Enough with the hypocrisy–we’re all as guilty as Saboor Aly

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It was just another day on the sets for Pakistani actress Saboor Aly, Saheefa Jabbar and their Assistant Director (AD). Until, that is, the AD started washing windows.

Saboor did what most of us usually do when we are in the company of friends or office colleagues we like to poke fun at–she recorded a video of him cleaning the windows and made light of the situation. Saheefa Jabbar didn’t disappoint either. Most would, however, agree they both did.

“Kya kya khwab leke iss ki maa ne is ko ghar se bejha hoga [His mother must have sent him to work with big dreams]” she said, laughing.

“Subha uth ke apna kamra bhi ye theek nahi kerta hoga, apna qambal bhi teh nahi kerta hoga aur ub jo hai ye yahan pe– [He probably doesn’t even clean his room or fold his blanket every day after getting up in the morning and now–]” said Saheefa, also laughing.

Saboor turned towards their co-star Affan Waheed, who refrained from making fun of the ‘window cleaner’.

“Mehnat kar raha hai yar [He’s working hard],” said Affan.

Saboor uploaded the video on Instagram. All hell broke loose.

Saboor was slammed on social media for being classist (someone who discriminates on the basis of social class).

She hit back, slamming her detractors by stating that the ‘window cleaner’ was in fact their assistant director and they were all just poking fun at each other. She called out ‘social media warriors’ and told them that they had missed the context of the remarks.

However, the three (Saboor, the AD and Saheefa) later recorded a video message which Saboor shared on Twitter, apologising for her remarks. Obviously, the trolling got to them.

I, for one, am definitely against classism. It’s cheap, distasteful and has no place in our society. However, those who were clamouring for Saboor’s apology on social media and calling her out, are they not guilty of classism themselves? Aren’t we all? When was the last time you treated your domestic help or those under your care, in a just and respectable manner?

Rather than pointing the finger at one individual, shouldn’t we take a closer look at ourselves and identify that we are all guilty of the same crime?

We’re far from innocent when it comes to treating the domestic help with justice and dignity

According to the Domestic Workers Act, in Pakistan, you are not allowed to employ a child below the age of 15 years for any domestic work. We all know this law is flouted in Pakistan, surprisingly more by the ones who are well-educated.

Almost all, save a few (I’m sure) households in Pakistan employ women as masis and their children as the domestic help. Also, these women are paid scanty wages (Rs5,000-10,000) for backbreaking labour throughout the month. Your average maasi is required to wash the dishes, sweep the house, clean the bathrooms and take out the trash. Tsk tsk tsk.

Your average intern at an advertisement agency makes more than that.

Often, the domestic help is also subjected to physical torture and abuse

In Pakistan, the domestic help (especially women and children) are beaten and abused quite frequently. If you think the elite and educated lot of the country does not do this, think again.

The case of Tayyaba, a minor maid, comes to mind. The poor girl was illegally kept in confinement and tortured by an additional district and sessions judge, Raja Khurram Ali Khan and his wife. They beat poor Tayyaba with a ladle, locked her in the storeroom and threatened her of ‘dire consequences’ if she told anyone.

This is not the account of one household. It happens all over in Pakistan.

The chooras, bhangis, chamaars, chapraasis, masis, drivers and peons we all love to deride

Come on guys. Don’t act like you haven’t ever (like EVER) thrown around these words with your friends. How many of us can honestly say that we haven’t used these words as slights, even for once, in our lives?

Here’s why using such words in jest (or otherwise) is atrocious–there’s nothing wrong with being a garbage collector, a maid, a driver or an office boy, for that matter. Nothing really. They can’t help the social class they’re in just like you can’t help yours. Not everyone living in Pakistan can afford to go to private schools, get a decent education, secure white-collar jobs and then end up in the Socio-Economic Class that is insulated from such insults.

And guess what–when the actual peons, chapraasis, masis, drivers and their families listen to such words uttered in a distasteful manner–THEY are the ones who feel hurt and humiliated.

To make it worse, our leaders set worse examples

Hold on. Not all of us are to blame. Not only, at least. Leaders and politicians inspire values. They show the masses the way forward by imbibing values and reflecting them through their words and actions.

Not in Pakistan, though.

Take, for instance, the example of Imran Khan. This was well before he became prime minister and was an opposition leader. Khan sahab and Sheikh Rashid used to trade barbs back then as both were on different sides of the fence during the Musharraf regime.

Here’s what Khan said publicly about Sheikh Rashid while addressing a crowd.

“I wouldn’t appoint Sheikh Rashid even as a chaprasi (junior office worker),” shouted Khan, oblivious to the humiliation and insult that thousands of chaprasis and their families must have felt upon hearing the word used in such a condescending manner.

Khan’s not the only one, though. Back in 2012, during a public rally attended by hundreds and watched by thousands, then-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani took a veiled shot at the apex court and said,”I am the prime minister, not a peon.”

His words were telecast live and repeated on more than 50 news channels. Headlines were made from this statement. Imagine the shame, hurt and humiliation that peons across the country would have felt when the prime minister uttered the word with such distaste.

Don’t get me started on choora and the way some of us think it’s okay to insult the Hindu community from time to time.

In conclusion…

Guys, Saboor Aly didn’t pay me a dime to write this article. I’m quite happy people get offended by classism. However, we must make radical changes ourselves and start from within our own households if we want to purge discrimination and classism.

Ask yourselves this–do the servants or domestic help in your house eat the same food as you eat? Do you not keep separate plates and glasses for them to eat and drink from only because, according to you, they are low-class? Do you let your servants eat beside you, at the dining table, as equal human beings? If the answer to all the questions above is no, then is Saboor Aly the only one who is guilty of classism?

I’m quite happy Saboor Aly was taken to task for making crass jokes about ‘window cleaners’. Perhaps it’s time we take a break from the social media moral policing and focus on imbibing some of the values we preach to others on a daily basis.