Meri Zaat Zarra-E-Benishan – Pakistani Drama

I am currently watching a Pakistani drama called Meri Zaat Zarra-E-Benishan. I can’t really define the title in just few words, but it generally means that my being, my personality and everything that I am is meaningless to the world and will leave no mark in the world.

It is the story about a woman named Saba, who is betrayed by everyone she loves and trusts and is then pushed into marriage with a widowed father of four, who is abusive to her. The family then forgets her. The tale begins in present times, and then goes into flashbacks to tell the viewers what happened with Saba and how she was destroyed by her family, immediate and extended, and her husbands.

At the beginning, the audience is shown that a woman named Saba is dead. Her daughter has come to a man named Arfeen Abbas’s house, because her mother told her to come here once she, the mother, died. Arfeen is shocked and saddened to hear the news of Saba’s death. He visits her home, he cradles her sandels lovingly, and puts rose petals on her grave. The viewer is left in no doubt that Arfeen loved Saba.

Over the next few episodes we see a romance begin to unfold between Haider, Arfeen’s son, and Sara, Saba’s daughter. Arfeen is gladdened by their closeness, and encourages them to marry. As the days go by, Saba learns more and more about her mother’s association with Arfeen and his family. She finds out that Arfeen was Saba’s cousin, part of her extended family. She knows that her mother has not connected with her own family in decades, yet, in death, she sends Sara to Arfeen. Sara tries to discover who Arfeen was to Saba. She begins to suspect her mother of infidelity (from what I’m remembering) and of betrayal of Sara’s father. She begins to think badly of her mother. And then one day, on a shopping trip for her wedding, Sara disappears. And Haider demands to know what the history was between Saba and the rest of the family and the drama goes into flashbacks.

In the 1970’s, Saba lived in Pakistan. We know that she has returned to Pakistan from England, where she has grown up and studied. Her extended family in Pakistan is overly conservative and thinks that she is a bad influence and shameless for wanting to continue her studies. She laughs too loud, she dares to come out onto her balcony to enjoy the night air, and she interacts with boys. The patriarch and the matriarch of the family (Arfeen’s parents and Saba’s aunt and uncle) dissuade Adil, her cousin, from asking for Saba’s hand in marriage by saying that she is a bad girl and not fit for good families (that was the gist of it). When Arfeen returns from America, he sees Saba and falls under her spell. He convinces her to marry him, with promises of letting her continue her studies.

Saba is young and innocent. She falls in love with Arfeen, and agrees to the marriage. At her Mayu (one of the many traditions of a traditional Pakistani wedding, where a bride goes into seclusion before her wedding day and wears yellow), Saba is found with Adil in Arfeen’s bedroom. Saba’s aunt, and mother-in-law, accuses her of infidelity with Adil. While Adil runs away, Saba is dragged out into the yard of her home and badly beaten by her father-in-law, and she is left there, bruised and broken. No one stops her uncle, and no one takes Saba’s side.

When Arfeen returns, he asks Saba what happened. She denies all accusations. When Arfeen’s mother swears on the holy book, saying that she saw Saba in illicit relations with a man, Saba is shocked. Knowing that it would do no good for her to defend her innocence anymore, she refuses to swear on the holy book when it is her turn. Arfeen, feeling betrayed, immediately divorces her in front of witnesses. At this ultimate betrayal, Saba’s eyes go blank and she stares up at God, wondering what just happened.

Throughout all of this, Saba has denied doing anything wrong. Her protests fall on deaf ears. She is sentenced and then punished for something she did not do. And there is no mercy shown.

Saba is married to a man twice her age, who is a widower and has four children. She is beaten on a daily basis. She is embarrassed and verbally abused. She is then kicked out in the middle of the night, pregnant, when her husband divorces her and accuses her of infidelity with another man. Arfeen returns to America, marries another woman, and finds out that his second marriage isn’t a bed of roses either. He realizes that he married a “modern” woman (here the drama goes with the cliché of the woman who has been raised in a foreign county, and has no concept of family, cannot be a good wife or mother, and does not value tradition), and eventually divorces her.

