Book Review | Ujalon Ki Basti Mein | Fakhra Jabeen

Qissa Meherbano Ka is a new Hum TV series that started airing on 28th August, 2021.

The title itself made me think that I have read it somewhere, or heard it somewhere. But then I thought I must have read it on hum.tv.

Then, after seeing the writer’s name (Fakhra Jabeen, a popular woman novelist) while watching the first episode, I wondered if this drama is based on some novel.

And yesterday, my sister told me all about it. It isn’t based on a novel, more like a short story.

Let’s go over the story. I will compare the drama and the story in a separate post.

Note: This is a spoiler-filled review. I’m also including the book at the end if you want to read the same.

Asghar Ali Mehtab & Family

Asghar Ali Mehtab is a grumpy old man who bickers perpetually and is super strict for unfathomable reasons. He was once a well-respected, well-groomed and learned man who headed an educational institude. His circumstances have turned him into the man he is now. He had three kids – an older daughter (unnamed), Atif, and Munni.

The writer Fakhra Habeen masterfully summarizes why Professor Asghar Ali Mehtab is the way he is.

  1. He has lost his wife and is battling with grief.
  2. His older daughter suffered at the hands of her in-laws, got divorced, and then passed away leaving Noor to Asghar Ali Mehtab’s custody.
  3. Atif was married to Afiya, and Afiya’s brother Athar was married to Munni.
  4. Atif divorced Afiya, which enraged his in-laws. Atif also leaves his family and the country, leaving Asghar Ali Mehtab to deal with two girls by himself.
  5. Atif’s selfish move (literally and figuratively) jeopardizes Munni’s life. Athar’s mother vows that Athar would never divorce Munni, nor take her with him. Poor Munni!

Let’s just say that he isn’t dealing with his losses in a healthy way. He takes out his frustration on Munni and Noor.

Munni Khala is the epitome of eesaar aur qurbani – selflessness and scarifices. She never says a word back to her father, and tries her best to please the ill-tempered old man.

Noor, the protagonist, is the opposite of Munni. She is young and carefree and fails to understand why her grandfather is the way he is. She often bickers about her poverty and isn’t happy about Asghar Ali Mehtab’s condescending words.

Wamiq & Family

  1. Wamiq and his mother are Munni’s neighbours
  2. Wamiq likes Munni, and Munni likes Wamiq.
  3. Wamiq’s mother doesn’t approve of this affair.
  4. She’s a bit too mean when it comes to Munni.

Athar & Family

  1. Athar’s sister Afiya is married to Munni’s brother Atif. They were never happy, and the marriage ended in a divorce.  Ayaz, Atif’s son lives with his nanhiyal, just like Noor.
  2. Munni Khala’s husband Athar Khalu is not very nice people. He has remarried, and has three sons.
  3. Athar Khalu’s mother is a vamp, and she has always dominated the household.
  4. Athar’s second wife is also of same nature, and Athar feels emasculated.
  5. Munni Khala being tame and timid and obedient, becomes the target for Athar’s mental and physical assaults.

Plot Summary

Now, with these characters and their backgrounds in mind, let’s quickly summarize the plot.

Noor live with her aunt and her grandfather. They live in poverty, and don’t even have electricity. The circumtances have turned Asghar Ali Mehtab into a bitter old man who isn’t shy of talking rudely to the two girls – Noor and Munni. Noor despises her grandfather.

Wamiq wants to marry Munni, but  Asghar Ali Mehtab writes to Athar and asks for Munni’s rukhsati. Athar is a handsome man, and Noor is impressed by his looks and his wealth. After Asghar Ali Mehtab dies, Wamiq’s mother refuses to keep Noor, and Munni Khala is forced to take Noor with her.

Noor learns that Munni isn’t very happy in her in-laws house. She has to run the whole house while people still taunt and insult her. Noor isn’t happy about that either. She has to stay on the terrace in a dark and filthy room with barely enough room for her to sleep on the uneven floor. Athar’s family is mean, and even Munni seems to care less about Noor.

Noor also hears someone else who lives in a room on the terrace, a rowdy nephew of Athar’s – Ayaz. She doesn’t even know that Ayaz is her cousin. As Noor spends days and nights alone in a dark room, life becomes more and more tough. She notices a few things that she can never believe about her aunt. We’re made to think that Munni is forced into flesh trade or something… In this part, we see just how much Noor values her aunt.

One dark night, Noor hears someone calling her name. Petrified, she starts to scream. Things escalate quickly, Ayaz is blamed and Munni Khala loses her temper. She slaps her nephew and asks Ayaz to leave.

Noor gets sick, and her intuition tells her that Ayaz was framed. It was someone else who called her name in the darkness of the night – Athar.

Munni Khala isn’t as tame as she seems. She had known about it all along. The next day, they escape and come back home. Wamiq’s mother has realized that her son’s happiness is in marrying Munni Khala. The trio – Wamiq, his mother and Munni Khala enter Wamiq’s house leaving Noor behind to sulk. As always, she feels left out. She breaks the lock and gets into the house, only to be shocked that someone else lives there.

Ayaz…

How he got there is a little bit of mystery. That, you should read on your own.

Before you go…

 

This short story was a dark and grim and made my heart ache. That’s Fakhra Jabeen’s style of writing. In very few words, she pulls you into a fictional world where you feel the pain that the characters go through.

Pssst… My new romantic comedy Fara & Moyeez is published. Check it out.

Shabana Mukhtar

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