Far from reality: Kankar and its depiction of divorced women

Published: November 22, 2013
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This is why Kankar is poles apart from the truth. In real life, even Adnan would have had second thoughts about marrying Kiran, yet everything is offered to Kiran on a plate. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

When I started watching Kankar, I was happy that there was finally a Pakistani play that depicted a strong independent woman who was not willing to bend down to the whims and fancies of our patriarchal society.

The central character of this Pakistani prime time serial is a brave woman named Kiran standing up to her so called “Mijaazi Khuda” (husband) to fight for her rights. Instead of the usual victimised daughters-in-law, the character is one that many women will be able to relate to and perhaps find hope or salvation in, knowing that it is alright to stand up against domestic abuse.

However in the last two episodes, the play took a dramatic turn towards the usual clichéd Cinderella-finds-her-happy-ending route. The character, who stubbornly demanded a divorce from her abusive husband, has finally decided to remarry. She remarries her cousin, Adnan, who has been smitten by her since the beginning of the serial.

The average abused Pakistani woman, who was until now, weaving dreams for a better future after leaving her husband, finally finds herself without a thread to hold onto. The unfortunate wife, who is mentally and physically tortured every day, knows that if she decides to leave her husband again, she might not find another cousin waiting for her. She will either live the life of an outcast being brandished with the tag of a “Talaaq-e-Aafta” (divorcee) forever or she will have to marry a man twice her age and look after his grown up children. Such possibilities are also hinted in one of the previous episodes, when the matchmaker brings the proposal of a man twice Kiran’s age with children of his own.

Instead of showing her relying on the support of a man to get back on her feet, the play should have focused on the struggles and problems faced by Kiran and how she manages to get through all of them unscathed. This would have rekindled hope in the hearts of women, a hope that divorce is not the end of the world. If they are not content with their husband’s behaviour, they have a way out to a better life without such a man. Sadly, what this play depicts is that a divorced woman is considered a pariah in our society. She is continuously taunted with sentences like:

“Is hi ki ghalti thi. Aurat chahay to apna ghar bana lay ya bigaar lay. Shadi to naam hi compromise ka hay. Pata nahin kiya kiya bardassht karna parta hay or is maharani ko dekho, ghar wapis a ker beth gayi”

(It was her fault. If a woman wills, she can either make her home or break it. Marriage is also called compromise. A woman has the patience to bare various hurdles and look at this princess, she has come back to sit at home)

In our country, there are hardly any options for a divorced woman to remarry, even if she is as young as the men because men think it is below their honour to marry a divorcee. The bitter truth being that the only men willing to marry these divorcees are those who are old widowers with married children or men with other agendas on their minds like money, dowry or business, especially if the girl belongs to a rich family.

I have a friend from a wealthy family, who went abroad after marriage. It turned out that her husband had psychological problems and her in-laws had not been honest with her. As a result, she got divorced within three months, at the young age of 24. It’s been four years since then and now she is a doctor, yet nobody is willing to marry her.

Our society is so rigid about divorced women that even the ones who are separated after a nikkah without a rukhsati for whatever reason, are unable to find good proposals. A daughter of my father’s friend had to nullify the nikkah when the boys’ family started making unnecessary demands of them. The family filed for a divorce but the girl was unable to find a proposal for the next two years. She finally got married and had to settle for a boy who, not only was less educated than her but did not even have a proper job. She herself is an engineer.

This is why Kankar is poles apart from the truth. In real life, even Adnan would have had second thoughts about marrying Kiran, yet everything is offered to Kiran on a silver platter. This play also emphasises the patriarchal mindset; a woman can only find happiness if she is able to find a man who loves her. It’s high time our plays started depicting reality instead of making our women believe in fairy tales.

Raiya Masroor Hashmi

Raiya Sohail Hashmi

The author is an engineer by profession and a writer by passion. She was a columnist for the youth supplement of Saudi Gazette and has written for Teenstuff, Young Times, Chowk.com and Spider Magazine. A winner of Oxford Short Story Competition 2012. She tweets @raiyatweets and blogs at www.raiyawrites.wordpress.com

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

  • Javeria Awan

    I think, Kiran has made a good decision by remarrying and this happend that when a boy likes a girl, he does not think anything and thats what adnan did.