Arfeen’s two sisters suffer setbacks. One sister is divorced by her husband, and the other becomes a widow. When Arfeen’s mother finds out that she is dying from cancer, she finally confesses the truth. She admits to her husband, and then her son, that she sent Saba and her cousin (the other man) into a room, and then locked them in. She admits that she did not see them do anything. She admits that she lied, while placing her hand on the holy book. She admits that she was jealous of the hold Saba had over her son, and now only wants Saba’s forgiveness so that she may die in peace.

Everyone is thunderstruck by that news. One by one all go to Saba, asking for her forgiveness. At this point, she has gotten divorced and is working as a servant in another’s home. She forgives them all, but cannot forget. What we see is a woman that has been completely broken. Because she cannot forget, she cannot trust them ever again. Arfeen asks her to marry him again. She refuses, even though she still loves him. She knows that she will always love him, but she will not take another woman’s husband and she cannot trust him ever again.

And one day … Saba disappears. Arfeen never sees her again.

Back in present time, we learn that Sara, Saba’s daughter overheard the truth about the cruelties that were done to her mother, and she runs away. Now, she has decided that she will divorce Haider and live independently. She cannot forgive Arfeen and her family for what they did to her mother. Flashbacks show that even though Saba took care of all of her daughter’s needs, she was never emotional or “alive”. Sara always wondered about her mother’s past, about her father, but all of that was kept hidden from her. She feels like she is betraying her mother by accepting the family that gave her mother so much pain.

At the end, Haider finds her and persuades to come back home. She returns, and they live happily ever after. The last scene of the drama shows Arfeen sitting by Saba’s grave, mourning all that he has lost.

Faisal Qureshi does wonderful acting as Arfeen. He can beautifully convey the regret and grief of Arfeen Abbas. When he finds out about his mother’s betrayal and pulls his hand away from her grip, the viewer can see his profound shock at her confession. Samiya Mumtaz does a brilliant job as Saba. She conveys Saba’s innocence, her grief, her disbelief, and then the broken shell that Saba becomes in the end.

Veslam2009 has uploaded most of the episodes on YouTube. Other users have also uploaded the entire drama, but veslam2009’s uploads are subtitled. Watch them and let me know what you think about it.

The title song of this drama is beautifully apt for the story, and the pain in the lyrics comes through in the singer’s voice (the song is sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan). I’ve also translated the title song, but I didn’t learn Urdu in school, and my grasp of the language is not too great.

“Meri Zaat Zarra-E-Benishan”

(Who I am Means Nothing to this World)

Besides You who knows the state of my heart, My Lord?

Under your eyes, I suffered through hell.

How do I tell you the cruelties done to me?

(Repeat)

Who will listen to my story?

There is no one with whom I can share my grief or my secrets.

What was false, became the truth,

But I didn’t say a word,

This solitude … this grief …

That is what defines my life.

Who I am means nothing to this world.

(repeat)

Sometimes, I wander in the lonely mornings.

Sometimes, I look out into the barren night.

(repeat)

Sometimes I awaken with teary eyes.

Sometimes I think on the past moments.

But there is a moment of hope,

The belief that I have in My Lord.

I’ve never complained of my sufferings,

I’ve never cried out loud in pain.

Who I am means nothing to this world.

(repeat)

What can I tell you?

What will I get out of it?

I should just earn the fruits of my patience [by staying quiet].

(repeat)

I should be able to cloak some of my memories.

I should get something for the pain I have suffered through.

I should make a place for pain in my heart,

I will get the one who was mine.

I hope my world always remains filled with happiness,

And what I believe becomes reality.

Who I am means nothing to this world.

