Over the last weekend, I binged on a Pakistani television serial called Meray Paas Tum Ho. It released in 2019, on ARY Digital (a pay TV channel), where it ran from 17 August to 25 January 2020, as a weekly slot. It was such a big hit (in Pakistan) that the series finale was screened in theatres to packed houses.
The ‘recommendation to watch’ came a couple of weeks ago. From a Pakistani cabbie who I struck up a conversation with, on popular culture, while zipping down Sheikh Zayed Road one sunny morning.
It was bingeing in right earnest (alright, I did take breaks to sleep and eat, but, in my sleep, I dreamt of Meray Paas Tum Ho and got up hurriedly to watch a snatch at 3.30am) because it’s not a “limited” series — it’s 23-episodes-long, each episode about 40 minutes. The effort taxed my patience and the nerve centres surrounding my fingers — because this is available on YouTube, and there are ads every now and then (no, I’ve not subscribed to the “no ads” paid version), you have to wait glassily for five or six seconds, after which you get the ‘Skip Ads’ pop up and then you have to move really fast: if you don’t, it goes into another loop of ads.
There was a reason why I couldn’t stop watching Meray Paas Tum Ho. It’s a fantastically riveting watch, despite the fact that the heroine was changing into new clothes every five minutes while moaning she doesn’t have enough shopping money. Easy on the eye, replete with warm clichés that somehow do U-turns in a manner most dramatic, and richly textured with the aural aura of Urdu, which, unlike Hindi, is quite a pleasure to listen to with its inflection, carefully-crafted idiom and sonority (even a quarrel sounds cultured).
When I was on episode six or seven, I pinged my Pakistani friend who lives in Texas and told her how much I am enjoying the series. She burst out laughing — emoji-wise. “Seriously? Apparently, a lot of folks back in Pakistan — especially the ‘feminists’ — were up in arms about how it espoused backward values, and called for its boycott,” she wrote back. I’m not really finding it regressive, I told her, and that’s something coming from me since I take umbrage to almost anything under the sun.
It was only a few more episodes down the line that a bigger reality emerged: the comments section under the drama.
So, I’m kind of used to an avalanche of trolling each time there’s a ‘subcontinental’ issue being thrashed out on that silly thing called social media (that I try and avoid as much as I can, but have to, at times, sneak a peek at). Apparently, there’s a word called Burnol that’s used a lot: one side is asked to apply it to soothe jealous passions by the other, when the latter feels they’ve won the game of one-upmanship — and it plays out both ways. It’s a slugfest.
In the comments section below Meray Paas Tum Ho, there was a lovefest happening. Take the final episode, which was uploaded on YouTube in April this year. There are close to 8,000 comments — none of which are short of glowing (yes, I checked out at least 80 per cent of the barrage) — and many, many of them are from Indians.
Hear it from them. In their own words. I think we can all afford to put our Wren & Martins away for a bit, and gloss over grammar and spelling.
•“I am from INDIA, never saw these kind of Serials. NO vulgarity, no violence. Story is speechless. Why both countries people dying for corrupt political reasons? We want peace love.”
• “Yes you are 100% right. Currupt polititions are using the humans. They do not want peace.”
• “One of my friends recommended this series, it took 2 days to finish whole series, this is nothing but a Masterpiece from masterclass crew members, acting, direction, music, dialogue… everything was so perfect… love from India”
•“I cried while watching this serial, i can’t believe myself, I’m from india n i have watched lots of TV series but this one has made me cry for the first time in my whole life... while watching. Great great great story great performance by everyone... Lots of love from india”
• “The best ever serial I have watched... literally it was reality of life... Love from india”
• “Wow I’m speechless, and also crying after watching this masterpiece… lot’s of love for all starcast and director ! Such a amazing writing really Kudos to Neighbour, u got such a amazing talent during partition!”
• “Heavy love from India”
• “Love From India. I literally never ever cried that much and the actors acted so well, I felt the pain. Indian television industry should broadcast this episodes on indian channels.”
And here’s a Pakistani interjection — that could well be a perfect closure: “I read Indian brothers and sisters Comments… This is real feeling from cross the border India toward Pakistan. Humanity is Still alive.”
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