Drama serial Ruswai is up against some really great television at the moment. With Meray Pass Tum Ho, Alif and Yeh Dil Mera on air, competition is certainly tough but the show continues to hold its own.
However, recent episodes have left viewers (particularly women) frustrated because of the way strong-willed doctor and gang rape survivor Sameera’s storyline has been reduced to petty saas-bahu shenanigans.
I’m personally not too bothered with where the show is right now because I think director Rubina Ashraf and writer Naila Ansari know what they are doing, and that by focusing the last few episodes on Sameera’s over-the-top terrible treatment, the show creators are actually setting the stage for something big.
Here’s what has happened since my last review.
Sameera and Salman finally have their rukhsati — contingent on the condition that Sameera won’t try to pursue criminal charges against her rapists. To everyone’s dismay, Salman — played by Mekaal Zulfiqar — has turned out to be the opposite of who we’d hoped he’d be.
Instead of a supportive, patient partner who is willing to help his wife work through her trauma, Salman is more concerned with what others know, think or say. Within hours of their rukhsati, Salman starts to change for the worse.
First, we see him respond with disgust and confusion when he witnesses Sameera react strongly to strange men in her space or when she wakes up from a nightmare. Even when she breaks down PTSD for him like he’s a 10-year-old, he’s still callous and not-so-understanding.
The morning after the wedding, he forgets to give Sameera her moun dekhai. Then he doesn’t accompany her to see her family for the first post-wedding ceremony.
He’s constantly on his phone and, one day, he locks bedroom door to take the world’s longest nap, leaving Sameera awkwardly locked outside.
Things get really bad when Sameera is called into work at the hospital. Salman does a total about-face and demands she switch to the housewife life. When Sameera ignores his demands and goes into work to deal with an emergency, he calls her at the hospital screaming and telling her she’s not welcome back home. And, later, when her parents try to intervene and fix the situation, he freaks out on them as well and storms off leaving Sameera at her parents place.
When it comes to humiliating and degrading the new dulhan, Salman’s mom has her own agenda. On the wedding night, she literally drugs her son so that instead of spending time with Sameera, he falls asleep. Another time, Sameera overhears her saas call her a “gandi larki” because of what she’s been through.
Meanwhile, Sameera’s brother Hamza and his new wife (who also happens to be Salman’s younger sister) are in newlywed la-la-land. But despite being happily married, Hamza is keeping tabs on the way Sameera is being treated by her Salman and her saas.
While it’s frustrating to watch a strong and educated girl like Sameera lose her strength and sense of self, I also understand what Sameera means when she tells her colleague that not all of us can be Mukhtar Mai.
We already know Hamza is one of, like, two people on the planet ready to support Sameera should she decided to pursue a criminal case against her rapists. Now, thankfully, we know that he’s also not going to stand around idly while Salman and his mom walk all over his sister. Basically, Hamza is not scared to shake up the status quo just for the sake of keeping the peace, which at this point makes him the best and most sane part of the show.
I’m seeing a lot of folks on social media irritated with Sameera for marrying Salman and for staying silent while everyone in her life tries to prevent her from publicising her story for their own selfish reasons. Her parents don’t want her to become a burden on them, so they push her into getting married, while Salman doesn’t want anyone to know his wife was raped.
To these frustrated folks, I say that we can’t take issue with Sameera’s decision to stay with Salman for two reasons.
First, Sameera was already married (i.e. nikaah-fied) to Salman before she was raped.
Second, she agreed to keep the relationship intact for a really straightforward, simple reason: love. She has loved Salman and he has loved her back since forever. Yes, the gang rape has fundamentally altered every fibre of her being, but wouldn’t we all cling to the comforts of love at such a time? I just can’t blame her for choosing to stay with Salman.
Also, I agree with the general consensus on social media that both Salman and Sameera’s parents seriously suck because of how reluctant they are in letting Sameera pursue justice.
Yet, I also don’t fault them for this because unfortunately, I think what Ruswai is showing onscreen is an uber-realistic representation of how families and even romantic partners would react IRL.
I mean, come on folks. We all saw the social media and television commentary just recently in light of the Dua Mangi case. Even the most educated, self-proclaimed woke people in our country are liable to succumb to their worst instincts of slut-shaming and victim-blaming.
Ruswai is spotlighting a social issue that, frankly, is very much alive and kicking. And while I agree it’s frustrating to watch a strong and educated girl like Sameera lose her strength and sense of self, I also understand what Sameera means when she tells her colleague that not all of us can be Mukhtar Mai.
What’s to come
In light of the most recent two episodes, I predict that there is a shift in the storyline coming.
We saw Sameera treat a really young rape victim at the hospital. When she finds out that the young girl’s very poor and powerless parents are nonetheless ready to support their daughter in her fight against her rapists, Sameera realises just how alone and weak she is.
In another scene, Sameera can’t fall asleep in the quiet of the night. She lies in bed thinking of her brother Hamza’s words of support and her colleague’s admonition that she’s chosen the “easy path” by not going after her rapists. Sameera then pulls up an article about Mukhtar Mai on her phone and sits up in bed.
The episode ends on this cliffhanger and I, probably like the rest of you, can’t wait to tune in next week to see Sameera’s next move.
Ruswai airs every Tuesday at 8pm on ARY Digital