Since Meray Paas Tum Ho aired last fall, there hasn’t been a dull moment.
First, there was the now infamous hotel room scene. Then, show writer Khalil ur Rehman started hitting the talk show circuit to spew his nonsensical, woman-bashing bigotry. A few weeks, ARY Network announced that the final two episodes would air in cinemas nationwide.
And, just last week, there was a legal attempt to stop the show’s final episodes from airing because, according to the female petitioner, the show was just too disrespectful towards women. (The Lahore Civil Court judge was quick to dismiss the petition).
Part of the reason for the massive amount of interest in the show stemmed from the fact that it was the first time us viewers had a chance to debate the dilemma of what it could be like to forgive a cheating wife.
For years and years, our dramas and films have had us believing that men are hardwired to cheat while the betrayed wife is programmed to forgive.
But, with the cult of MPTH came the rare opportunity to step away from our longstanding fixation with male infidelity and male commitment issues and, instead, think about what could compel a wife to step out of the boundaries of marriage and what it would mean for her family were she to come back asking for forgiveness and redemption.
This is why the final few episodes of MPTH were a huge opportunity.
Because the MPTH team had, throughout, so deftly and openly tackled so many taboo things (like living together without a nikaah), I was gearing up for a bold, innovative ending to what I felt had been a bold, innovative show.
But, unfortunately, on Saturday night, the ending we got was not the ending we deserved. Right when they most needed to, the show creators just stopped taking risks cold turkey.
After months of building a plotline that challenged and defeated our preconceived notions of who cheats and why they cheat, the final two episodes of MPTH decided to play it safe by sticking to our society’s safety zone: the type of safety zone in which a woman is either good or bad, is either worthy of forgiveness or is damned to eternal punishment.
Week after week we watched Mehwish repent. She begged God and everyone around her for forgiveness. Meanwhile, we watched as Danish struggled in the impasse between starting a new life with a new partner versus confronting his still-present feelings for his estranged wife. Surely then, after so many weeks of tension-building, we deserved more than a final episode with a 30-minute monologue by Danish followed by his very untimely and forced death?
In the wake of the finale, many unresolved questions linger in my mind.
Did Danish forgive Mehwish and, at the end, consider taking her back? Or did he plan to marry his son’s teacher and start a new life? Did he go to Mehwish’s apartment intending to take her back but, ultimately, was unable to because he had a heart attack he knew he couldn’t survive? Or did he go to Mehwish’s apartment simply because he was guilt tripped into doing so?
Along with the frustrating amount of unresolved question is the issue of how the MPTH team gave up what, to me, felt like an incredible opportunity to dive into the complexities of being a woman.
Mehwish was a flawed and selfish wife and mother, yes. But she was real as they come because we women, like all humans, do not come prepackaged in boxes labeled good or bad. Nor are we only capable of two default settings: worthy of redemption or damned to eternal damnation. Indeed, when it comes to the inner lives of women, there is so much grey area. And, after months of so much build up, I wish MPTH had dared to continue exploring this grey area.
And, the best way to do that would have been to answer the question of whether Mehwish was or was not worthy of forgiveness and a second chance.
But, instead, the show chose to overlook Mehwish completely and instead kill off Danish. In this way, the show chose to completely avoid having to answer the really tricky, really difficult and really messy question of whether cheating women, like cheating men, deserve forgiveness.
Instead, by not showing us what became of Mehwish and Danish in the aftermath of her affair, MPTH only confirmed what we as a society are programmed to believe: that a “bad woman” - a woman gone rogue - is never worthy of forgiveness or redemption.
Since MPTH first started airing, I’ve had the same conversation over and over again with both men and women: if Mehwish has repented for her actions before God and her estranged husband and has truly changed for the better, shouldn’t Danish forgive her and take her back?
After all, isn’t this is the storyline we’ve been subjected to for decades and decades - albeit with the husband doing the cheating and the wife doing the forgiving?
For so long our drama serials have bored us with the stereotypically wayward, cheating husband who eventually manages to escape the evil clutches of the Other Woman and returns, with absolute forgiveness, to his peaceable, ever-loving wife.
MPTH was the first time a show seemed willing to flip the script by willing to explore the nuanced complexities of female infidelity as well as the thorny subject of forgiveness and redemption of an apologetic and remorseful wife and mother.
Week after week, as Danish made no concrete decisions about remarrying and Mehwish made attempt after attempt at seeking his forgiveness, we, the audience, felt like it was the right time to ask that maybe just maybe, a cheating woman, like a cheating man, be given a second shot, a chance at forgiveness.
But, even though it’s 2020, it seems like it’s still too soon to forgive women for their transgressions.
Danish (in)conveniently dying and leaving so many loose ends untied and questions unresolved only reinforces this. Because when it comes to being a woman in our society, there are just two ways for us to be. We are either the perfect wife and mother or we are the devil’s spawn destined for a hellish life on earth and forever after.