“Zindagi Gulzar Hai” and Poverty in Pakistan
“Zindagi Gulzar Hai” is a popular Pakistani drama based on a book by Umera Ahmad. While the drama first aired on Hum TV in 2012, it is now available on YouTube and Netflix with English subtitles. Since then, the drama has captivated the hearts and minds of an international audience, winning one award after the next. While the drama is first and foremost a love story, what many fans fail to remember is that it provides great insight into poverty in Pakistan. This article aims to draw a comparison between the characters and the lives of millions of people in the country.
The drama “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” depicts a love story between a lower-middle-class woman named Kashaf Murtaza and a wealthy Pakistani man named Zaroon Junaid. A single mother raised Kashaf and her two younger sisters. Their father abandoned them and remarried after their mother could not produce a male heir. This led Kashaf to distrust men from an incredibly early age, but it also gave her the incentive to receive an education and become self-dependent like her mother.
When she grew older, Kashaf received a scholarship to a prestigious university where she met a man from a wealthy Pakistani family named Zaroon. She instantly grew to dislike him due to his flirtatious and jealous nature once Kashaf outperformed him on several occasions. While Zaroon did not like her at first, he began to see wife-like qualities within her and eventually convinced her to marry him. As the drama progresses, it is clear that there are many differences between his wealthy lifestyle and her lower-middle-class background. Not only do these differences communicate the coexistence of two alternative realities in Pakistan, but they also reveal the challenges that millions of people face in the country today. Here are four aspects that the story reveals about poverty in Pakistan.
4 Aspects that “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” Reveals About Poverty in Pakistan
- Polygamy: In the drama, Kashaf’s father married twice because his first wife could not produce a son. While polygamy is not common in Pakistan, it is legal as long as a man obtains permission from his first wife. However, many women, especially in rural areas, do not know that their husband’s second marriage is conditional on their approval. Others fear acting against their husbands because they are economically dependent on them and because of the stigma surrounding divorce in Pakistani culture. This makes the practice problematic.
- Education: When Kashaf entered a prestigious university, her father insisted that her mother focus on getting their daughters married instead of having them receive an education. Unfortunately, his mindset is not uncommon in Pakistan. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 22.5 million children are not in school within the country. This includes one-third of primary school-aged girls and about 87% of girls in grade nine. Not only does this problem disproportionately affect females, but it also makes Pakistan one of the worst-performing countries with respect to education.
- Lack of Clean Water: When Zaroon visited Kashaf’s home soon after their marriage, the water stopped running while he was washing his face. This reflects how Pakistan is one of 36 countries in the midst of a water crisis. Currently, there are less than 1,000 cubic meters of annual water availability for every person within the country. About 80% of those living in 24 major Pakistani cities do not have access to clean water. One can say the same for 16 million people living in the slums of Karachi. This is due to an increase in population, environmental challenges, mismanagement of water systems in the agricultural sector and the overpriced cost of the water that water trucks provide. If resources within the country continue to decline at this rate, the country will be scarce of water by 2025.
- Electricity: When Zaroon spends his first night in Kashaf’s home, the electricity goes out. While Kashaf and her family are used to living without air conditioning in Pakistan’s heated climate, it is clear that Zaroon is not. Approximately 25,000 megawatts of electricity are necessary for Pakistan, and the need increases by more than 5% each year. However, the government has only been able to supply 20,000 megawatts of electricity so far. This has left millions of Pakistanis without electricity at any given time.
The drama “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” highlights the challenges that millions of people face as a result of poverty in Pakistan. This will inevitably spread awareness about the problem, instigate much-needed conversations and inspire the world to take action.
– Rida Memon