Saving Face and Deflecting Criticism

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy at the Oscars

Remember the last time you decided to go out and earn international recognition for your country? The last time you walked down the Red Carpet and held an Oscar in your hand? No? Well, that’s because you probably didn’t. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, on the other hand, did. She did what could only have been a remote aspiration for a number of Pakistanis. She reinstated the belief in ourselves as a nation. All of a sudden, everybody wanted to say we could do something – we could be something. God knows, even the Tsunami couldn’t take the limelight away from where it was due this time. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won and she shone. Like a star. Pakistani in every aspect.

But do people give it a rest? While, some of us were up all night praying and hoping against hope that this time Pakistan would win something other than the breaking news, a lot of people left no stone unturned in thrashing the newly found and deserved achievement. “Did you even look at her clothes?” “It would have been better had she been dressed in TRADITIONAL shalwar kameez.” “What was the point of telling the entire world about what goes on in our country?” and a number of really undesirable sentiments erupted.

What is it that these people really want? Next thing you know, they will be asking for the Oscar trophy to be dressed in traditional shalwar kameez. It is too petty an allegation to even warrant a justification. I’d still venture to state that Sharmeen’s entire attire was entirely done by Pakistani designers. She dedicated her award to the women in Pakistan, fighting for change. What about winning an Oscar and representing Pakistan internationally do people not understand? Where and when does this policing  and double standards stop? The endless scrutiny and excessively critical behavior has led us nowhere. We are too busy pulling each other down, even during the times when a country is already close to being a sinking ship.

True, she made a documentary film about acid killings in Pakistan.Yes, it portrays a problem rampant in our country. Does shutting up about and ignoring the problem resolves the issue? No. Does making a film about it does? Yes. It gives the number of people who have gone through the ordeal a strange kind of hope – a feeling that they are not alone and that somebody is concerned. Moreover, whoever has done even a bit of research knows that Saving Face is more about a story of strength and surviving against odds than about Pakistan being a country that encourages acid killings. It’s about a woman being a victim and ultimately getting justice for the wrong that was done to her. It was about a doctor who was selfless enough to help her in her ordeal. It was about the oppressor being punished. How is that portraying Pakistan in a bad light?

To all the haters, one advice: Think before you speak. Ideally, just shut up.

Published in The News and The Dabba Brigade, the e-magazine.


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