Patriarchy was never built on logic. It was built as a way to enforce a system of unequal power that came to be seen as the standard for morality over time. What makes it especially terrible is that it was never designed to take into account the feelings of women or men. It is purely power-based and has reduced the state of our world to nothing but a struggle.
Balbir Singh of Kohrra is a prime example of this. We have a rough sketch of his personal life, and we can only piece things together with assumptions and hints from what his daughter has said over time. The one thing that we gathered is that Balbir had always been responsible, but he had never been sensitive or thought about what anyone except him would want. Balbir’s wife, Taran, was going through some mental health issues, and though it is not specified what those were, we know that the violent outburst we witnessed was not the first time it had happened. Taran hated that she had to take the medicines and be treated like a sick person.
We cannot be sure whether Balbir was an abusive husband or not or if what he did that time to calm her down was a one-time thing. Our bet is that he had done this before, probably not in her calmer moments but anytime she lost control of herself. We cannot be sure when Taran’s mental health issues started. If we believe what Nimrat has to say, Balbir’s neglect of his wife and daughter could be what pushed her off the edge. Or maybe there was nothing he could do, to begin with, but one thing is for sure: Balbir never treated his wife with kindness. He took care of her financially and tried to get her the medication she needed to get better, but the kindness he needed to show her every day, he was not capable of. Nimrat was a witness to this whole thing as a child, and that had an effect on her. Children who grow up in abusive homes often become the emotional support systems of their parents. In this case, it had to be Taran who spoke to Nimrit about her troubles, and that is what Nimrat remembered about her parents’ relationship long after it ended.
Once Taran decided that she had had enough of her husband, she left him and went back to her parent’s place. As we saw through Balbir’s flashbacks at the end of Kohrra, when he went to bring back his wife, he found that she had committed suicide. If we are interpreting that flashback or nightmare correctly, we know that Nimrat saw the body first. That was a lot for a child to digest, and it had to set the tone for how she viewed her father for the rest of her life.
When Nimrat grew up, she was good at academics and wanted to study further, but her father wanted her to get married. Nimrat says at one point that her father did not like her because she reminded him of Taran. Maybe Nimrat looked like Taran, or it was the fact that she was another woman whose well-being was the responsibility of Balbir, or it could be that her disposition was similar to Taran’s. But Balbir just couldn’t be in her presence, and that tells us that he must have felt guilty about what happened to his wife.
We came to know at a later point that Taran’s family had filed a case against Balbir. It was probably because they believed that he had incited her to take her own life, and Balbir probably believed that as well. However, the problem was that he did not know how he could be a different person. He did not realize that a life where the women in his life had some agency was possible, and in fact, that would be a far happier one to live. Ignorance of this very fact made him force his daughter to get married to a man who, in Nimrat’s words, was just like her father. Even though he never stepped back from his responsibilities, like Balbir, he never knew how to take the needs and desires of his wife into account.
Nimrat may have wanted to study more, and if not, she wanted to wait a while before they had kids, but her husband did not allow her that time, and forced by the institution of marriage and her own lack of agency, Nimrat was forced to obey until one day when she could not. She gave half a decade of her life to making her marriage work, but when she couldn’t, she returned home. Her father refused to support her or understand why she had come back because that would mean acknowledging, not just to himself but to others as well, that he had been a bad husband to Taran and that her death was his fault. One of the reasons men protect other men’s actions so much, despite them being wrong, is to gain validity for themselves, and that is what Balbir was doing.
Nimrat wanted to move on in life. She never had a happy marriage, and when she saw her friends who were able to lead good lives simply because they had found a match that gave them the freedom to have a life, Nimrat was jealous, which is why she reached out to her ex-boyfriend from college, Karan Gill. We don’t know whether they broke up because Nimrat was getting married or for some other reason. If it was due to parental pressure, Balbir did a very foolish thing because Karan was obviously a far better choice in many respects.
In the present day, duty dictates that Balbir make Nimrat go back to her husband, and when that does not happen, he has to sabotage her relationship with Karan. It is important to remember that Nimrat was financially dependent on Balbir, and she definitely couldn’t live with Karan, which meant that after her father beat up her beau, bringing an abrupt end to their relationship, she was looking at a long and joyless life for herself, which is what caused her to take such a step. That was the rude shock that woke Balbir up from the fog of fake responsibilities and made him listen to what his daughter actually wanted.
Scores were settled when Karan’s grandfather kidnapped Balbir for beating up his grandson, but Balbir had already moved beyond that and decided to bless the couple. This courage also carried forward, and he was able to tell Indira the truth about how he was responsible for the death of her husband. How and why Indira got over that is a discussion for another day, but now that she knew the truth and still kept her gates open, Balbir did not have to feel guilty about taking a step forward anymore. All it took for Balbir to find some happiness in life was the courage to face some hard truths, and things became infinitely better once he did that.