    In this drama, they will be showing thta a girl should make a compromise. By marrying Adnan, she is not getting much respect even by her aunt. So, there is no use of getting divorce. She could think for sometime but it was worng to get divorce forcefully.

    The drama will turn up like this that Kiran will feel guilty that why she got the divorce as she also not getting the respect in her aunts house.Recommend

  • Girl

    There is nothing wrong in getting another partner once you break up with one. That’s human need and women themselves need to get over the denial of female sexuality in Pakistanish societies.Recommend

  • feza

    The entire point is to give hope to our failing society and ditch the status quo.Recommend

  • Dureen A Anwer

    Haven’t watched the play so won’t comment on it but will comment on the blogpost. I agree with some of your thoughts, however let’s not oversimplify a complex situation. Its only natural for humans to look for a companion, especially after a person has gone through a break up. What needs to be done is to identify if we are looking for a person to find a shoulder to cry on, if we are afraid of being alone and jumping into a rebound relationship or if we truly want to be with that person. This applies on both men and women. Yes our society makes women’s life miserable after divorce but it isn’t easy for men either. Emotionally, they do go through hell.
    I remember when one of our male cousin was divorced and relatives kept asking weird questions like what happened, when is he going to remarry, who will keep the kids, was the girl not of good character, were they happy together etc etc. So as a society we need to learn to mind our own business. Every individual should be aware that what we do today will come back to us tomorrow. How will we like it if God forbid our sister or daughter got divorced and was asked all these weird questions. Best thing is to place ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Yes it is more difficult for divorced women to find suitable matches but if they do, ego shouldn’t come in between and one should embrace it with open mind and heart.Recommend

  • Sadaf Imtiaz

    Disagree! dramas are made to make people learn from others mistakes ! First, Kiran took a step against brutality she was facing, which ou women really need to build up. Second, she did no fall back in life, instead continued her studies and married an elligble man. If women in our society are not re-marrying, they are facing worse conditions when old !! its better to get re-married and avoid the future badlucks, i guess ! this drama is giving a big lesson to every women and every man like sikander as well !Recommend

  • zainsheikh88

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with marrying a divorcee. Most men I know are quite hypocritical. They will sleep around all their lives but at the end demand a virgin wife. That in my opinion is a major factor why divorcee women find it hard to remarry.

    Religiously too, there is no harm in marrying a divorcee; in fact as far as I know it has been encouraged to marry someone who is divorced, in order to support them.

    The mentality needs to change, specially in men. They need to realise that everyone makes mistakes, and if a woman or a man has made a mistake once, it doesn’t mean that they should be alienated from companionship.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    There is much difference between suffering and toleration.Recommend

  • Sarao_0

    are we going to ignore the fact that she marries a blood relative?Recommend

  • Beenish

    I think u r taking it wrong, the drama is all about the self respect of a woman , it shows what women least need is a respect frm her husband, it has nothing to wid the in laws, kiran nevr had any complaint frm Sikander’s mother what hurt her was abusive n violent attitude of her husband n if adnan is ready to give her the respect she will hardly cares abt her aunt n sis in law. Its all abt what is right n wrong, to get divorce bcz u cant tolerate ur in laws is another issue, it may disturb us bt in reality what woman wants that her husband shows some support to her or at least if he even requests her to ignore his mothers attitude then a woman happily does this for the sake of her husband’s happiness, Here we saw husband himself was abusive towards his wife n drama will ended on the note where sikander n arzu both wre regretting of their mistakes while kiran will be happy bcz adnan not only loves her but shows an equivalent respect n she merely cares of her in laws as they did nt promise to provide her security n pay her respect but adnan didRecommend

  • MrRollsRoyce

    What I find revolting in all our Pakistani dramas these days is the implicit encouragement of cousin-marriages. The trend was really started with humsafar. Now nearly every serial I catch on the telly, Hum TV in particular, is showing cousins getting married and everyone happy about it, with no regard given to the genetic implications.

    This article should be an eye-opener for anyone even thinking of marrying their cousin: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394119/Its-time-confront-taboo-First-cousin-marriages-Muslim-communities-putting-hundreds-children-risk.html

    To quote:
    While British Pakistanis account for three per cent of the births in this country, they are responsible for 33 per cent of the 15,000 to 20,000 children born each year with genetic defects.

