Secrets, lies and trauma: Pinjra is a lesson for all parents

By Farheen Abdullah

KARACHI: A popular parenting style amongst brown parents is to use techniques that include fear and punishment. We tend to equate strictness directly to obedience. So many of us continue to punish our children in the name of discipline. However, that does not mean that children will always mold into whatever container you choose for them. Some may take the shape you want but others will find secretive ways of finding their freedom. We call them ‘rebels’ in our part of the world. Either that, or children might give up on themselves and life altogether. These are all issues that drama serial Pinjra has chosen to address in episode 4 and the ones that came before.

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The last play that was written by the powerhouse that was Asma Nabeel, Pinjra sheds light on different kinds of parenting styles and the types of children each produces. On one hand we have Khadija (Hadiqa Kiani) who has devoted her life to being a mother and homemaker. Once someone who enjoyed music, Khadija does not even go near the guitar when her husband is around. She keeps a keen eye on her children and does her best to discipline them. Most of her strictness, however, stems out of the fear of her husband. The couple, of course, has three children. The eldest son, Azaan (Aashir Wajahat) is the star child. The middle child and only daughter, Abeer (Aina Asif) is a good student but not much of an ideal daughter. And the youngest, of course, is the source of all troubles. Abhaan (Ahmed Usman) is not much of an achiever in school but excel at music and art. And being an artist, he has no respect in the eyes of the father who believes the child is only wasting time and money.

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On the other hand we have Wajiha (Sunita Marshall), a single mother who works as a flight attendant. Divorced from her abusive husband, Wajiha has two teenage kids as well. In comparison to Khadija’s kids, Wahija has given her son and daughter a lot of freedom. The kids have phones, are allowed to have a social life and do not have their mother hovering over them like a helicopter. One (including Khadija) would expect these kids to be the ‘spoilt’ ones. The ones who know no boundaries. And yet, they are the ones who are respectful, honest and do not misuse their freedom.

While Pinjra constantly highlights issues that teenagers face like exploring relationships, keeping secrets and telling lies, the biggest eye opener comes in episode 4. After being forced to enrol into a boarding school because of his poor grades, Abhaan tries to kill himself. He is saved when Azaan reaches the kitchen in time and sees his younger brother lying on the floor with a knife next to him. However, once he comes home, the father treats him with the opposite of kindness. Instead of realizing that his son is depressed, misunderstood and needs help, he labels Abhaan’s suicide attempt as ‘manipulation’ and ’emotional blackmail’.

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It is heartbreaking to see Abhaan in the drama. Not only has Ahmed Usman done a commendable job at portraying his character’s pain but in Abhaan, we see every kid who wanted to be an artist. Every talented child who our society taught was not good enough simply because they are not good with numbers. It is a reflection of and lesson for all parents who equate academic success to a bright future. Who prioritize monetary and worldly success to happiness. Who see their kid’s depression as acts of attention seeking and manipulation.

Pinjra is a lesson for all brown mothers who learn to live with their heads bowed down in front of their husbands and expect their children to do the same. Whose fear outshines their love for their children. It is a wakeup call that following your teenage daughters around like a shadow does not mean they will stay clear from all sorts of trouble. It just means they will find ways to retaliate and keep secrets. It is a lesson that strict parenting does not equate to perfectly obedient children. And that having dreams does not equate to disobedience.

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