who stands up and says,



An earlier version of the post incorrectly stated the male lead’s name. The mistake has been corrected. 

Batool Haider

Batool Haider

A professional accountant who often writes and occasionally free-lances, she enjoys viewing the world with a cynical eye, hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.