    It is unconscionable of parents to put their children at risk of getting serious genetic diseases by marrying first cousins. I am also certain that the Pakistani nation has a severely damaged gene pool thanks to generations of in-breeding. Alas the results of following scripture rather than understanding the laws of nature!Recommend

  • Sadaf Imtiaz

    marriage with blooad relatives is allowed in islam. except with real brother/sister, father/mother, maternal or paternal uncle/aunt and real nephew or neiceRecommend

  • Engineer

    This happens in reality as well …this world is not bad place for all.
    I have seen two examples myself one girl a doctor by profession got divorce before Rukhsati and her cousin an engineer remarried her and they are happy.One of my friends got married to a relative they knew the family and guy but she faced abuse from both from husband and his family.She was an engineer had a job and a supporting family,they opt for khula and after sometime she got married to a doctor out of family and Masallah she is quite happy with her husband and kidsRecommend

  • Sarah

    I disagree with the author I agree that it is not easy for a divorced woman tto get married again but her cousin has always loved he unconditionally.Plus you have to watch the drama till end because I have a feeling that Adnan will not treat her any better and she does receive taunts from her mother inlaw and sister in law hence her life is still not a fairytale.The drama tells us not to tolerate violence and I think the drama has done justiceRecommend

  • ana

    the drama is trying to create space for THE NEW MAN- the one who can married a divorcee..in a way it is educating society.. the drama isnt patriarchal… ..i know many who despite being single married divorceesRecommend

  • Sadaf

    Human nature is a funny thing , people like to project their own insecurities on imaginary characters. It may well be difficult for a divorce to get married again but not impossible . I have seen several divorced women marry and live happy fulfilled lives. If she wants to marry someone who loves and supports her bravo. Why must a woman stand alone if she doesn’t want to ? I think it is a basic human need to find a life partner why is that bad ? I did not enjoy this drama art first but , I have slowly come around. I cannot admire Kiran’s character more ,she stands up for her dignity when everyone else around her is saying it is ok to get beaten black and blue every other week ,look at how rich your husband is .Even her own family dont support her as they should. The best part is that the villainous Sekander actually loves her but cannot rid himself of his violent tendencies ,so now he suffers without her. I Think it is wonderful that this serial is setting an example to people that it is ak for a single guy to marry a divorced woman . A woman is not a toy to be used and then put on a shelf as defective ..she has a right to a happy fulfilled life.Recommend

  • Abeer

    You have missed the point of the drama. Yes, it is not the norm in Pakistan for a divorced woman to find a young, eligible man willing to marry her out of pure love, but what they are trying to do is show that men need to change their mentality, the way Adnan did. They showed Adnan as an example of a progressive man that other men should look up to. Plus, they also showed that even if the man is supportive, the rest of society won’t be, and how they discourage the man from marrying a divorcee. The drama is not showing how women react to and endure after divorce: it’s showing what SHOULD be done. One must remain strong, and men must remove this mentality from their heads that their is some sort of crime in marrying divorced women. Furthermore, they showed how people are so WILLING to ignore domestic abuse cases, but women should always say no to this type of crap and NEVER back down. It’s a complex, wonderful drama. I’m sorry you feel the need to criticize it so unfairly.Recommend

  • Naila

    U r right our dramas do not reflect reality but we must give credit to this play that it is portraying woman strongly for a change.Recommend

  • Guest

    I am a divorcee myself and a male. Unfortunately, due to the stigma attached of being divorced once, i find myself in a precarious situation, where even a divorced female is not ready to accept me. Although i am quite presentable and well off.

    So its just not the women who have to go through such ordeals, sometimes it can other way around as well.Recommend

  • Vikram

    Marrying relatives (inbreeding) can increase the chances of getting a disease that can be (inherited) passed from parents to their kids thru genes.Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    Realities are different in different families, socioeconomic groups and community circles, haven’t seen the drama, but such topics are not touched on unless there is an element of reality.Recommend

  • Aries

    Kankar is a real story because in my family friend girl got married again after her divorce to a very nice and bachelor guy…she was not very rich but it happen…another friend of mine got married after her divorce and her bachelor cousin marry her and they are very happy MashaaAllah…Recommend

