Bano's final meeting with Hassan before his departure to Rawalpindi
|First appearance||Episode 1|
|Portrayed by||Sanam Baloch|
Ghulam Ahmed (son)
|Significant other(s)||Hassan (fianceé)|
Bano Naseeb (Urdu:بانو نسیب) is the protagonist and main character of Razia Butt's novel Bano (novel), and of Hum TV drama Dastaan. She is from the province of Ludhiana. Bano was engaged to neighbor and family friend Hassan, but the two were never married due to partition-induced circumstances. Her main goal throughout the novel and drama was first to have Pakistan created, and later on, to reach Pakistan and see it in ethereal glory.
Bano is a girl from Ludhiana, India, and the youngest of 3 siblings. Bano is shown at the beginning of the show as a typical 1940's girl, shy and obedient. But as the show progresses, we find out that she is also very loving and passionate about something she believes in.
Bano is first introduced as the sister of Saleem, who is about to get married to neighbor and family friend Suraiya. Bano and Suraiya have been best friends since they were young, and Bano is overjoyed to have her as a sister-in-law. While at Suraiya's house, just a day before the wedding, Bano meets Hassan, Suraiya's nephew who is just a year or two younger than Suraiya. Her first impression of him is not a good one; he has a humorous, teasing nature which she at first does not appreciate, and his calling her a "billi(kitten)" after seeing her on all fours while hiding from her mother does not help.
The day of Suraiya's and Saleem's wedding, as Suraiya and Rashida, her sister and Hassan's mother, are exchanging embraces, Hassan catches up to Bano as he sees her crying. He asks her the reason for her tears, as Suraiya is moving into her house after her marriage. He jokingly asks her whether she is trying to fantasize what it will be like when she is married and leaves home. Bano replies by saying that she will never leave home, no matter what. Hassan asks her if her decision will still be the same no matter how much her groom loves her. Bano, picking up on his hidden meaning, quickly hurries away, pausing to look back only once. She finds that Hassan is staring at the spot where she had just been standing, his hand on the tree she was leaning against.
Bano begins to warm towards Hassan, and soon the two fall in love. A substantial amount of months pass, with Hassan, who is a student at the Islamia College, visiting Ludhiana every now and then. As things between Hassan and Bano heat up, tensions grow across all of India between Hindus and Muslims. This greatly affects Hassan and Bano, since Hassan is an avid supporter of the Muslim League, whereas Saleem is a supporter of the Indian Congress. Their different political viewpoints often cause trouble for Hassan, as Saleem is extremely hot-tempered. When Rashida asks Bano's father for her hand in marriage for Hassan, Saleem is extremely unhappy and, speaking for his father, denies Rashida's request. He tells his father that he thinks a more suitable option for Bano would be his friend Ram, a Hindu; his father is outraged that Saleem would even suggest such a thing, and immediately accepts Rashida's offer. Hassan and Bano are engaged, much to their delight. Soon, Hassan gets a job at an engineering company in Rawalpindi. Hassan and his mother leave with the promise that they will be back 8 months later for Hassan and Bano's wedding.
As political tensions between Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs rise, and with the determination for the formation of Pakistan growing stronger, Bano finds that politics become a daily issue in her household. She and her brother Faheem are adamant supporters of the Muslim League, much to Saleem's dismay. Slowly, Saleem's belief that his two best friends, Ram and Ravi, will watch his back dies. As violence outbreaks across India, riots become more widespread. Muslims are killed in their homes by thousands, and violence starts to spread closer to Ludhiana.
On one fateful night, a group of Hindus and Sikhs attack Bano's home, killing all in sight. The women are told to flee to the safety of the roof while the men attempt to stall the violence. Bano's entire family is murdered. Suraiya, unable to see her husband fall to the floor, jumps from the roof, landing next to his body. Faheem is killed as well, but not before shouting to his mother "Bibi (Mom), choke Bano's neck!" A common thing during partition violence was that Hindus and Sikhs would rape the women before killing them, therefore taking both their virtue and their lives. Many parents killed their daughters so that they would not have to face these trials before dying. Bibi attempts to choke Bano using her scarf with shaking hands, but is stopped by Ram and Ravi. They promise to bring the family members of their childhood friend to safety, and take them away from their home, which is still under siege. But as Ram and Ravi drag the crying pair to an abandoned home, they realize that the two have no intention of honoring their friend's memory after his death. Ram grabs Bano and takes her to a separate room, snatching her dupatta away from her. In the other room, Bano's mother is hitting Ravi, who is frozen in his spot. She yells at him "Wo tumhare dost ki behen hai! Tumhari behen hai! Usne har sal tumhare haath pe rakhi bandi hai! (That's your best friend's sister! That's your sister! She tied a rakhi around your wrist every year!)" Bano's mother barges open the door, and Ram, furious with her and Ravi for interrupting him, slaps her and she falls unconscious. Ravi, coming to his senses, stabs Ram before he can touch Bano.
