By Devyani Tewari
13 May, 2015
And another Fawad Khan-starring show ends. Like many other women in the subcontinent, I too love Fawad Khan, my dreams and reveries comprise of only him. How I waited for Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam to begin, how I longed for the clock to strike 8 at night and how I watched the show, with bated breath, in absolute awe, never flickering eyelashes. But it was not only his irresistible good looks that had me hooked, this show was different, in several ways.
I have studied the times of the Partition repeatedly, whether it be in history or anthropology. This show, however, added visuals to the brutal truth of the Partition. Reading ethnographic studies of that time was difficult enough, but watching them on screen concretised the fearful visual imagery scarring my mind. The dream that people had of undivided India as they struggled against the oppressive British Raj, the ugly face of communalism, the vested interests of people driving the communal agenda, the tactics used by them to draw the attention of the general populace to the 'fact' that Hindus and Muslims comprise two several nationalities, the horror and wrath of the Partition and the dangerous trail of misery and hatred it left behind--I am now even more familiar with. I can only consider myself fortunate to be born post Partition. However, this hatred still chars the fragile relationship between the two countries born due to this false and devious propaganda. Will India and Pakistan ever enjoy a haseen relationship or will it be fraught by zulm? While haseen means beautiful, sitam implies torture. Usage of the two words together, recognises an unlikely possibility. Is a normal relationship between India and Pakistan an unlikely possibility too?
This brings me back to the dream that the people subjugated by the colonial imperialists must have dreamt of. Unfortunately, their voices are lost to the 'leaders' of the freedom struggle, thus compelling generations to believe that an independent India and Pakistan would not have translated to reality, had there been no leaders to wage the war against the British. Sadly, we would never come to know the names of the people involved in mass movements, the countless individuals who sacrificed everything in the name of freedom so that the Indians and Pakistanis will be emancipated and live peacefully, ever after. The terrors of Partition, the subsequent wars and hostilities between the two nations, deride this dream.
Like several 'Banos' and 'Hassans', numerous others must have been attracted to the communal propaganda, only to realise that it was a farce. Numerous people across the border must have dreamt like Bano that their nation would be the best nation in the world. However, all of us find ourselves caught in the same dilemma and facing the same problems against the powerful. The subaltern is always oppressed by the hegemonic State and society. Bano had no inkling of the fact that a Sabeen Mahmud will be born to fight and then tragically be murdered. The Indians remained oblivious of the fact that fake encounters will occur, voices against those in power will be silenced, the poor will be crushed to make way for the rich. No one knew that hegemonic, unequal power relations will remain constant.
Partition created blurred lines, but people living on either side of those blurred lines must not forget that they have more similarities than differences. The callous, cold indifference tolerated by the subaltern in both the nations is the same. These are not the times to be misled by communal and hate propagandas. This is the time to build a haseen relationship, to fill in the emptiness of the dream, to alter the power structures, to recognise the similarity and blur the distances, and most importantly, to recognise the fact that we are the same people. We could have been together, we could have avoided the Partition had our ancestors not acted on the instructions of those who desired fissions in a country and we could have built a beautiful haseen mulk, having multiple plural identities, recognising different perspectives. If only we had listened to our voices; the voice of the subaltern rather than voices of our 'leaders'. Let's listen to the voices within us this time and withstand any endeavour to crush the subaltern's voice, demolish existing power structures, build an egalitarian State and society and create sulah between ourselves.