  • x

    I agree. Also, it doesn’t come across as a feminist rant or far from the truth type picture in which Kiran works to become a big shot and an indepdent women hailing from the lower middle class which would have been stretching it too much. Instead she studies, marries the ‘prince charming’ handsome, educated and rich to discover that nothing is worth your self repect and fairy tales are just tales to entertain kids. Reality means compromise but domestic abuse is unacceptable. With younger sisters, Kiran did have to rehabilitate and she did by marrying a man who is financially mediocre This is also a slap in the face of all girls who demand money, expensive jewels, etc etc in rishtas even as they complain about men wanting fair and beautiful yet educated and docile wives. Kiran maintains her dignity in both marriages. With Adnan, she also has to face difficult in laws but enjoys a loving and repectful relationship with her husband. Showing divorced women that they CAN and SHOULD move on and find love, hope, marry again is a posiitve message, not a negative one.Recommend

  • x

    Spot on. She married Adnan, not his parents. i’m glad it shows them going out for dinners and enjoying themselves despite the in laws attempts to guilt trip them about their happy relationship and ‘alone’ time which most in laws see as an alien concept. On a personal note, Sanam Baloch is an actress par excellence.Loved her in daastan and daam, must watch dramas. Even hasan niazi is great, understated and real.Recommend

  • Woman First

    Agree. As someone who got divorced at the age of 21, I have been through the trauma. My family did not encourage me to remarry, they never expressed disapproval but took it for granted that I was now to spend my life as a divorced mother, as I had a two month old daughter at the time . I completed studies and started working after a couple of years and when a few men approached me, the ‘stigma’ of being a divorced woman and being thought characterless made me keep an aloof stance. I wasted years, alone and misunderstood by everyone, finding solace in my daughter, resenting her for being a burden, needing a husband and father for my kid to share the good and bad times, it was very difficult.When I finally remarried, a family friends son, his mother approached my family otherwise m family was least bothered about my state of mind (yes, i am aware of how resentful i sound). Anyway, I got remarried at 28 to a 29 year old divorcee, after almost seven years of loneliness, resentment and self hatred. I did the best for my kid but was alone and sometimes, not an ideal mother, overworked, tired and frustrated. I am 30 now. Married for two years. My husband is no prince charming but we have a good relationship and friendship. He cares for my daughter aged nine now-she took to him immediately as her dad had no contact with her, I care for his six year old son who lives with his mom and it was tough for him but he gets along with his step sister. We have been married for two and a half years now and have an eight month old son. Yes, second marriages can be happy. I attest to that, my family is made up of broken pieces gathered together and joined but we are a unit now alhumdulillah and I count my blessings every day.Recommend

  • x

    Yes, i fail to understand this collective denial. It’s a natural phenomena, talked about even in religion. What’s with the shaming and denial?Recommend

  • shajiaabidi

    I know what you mean when you say that from last two episodes this show has steered its direction to the other side and we don’t see that side in reality that often but that doesn’t mean, I repeat that completely doesn’t mean, that if a women is beaten to an extent that she looses her child, or there are consequences in which she should take a divorce, she should’t because there is no future for her. That is our society’s fault not of the show. I guess it is just depicting what should happen and not what happens. A show can depict what happens in a society or should depict what should happen in a society. I guess Kankar is following the latter option.Recommend

  • xcode

    It seems that Kiran will not hesitate to take another bold step if she finds a 2nd Sikandar in life.Recommend

  • Sarwat

    Dramas are not only about “reflecting” what is there in the society, but also helps in changing the mindset of society altogether. In Kankar, there is a great effort done by writer to change the typical mindset in two ways: (i) a girl should not tolerate domestic violence and it is absolutely okay to get divorce from an abusive person, the world does not end for her, and (ii) a divorced girl can be as good a wife as any other woman, they should not be treated as social outcast by men whether married or bachelor, as done by Adnan.