The next day, Ravi brings Bano and his mother to a refugee camp which is traveling to Pakistan. Bano and her mother travel with the other refugees all day in the blistering heat. As they set up camp for the night, they are attacked by a group of Hindus, who separate Bano and her mother and rape her. After everyone is either gone or dead, Bano crawls back to her mother, only to find Bibi's dead body and her broken ta'wiz on the ground, suggesting that she was raped as well. Bano screams and cries until she falls unconscious. The next day, a Sikh man finds the pair of them and bring's Bano back to his home while burying her mother's body. His sister nurses Bano back to health, and once she is healthy again, the man buys her a ticket to a train to Pakistan. The train gets attacked by Sikhs halfway through the journey, and a man knocks Bano unconscious and takes her back to his home, deciding to marry her.
Bano attempts to run away from the man, Basant Singh's, house many times, but is always caught in the end. Basant Singh, or Basanta, tells her that he has repented after she shrieked at him for killing innocents. He says that traveling to Pakistan is very dangerous, and that he will see her safe arrival there once the roadways are cleared. Bano, with no options left, is forced to believe him. He renames Bano "Sundar Kaur", or beautiful princess in Punjabi, because she initially refuses to tell him her name.
Nearly 6 months later, a friend of Basanta's mother, Dil Raj, tells Bano Basanta's plan to convert her to Sikhism and marry her. Bano runs away again, but Basanta stops her and beats her until she is bloody and cannot talk. When Basanta's mother asks her whether she wants to beaten more or wants to convert, Bano replies with "Pakistan Zindabad (May Pakistan live forever.)" Basanta rapes her repeatedly after this, and forcefully marries her. Months later, Bano becomes pregnant and has a son. Basanta still repeatedly beats her when she disobeys him.
Nearly 5 years later, Basanta is fed up with Bano's attitude and decides to murder her. That very day, as their son sits on the roof, Basanta runs to stop him from going to close to the edge and trips and falls, dying instantly. Bano takes her son and reaches Pakistan.
Initially staying at a women's shelter, Bano later meets Hassan again. She goes to his home, where we find out that her traumatic experiences have damaged her brain, and she is slightly insane. She hates her son because she sees Basanta's face in his, and refuses to look at him. Hassan on the other hand, after hearing about Bano's death, had spent the last 5 years in depression. When he met Rabia, the daughter of a friend of his mother's, his depression seemed to lift a little. When he found out that Rabia was in love with him, he agreed to marry her with the relaxation that Bano still had a place in his heart that no one could take. Upon Bano's arrival, he decides he will no longer marry Rabia.
When Bano finds out of their engagement, she runs away from Hassan's home, where she is already treated as an outsider by Rashida, who dislikes her because of her mental condition and circumstance. Bano and her son are taken in by a woman named Musarat and her family. As Bano gets a job and explores the Pakistan she had been dying to reach for 5 years, she realizes it is nothing like the speeches Hassan used to give about it. It is not a wonderful place like she had expected it to be, and slowly, Bano's mental condition worsens. Hassan blames her leaving on himself, and decides once and for all that he will not marry Rabia. One day, he sees Bano at the Badshahi Mosque, and she tells him that she cannot marry him because she's not the same Bano he fell in love with. She tells him to marry Rabia, and he agrees to it because it's her last request to him.
But things get worse for Bano as she goes to her office one day to find that her boss is drunk, an action which is not allowed in Islam. Bano is horrified at his infidelity, and even more when he starts to call her "beautiful" and begins to undo her burqa. He snaps her mother's ta'wiz off her neck, and Bano has a flashback of her former life, and the struggles she and her mother faced. Losing her mind, she grabs a box opening knife and stabs her boss with it in a moment of panic until he dies. She grabs the ta'wiz out of his hand and holds it up in front of her, having a flashback of when she had done the same when her mother died.
Bano goes to Hassan's home, where his wedding with Rabia is about to take place, covered in blood. She says to him in hysteria, "Mainay iss pak sar zameen ko pak kardiya. Mainay Basanta ko mardiya. Ab yahan koi Basanta nahi. (I have killed Basanta. I have made this Pakistan pak [clean]. Now there's no Basanta here anymore."
At the end of the show, Bano is shown in an asylum. Hassan and his newly wed Rabia are visiting her. She asks them how her country is doing, and they tell her it is perfect. The last words she says in the show are "Pakistan Zindabad," which she says repeatedly while using her mother's ta'wiz as a prayer bead necklace.
Bano is described in the book as brown-eyed, with long black hair always in a braid. She is shown in the drama as medium height, brown-eyed and black-haired, as well. She always has a dupatta on her head when in the company of men. At the beginning, Bano is shown as very pretty, as when Sultana says "Shakal aur mizaaj dono aik larki mein bahaut kam miltay hain (It's not very often that you find a girl with a pretty face and charming personality.)" Towards the middle of the series, her face starts to become older, her color waning, and by the end of the show, her eyes have perpetual circles under them and her facial expressions are much more clipped.
