Imagine the wind blowing in your hair while you drive past the many shops and traffic lights in the city, only to come to a staggering halt in the face of mini-boards and bill-boards that hang around the cosmopolitan like a curtain. National Fruitily, the countless Iftar Deals, the “exclusive” eid exhibitions and Lipton – Mega Daane, Mega Taste. Your mind wants to snap shut but can’t. This has to be some kind of a prank. Is tea really being advertised owing to the strength of its Daane? Thoughts about oversized pimples come unbidden to mind. Daane. Ow.
Besides, whoever knows anything about tea beans? A quick internet search would tell you that even Google hasn’t heard of them. Even considering the fact that Pakistan has become the place where the impossible happens, talking about tea beans is taking things a bit too far.
Tea is an essential part of not just our routine but our lifestyle. It’s no longer just a beverage. You seek tea the moment you enter your work place, the moment you binge at a dinner (which happens often) and whenever you think you are going to lose it at someone.
While it’s true that the aforementioned has been used as a concept by a number of tea brands and Lipton itself has come out with really memorable ads (Remember, Chaye Chahiye?), a new ad campaign should have been a welcome change considering the enormous run that the old jingle has enjoyed. Unfortunately, the Mega Daane, Mega Taste has instead of engaging the local community established Liption as a brand that is aloof and distant from what the consumers want and understand.
If one really thinks all it takes to succeed in the ad world is a portrait of a woman enjoying a cup of tea and a tagline boasting about how mega your beans are, you really need better research or maybe just a new ad agency.
And that feeling is what you get when you know you are independent. For me, it was a matter of giving a few interviews and getting a job. And the days where I had to ask before making decisions about my own life were over. I was free. To do what I wanted and to make the mistakes that I was destined to make. And all that didn’t make me less successful a human being. But it made me who I am today. Very much myself in my own right.
So on this independence day, ask yourself this: Are you game enough to be a Pakistani?
Picture this: An early morning class. A bunch of sleepyheads sitting all around. And a teacher – a teacher talking about national identity. No it had nothing to do with identifying the various languages and the dress codes of the number of provinces we have now nor was it as cruel as it sounds. But, let me tell you what jolted me into wakefulness.
It was an ad. An advertisement that had Aamir Khan (the Indian actor) talking about how it’s necessary to take pride in being an Indian. The most amazing part? The advertisement wasn’t sponsored by the tourism industry. It was just something that an individual and a group of like-minded people had decided to do in order to take action and fix something that was wrong in their part of the world and that clearly got everyone thinking. For once, it served as an example of something we as Pakistanis can do to bring about a change. A practical example and not just talk.
And then, the inevitable happened. We as a class were asked to visualize or think of an ad that would best portray our national identity. That would portray something which will make people go like “Aha! Now that’s an average Pakistani!” And all the examples of ads that we had just seen a minute ago of countries from China to Australia, ads that spoke of having hard working people to ads that spoke of having breathtaking beaches vaporized into thin air. That wasn’t Pakistan. How the world sees the country is not Pakistan.
An average Pakistani is a person who has everything going wrong for him. From the school he goes to, to the health care he receives, from the traffic rules that are meant to be broken to the electricity that flickers every once in a while and yet, he makes it through the day. Every day. He survives till it’s not possible for him to. And the personal struggle of everyone in the country and how he makes it against all odds and difficulties is who an average Pakistani is.
But who wants this on an ad that wants to brand a nation? Who wants people surviving despite the chaos they have to face as a daily ritual? Who wants their children to see the ad that looks at such a gloomy picture? The answer to this is who cares? Who cares if it’s not right for everyone else? The difficult part, the part where hardships abound, resources are few and chaos is rife is the part that unites all of us as Pakistanis.
If there’s no scenic beauty of the beach and swaying trees that unite us then let it be the struggle that brings us together. The rich or the poor. The Baloch or the Punjabis. The Muslims or the Non-Muslims. It is how everyone has come where they have come and how they are doing with whatever little they have. While it’s sad that living in Pakistan is a struggle, it’s the truth. And it’s time we not be ashamed of that! Or else, how are we going to move on to the part where we get to brag about all the awesomeness?
Let’s throw a bucket of tomatoes and rotten eggs at the media. Everyone is doing it. Even though, I feel like joining on the bandwagon, I don’t think it’s really clever. Let me tell you why:
Firstly, most of the production houses, newspaper agencies, radio corporations etc. mostly ask you to have technical skills if you want to apply for a particular job. I was in O levels when I was made the assistant editor of a magazine. I had no sense of editing, or reporting. I had never studied any of the two things. They hired me because I could write in English. Writing in English and being a journalist are two very different things but the fact is, most of the companies existent in our media require you to have only technical skills. They would hire you as camera man if you know how to switch on a camera, without making sure if you know the principles and the aesthetics behind filming something.
Secondly, ethics of a person and ethics of a corporation are two entirely different things. I may be very ethical in my personal dealings and could have a great sense of what’s right and what’s wrong but position me in the middle of an organization and I’d have to blend in with the prevalent corporate culture. What is important to me personally takes a backseat whether I like it or not and chances are, I have joined the organization knowing that. So blaming Meher Bukhari (even though it’s convenient) for the way she questions her guests is not really the right way to go about solving the larger problem. The whole organization she works for, infact, not only one channel but the entire media operates on approximately the same level of ethics: insignificant.
Thirdly, even though how the media reported various tragedies that have struck the country has been criticized vehemently, the truth is it HAS gotten everyone hooked to the TV. Your dadi who would earlier be in her room finding her glasses or your brother who would come home looking for food are now both sitting in front of the TV screens wanting to know what happened next. It’s wrong. It’s entirely wrong. But it’s also evident that the public wants it. They want to see a freakin’ movie and the media gives it to them.
The idiot box answers most of the questions that we as a society asks amongst ourselves when someone in our family dies ..”ayay hayay bahot bura hua, ab is ki beti ka kya hoga?” (It’s really sad but what will happen to the daughter?”. This is exactly the kind of questions we see media asking and then later criticize. So let me get this straight. No there’s no way to get this straight. It’s complicated. It’s hypocritical. These are double standards.
I’m not supporting the way media has reported various incidents. It repels you. Sometimes, the kind of drama that is going on the part of the reporters (fake tears and all) makes you want to laugh. The truth is, we need to straighten up ourselves, get our priorities right and work on our own sense of ethics. While media is at fault and has been criticized over and over again, why do you think nothing has changed? People get fired and brought back. Why? Because, we are still watching them.
Published in The News on 10th May, 2012.
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.