(repeat x5)

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16 thoughts on “Meri Zaat Zarra-E-Benishan – Pakistani Drama

  1. Pingback: Qaid e Tanhai « Darkice782

  2. this was a beautiful play..samyia mumtaz and faisal qureshi acted their roles beautifuly….wel done samyia,,well done faisal..

  3. Good review. But you are wrong about the Drama promoting that a woman raised in a foreign country cannot be a good wife.

    Saba, the protagonist, herself is raised in a foreign country. She is a free-thinking woman, but values traditions.

    Arfeen’s failed marriage was shown to highlight the concept of “karma” (what goes around, comes around). In the beginning, we are shown how judmental he is about women’s “character”. He says that a woman who is not “chaste” is not worthy of respect. Even his friend taunts him about it.

    He goes on to divorce Saba for her “loose” character.

    After he destroys her life, he is not able to have peace either and ends up having a troubled marriage.

    True, his wife is raised in a foreign country. But her behavior with Arfeen has nothing to do with that. It has to do with her arrogance. Also, the story is set in the 80s when men were more conservative.

    The drama ends on a good note when Arfeen’s son says: “A woman should also be forgiven, Dad.”

    If the show promoted that a woman raised in a foreign land does not value traditions, then the protagonist would have been a Pakistani born girl who would not have gone against her elders by abandoning the “burqa” and attending university.

    • Thanks for the reply.

      I do agree that Arfeen’s troubled marriage was a result of him being punished for what he has done in the past, but I don’t believe I’m wrong about what I’ve said in my post. I would agree more on the drama not promoting that women raised in foreign climes are not good wives/mothers, etc. if his second wife hadn’t been one of those women, raised on foreign soil. His sisters were the perfect wives and mothers, and one of them even quietly suffered through a bad marriage for the sake of preserving her marriage.

      Why is it that the only “bad” wife in the drama turned out to be one raised in a foreign clime? The times might have played a bit into Arfeen’s attitude, but even now I would say it is unacceptable for the mother of a newborn to go out and party and not take care of her own child. She didn’t want to be a mother or carry the responsibilities entailed in being a wife. I’d be more patient with this trope and give the writer the benefit of the doubt, if I hadn’t seen this happen so often in dramas. I’d be more patient if the writer wasn’t doing this again in another one of her dramas (Qaid-e-Tanhai). There is a limit on how many times I can see “bad wife” and “raised in a foreign land” come together and excuse is it as “that one was arrogant”, the next one “wasn’t loved”, etc.

      Saba, it seems to me, was shown to be the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. She was a good woman, regardless of where she was raised. That is what made it all the worse when Arfeen hurt such a woman.

  4. Thanks again. But let me point out that Arfeen’s mother and sisters were not “good” women. They were the ones who destroyed an entire family. They may have covered their heads and stayed traditional. But they were shown to be malicious who destroyed the life of a free-thinking woman raised in a foreign land (the protagonist). And guess what? They ended up being punished for it.

    In fact, the crux of the story is that Arfeen’s mother (who was supposed to be a good, traditional and “religious” woman) ended up dishonoring the Holy Book. On the other hand, Saba (who did not wear the burqa or pray) preferred not to desecrate it.

    I think you are basing an opinion on one character. There are different kinds of people in every society. There were two kinds of women who were raised in foreign lands – (Saba and Arfeen’s other wife). And there were two kinds of women raised in Pakistan (Arfeen’s mother and sisters & Adil’s mother).

    A writer’s charm is that he writes about people of all backgrounds and characteristics. A story should be judged according to its overall message. And not one single character (especially when an opposite character of the same background exists in the story.)

    • Thank you for replying and clarifying your stance. I do understand what you are saying, but I don’t think I can agree.