Bano is characterized as a very loving girl, who takes offense to teasing very easily. As the series progresses, Bano's character is more developed, as a girl who would do anything for a cause she believes in. She is very shy, especially when it comes to Hassan, and would usually walk away at the sight of him in the earlier episodes before their relationship developed.
In later episodes of the drama, Bano faces post-traumatic syndrome, and loses most of her sanity. Her sole purpose in life remains to be able to "see the dirt of my [Bano's] beloved country." Near the end of the show, Bano is obsessed with Pakistan, and her only goal is to make it the glorious utopia that she had heard so many speeches about. After killing Kaleem, a corrupt politician, Bano thinks that she has killed all of the "Basanta's" in Pakistan, and that her country is finally "pak" or clean, like she had imagined it to be.
Relationships and Friendships
- Hassan - Hassan is Bano's main love interest throughout the show and novel. Hassan and Bano both meet for the first time at Suraiya, a friend of Bano's and aunt of Hassan's, wedding. Bano is not very fond of Hassan at the beginning, whereas for him, it is love at first sight. The two bond quickly, though, and are soon engaged. Hassan leaves soon after their engagement due to a job he receives in a different town, and the two are separated because of Bano's loss during partition. They meet again nearly 6 years later.
- Suraiya - Bano calls Suraiya "Bhabi", or "sister-in-law", and sometimes "Khala", or "aunt", when she slips up and is thinking of Hassan. Suraiya and Bano were best friends since childhood, and became sister-in-laws just around the beginning of the novel. Their friendship carried on even after Suraiya was wed to Bano's brother Saleem. Suraiya died in the massacre that took the life of most of Bano's family members.
- Saleem - Saleem was Bano's eldest brother, and she mostly referred to him as "Buray Bhaiyya," or "Big Brother." They had a very loving relationship around the beginning of the novel, but things began to get rocky as Bano grew closer to Hassan. Saleem's political views were radically opposite to Hassan's, and in that time period, political views were everything. When Bano too joined the Muslim League, Saleem was outraged, and their relationship was left badly damaged. After Hassan and Bano's engagement, Saleem decided to put his rivalries aside for Bano's sake, and the two reconciled. Saleem is killed along with his wife and the rest of his family members the night of the massacre.
- Rashida - Bano called Rashida either Rashida "Baji," a term used to show respect for older sisters, or otherwise Rashida "Khala," or "aunt." Rashida and Bano's relationship was very loving at the beginning of the novel, and Rashida was very happy to have Bano become her daughter-in-law. After the massacre and the five-year period where Rashida and Hassan presumed Bano to be dead, their relationship hits very dangerous waters. Rashida is, against her better judgement, repulsed by the fact that her son wishes to marry a woman who has been raped countless times, lived in the home of a Sikh man for five years, and has a son that Hassan would be required to take care of. She momentarily forgets that Bano suffered all these traumas in the name of Pakistan. Rashida's cold behavior towards Bano is one of the factors that causes Bano to flee Hassan's home after he brings her there.
- Rabia - Though Rabia is first mentioned at the beginning of the novel as the fourteen-year old daughter of a friend of Rashida's, no interaction between her and Bano is shown. After the five-year interlude, Rabia is engaged to Hassan and believes Bano to be horrible for stealing him away from her. After seeing Bano's mental condition and listening to her lament about her family members' deaths, Rabia decides that she will not marry Hassan if it will help Bano "Baji." When Bano hears of the two's engagement, she tells them to get married for she is too mentally unstable and "un-pure" (referring to the many times she was raped), to marry him.
- Basant Singh - While Bano boards a train to Lahore, Pakistan after the massacre and death of her mother, it is attacked by a group of racist Sikhs. One of these Sikhs is Basant Singh, or Basanta. Bano screams obscenities at him and curses him, saying that his "Guru" (Sikh god) will never forgive him for taking the lives of so many innocents. Basanta, impressed by her spunk, kidnaps her and takes her to his home to convert her and marry her. She refuses and attempts to run away many times, resulting in him beating her and forcefully marrying her. Bano is forced to live in his home for 5 years, being beaten and raped nearly everyday. Basanta slipped off the roof of his home 5 years later, freeing Bano from her capture.
- Ghulam Ahmed - Originally named "Maggan Singh" by his father, Ghulam Ahmed is the son of Bano and Basanta, who Bano was forced to carry in the 5-year period she lived in Basanta's home. After his father's death, Bano brings him to Pakistan with her for the sole purpose of showing him that her countrymen are far better than "his kind." Bano feels a deep hatred towards her son, because of the resemblance to Basanta she sees in his face. She often refers to him as a "gaali," or curse word, and that every time she sees his face she can hear Basanta cursing at her and her country, Pakistan.