Aakhir Kab Tak portrays the bystander behaviour of people in the Pakistani community. Are you one of them?
The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, shows how an individual’s likelihood of helping decreases when passive bystanders are present in an emergency.
What Is the Bystander Effect?
Fajar, portrayed by Srha Asghar, is about a girl with a shy personality and struggles with anxiety. She is a timid girl who doesn’t stand up for herself while her experiences and traumas affected her badly. In her case there are three bystanders: her mother, her sister and her husband Saim.
How did the bystanders in Fajar’s life react to her condition?
Her mother Safia failed to support her, she carried her own emotional baggage which later reveals in her actions. It can be said that Safia went on to reach a stage in her journey (recent episodes) where she was finally able to help Fajar as she stood up for her against Bisam & her in laws!
Fajar’s sister Noor tried to help her by going to the police station but because of the society norms, she also backed off.
Her husband Saim was the third bystander who finally provided her a platform to speak up and also guided her to seek professional help. Saim is perhaps the perfect bystander as he is letting the victim take her time to come out of her shell and speak up on her own.
Saim’s behavior around the victim can actually help the person to embark on the road to recovery.
Here is the recap of what happened so far.
The story starts with Fajar and Noor, her elder sister, wanting to go to a tuition centre for extra classes. However, this small wish was not granted easily as their father restricts them on the ‘beti hai’ basis. Noor, who plays a strong character that takes a stand for herself and those around her, fights for this opportunity to succeed. Her mother is an extremely repressed individual, who is brow beaten by everybody in the house and has no self-confidence. At the tuition centre, Fajar makes just one friend whom she trusts and allows into her safe space. However, sadly the story reveals that the one supposed ally Fajar thought she had was instead working for a professor who blackmailed her into trapping his next prey – Fajar. He harasses her as he does other female students, and then blackmails them by shooting their videos & threatening to use them later. This leaves Fajar obviously traumatized.
The story further develops and reveals how Fajar, apart from academy was being harassed in her house by her own cousin. This further affected her mental state and left her devastated. She was struggling to the point that she was suicidal and tried to jump from the roof, but her mother and sister saved her. The mother, upon getting to know the recent traumatising events, asks Fajar to go quiet and not to tell anyone about the incident, while her sister visits a police station to file a complaint. This effort goes in vain though as the police officer asks her to just forget it and move on, shrugging it off, suggesting otherwise everyone in the family will know which will in turn, bring them ‘shame’. This made Noor weak and Fajar weaker. The bitter reality of this story is that this is the problem in our society, we don’t help or support women or any person in general who experiences such traumatic events.
Srha Asghar has nailed Fajar’s character and highlighted the trauma of a young girl when she undergoes such horrific personal life experiences & how crucial it is to lend her support in this fragile state. Consequently, it highlights the fact that the presence of a supportive bystander can aid the feeling and healing process.
The story carries on to show how her family attributes her behaviour after the incident to her precarious mental state and as a solution, decides to marry her off to the first man that walks through the door. She gets married to Saim, who is an emotionally strong human being, devoid of typical male stereotypical values – an angel in disguise so far, really. He is a very caring and supportive husband. Because of her previous traumas and experiences, she struggles to trust him at first, and they start off a rocky relationship.
Saim, played by Haroon Shahid, (who is doing a formidable job in portraying the supportive husband role), is really worried about her behavior and starts extending support in whatever capacity he can and subsequently initiates therapy sessions for her. He respects her need for space and tries to listen to her. This little effort made her trust him and there was a slight recovery. This is how her healing process finally began after a span of time where her voices was hushed in the name of shame.
According to an estimate, approximately 60 to 70% of Pakistani women are subjected to harassment. As a community the one way we can extend support to them is by giving them a platform to talk. We need to stop victim blaming and masking their trauma. We need to make sure that they get a safe space to talk about their experiences that have left them traumatized.
Dramas like Aakhir Kab Tak have not only related the anguish & torment that a harassment victim experiences but also allowed the youth to connect with the story because it is being narrated in a manner that is intensely engaging & relatable. Do give it a watch if you haven’t already, and break free from the bystander mould, if you are ever in a position to help!
Please Note: The article has been written by Aiza Anwar, a 3rd year MBBS student at CMH Lahore Medical College. It is a collaborative effort between FUCHSIA Magazine & Project Yaqeen. Project Yaqeen is a collaborative social mental health platform. Their goal is to help cultivate knowledge and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues in Pakistan. They aim to spread awareness regarding technicalities and provide ethical, transparent, professional, and accountable practice.