      Over time and the dramas that I have watched, I think that I have become over-sensitized to the message that I’ve seen about women raised in foreign lands and their ability to be a good or bad wife. While you and I can differentiate between the various situations that are depicted in these dramas and the reasons these women have for acting the way they do, the average Pakistani viewer can’t and I hate the fact that this drama perpetuates the same old myth of Arfeen’s punishment being a woman who was raised in a foreign land and couldn’t be a good wife. I like Umera Ahmed as a writer, but she’s had two characters in two different dramas breaking up their marriages due to their behavior. And think of the thoughts that are springing up in the minds of viewers, who still live in a society that says that divorce is taboo and should be avoided at all costs? While I can understand what their reasons are, I don’t get why the character that acted out and got the divorce had to be someone raised in a foreign land. Really, why couldn’t it be a Pakistani girl fighting for a divorce?

      I admit that I’m oversensitive to this issue, and I probably will get irritated every time I see it happening in a drama. I’m not basing my opinion on one single character of this drama, but I am basing my opinion over the hundreds of characters I’ve seen over hundreds of dramas that seem to have the same message. I’m glad that you took the time to respond, but I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this.

  5. Thank you for your reply. But Umera Ahmed has also shown Pakistani-born girls fighting for a divorce. In Qaid-e-tanhai, the main protagonist wants to break her marriage to be with another man although she has a daughter (she is born and raised in Pakistan). (This is the same show which has the other foreign born character you are talking about) In Uraan, you have two main female protagonists fighting for a divorce. (again Pakistani born women). And these are Umera’s works after Meri Zaat. As I said, she writes about people of all backgrounds and characteristics. In fact, she goes on to promote that divorce is necessary at times. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion. Nice chatting with you.

    • :) Thanks for pointing out Uraan. I actually haven’t seen the drama, but I will say that this means that I can give Umera Ahmed the benefit of the doubt. I enjoyed our discussion. Thanks for taking the time to share your views.

  6. Interesting discussion. I would like to add my two cents.

    In another of Umera’s work “Daam”, Junaid’s wife, Fiza, is a suspicious wife – she pesters him and accuses him of infidelity throughout their marriage. And she is born and raised in Pakistan.

    So yes, Umera does write about all kinds of people from all cultural backgrounds.

    As they say, “No two snowflakes are alike.”

    • thanks for replying. I actually haven’t seen Daam either, but based on what you and KB have said, I think I can at least give Umera Ahmed the benefit of the doubt. I still think that this is a pervasive problem in Pakistani Media, but maybe not in Ahmed’s dramas.

  7. I saw this the title song of this drama in youtube and it made to think if the song is so wonderful then how would be the drama, but as it will take lots of time to watch this whole episode in youtube so feeling little lazy to see, but here I found whole story and beautifully explained that if i will not see the whole drama atleast my desire to know about this is complete.thanks for doing such a good effort.

  8. fantastic effort to piont out the problems of our culture and especially the behaviour of our elders i like the acting of arfeen abas nand the beauty of saba

  9. I hadan issue with the writer – first the heroines are shown extraordinary in their capacity to suffer silently and in a manner with which i dont agree at times ……for instance i found it quite horrible that saba allows herself to be married off to another man in this manner instead of doing what she does later – dissappearing and working and making her own life elsewhere ….i like the fact that she doesnt return but i find the powr the family had in getting a free thinking girl married off like that surprising …..also i agree with the foreign girl bit – arfeen’s conservative side could have come out withoutnecessarily showings wife to be so irresponsible – that would have brought out his conservatism more effectively

  10. I am not satisfied by the review.
    I think the real theme and core of the play gives the answer to one of important question which have always come in my mind right from childhood:
    How and why can a person love Allah more than oneself, parents, close relatives, worldly happiness???
    You have seen in play at the end, SABA was offered every thing respect, family, prosperity, but she rejects everything that too with great happiness just like a SHAHEED enjoys dieing because he actually is seeing ALLAH that time. SABA understands that ALLAH is the only near one to any one is this world.

  11. I really like this drama,I am watching this again and again.Really “patience ” is a best thing in the world.I like dialogues,acting of Samiya and Faisal.I really like maturity of Samiya and Faisal.Direction is very good.Can any one let me know any other such good drama,thanks youtube fo this drama.

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