    If we change our mindsets to this, most of our problems related to marriage or post-divorce life would solve.Recommend

  • knightridrr

    Your comment is little out of context.Recommend

  • Sadaf Imtiaz

    That happens after many repetitions of the trend. Still we cant object it sicne our religion gives permission.Recommend

  • Sadaf Imtiaz

    True that Kiran didnot fly from being mediocre to rich like one-in-a-million citeizens of Pakistan. As far as as these words are concerned: I was happy that there was finally a Pakistani play that depicted a strong independent woman who was not willing to bend down to the whims and fancies of our patriarchal society

    I would like to add that being upright and stedfast on making decisions, like Kiran had made, is still uncommon in our society and can, not should, be labelled as “Far from reality.” The whole drama is giving a good lesson.Recommend

  • Sarao_0

    Your* religion.Don’t assume that every Pakistani is still a muslimRecommend

  • Sarao_0

    Ah thank Satan for forbidding marriage to parents and brothers…Are you aware that cousin marriages cause many health problems in infancy and adulthood? Even cows are not allowed to breed with their ‘cousins’ in dairy farms.

    In times of Muhammad, medical science was not advance enough to see the causal effects of cousin marriage on birth defects. Now we know too much to continue with this archaic practiceRecommend

  • Zehra

    Good Job(y)Recommend

  • Tara

    In Arab societies, divorced or widowed women are given priority since they can fix their own Mehr which is reasonable and not exorbitant like the fathers of the girls do. SO such women easily find second husbands and generally lead happy lives. I can not say that for Pakistani men, a strange species. In USA, a beautiful 27 year old Pakistani divorced woman doctor with three young daughters could not find a Pakistani husband. A Palestinian man married her and he adopted the daughters. They are living a very happy life.Recommend

  • Tara

    Bravo, this can happen at any age with any education level and any family background. You did the right thing and achieved stability in your life. I wish you the best of everything in life.Recommend

  • Amrita Yasin

    We haven’t seen the end but I think it’s going well. Kiran seeks divorce from an abusive husband, has supportive parents who refuse to marry her off to an older man with kids – a lot of families in our society aren’t supportive of their divorced daughters and accept that this kind of proposal/marriage is the only solution. She now has a husband who’s supportive of her even though she is having issues with her in-laws. In her current relationship both Adnan and Kiran are working together to keep the relationship working. This is what’s lacking in the societal mindset and what our dramas suggest. I don’t know why we like putting all the onus of sustaining a marriage on either the wife or the husband. IT’S A MUTUAL RESPONSIBILITY, BOTH HAVE TO ACCOMMODATE EACH OTHER.
    I am a huge supporter of women being financially independent but ‘this woman should start working’ isn’t the solution to all problems. Family and work both are important. I have read dozens of such blogs which suggest that imply women are asexual, unemotional creatures whose problems only exist because they are dependant on men and all their problems will be solved once they start earning. Working women also have to work on their relationships.
    Also, “She finally got married and had to settle for a boy who, not only was less educated than her but did not even have a proper job. She herself is an engineer.” hahahah so you have a problem with divorced women finding it hard to remarry but not with a couple where the wife is more educated than her husband? Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned too?Recommend

  • Guest

    u mean today u know more than GOD knows?? U need to study in detail then..Recommend

  • Dureen A Anwer

    Wow! I don’t think I am strong enough to go through such a heartbreak. May Allah bless you with every happiness in this world and hereafter.Recommend

  • Sarao_0

    Actually, in this case..YES! I do know more that ‘Allah’Recommend

  • Sadaf Imtiaz

    It certainly does not.. bt the drama being discussed above is based upon my religion.Recommend

  • Arooj Ahmed

    Nothing has been ‘offered to Kiran on a silver platter’. She is having a tough time in her new family, too.Recommend

  • Abeer

    Um, no you do not, but I can’t argue with that, since you’re clearly not Muslim. But the fact is, there is nothing wrong with cousin marriages, unless they happen consistently and over many generations. The issue arises in Pakistan is that people stubbornly ONLY marry within blood relatives. But that trend is changing now, Alhumdulillah. However, if someone falls in love with a cousin and chooses to marry him/her, there is absolutely no harm in that. They’re safe. Furthermore, genetic diseases have higher probabilities of cropping up when many generations have had cousin marriages, but it doesn’t mean they WILL happen to a particular couple.Recommend

  • Sarah_Yk

    You’re clearly misinformed about consanguinity…please visit any pediatric ward in the country and take patients’ parental history. You will see that many children who are a product of consanguinity had unrelated grandparents.Recommend

  • Khan

    i wonder whether this soap is trying to reflect the reality or endeavoring to set a trend…Recommend