The video of two feminine house owners of a high-end cafe in Islamabad apparently mocking the English language abilities of their supervisor seems to have struck a nerve with Pakistanis on social media. And it ought to.
Whereas the incident displays belittling behaviour on a part of these extra privileged, it says a lot extra about Pakistan as a society and its fault traces of inequality, class divide and linguistic ‘otherism’.
The one minute or so video begins with the 2 ladies introducing themselves because the house owners of Cannoli. As a result of they’re “bored”, the ladies proceed to introduce their restaurant’s group. The digicam turns straight in the direction of Awais, the cafe’s supervisor.
“How many classes have you taken for English?” one of many two house owners asks Awais, to which he responds that he has been studying the language for 1.5 years.
At this, the house owners ask the supervisor to “say a sentence” in English and introduce himself. Complying instantly, Awais says: “Hi, my name is Awais. And … I job there … manager.”
The digicam then returns to the primary proprietor who, visibly struggling to comprise her giggle, says: “So this is our manager who’s been with us for nine years. This is the beautiful English he speaks. This is at a very good salary, mind you.”
The second proprietor chimes in to say: “This is what we pay for.”
And so, unsurprisingly, the floodgates of criticism opened on social media. There have been proclamations of “class privilege” and “colonial hangover” and “elitism”, whereas #BoycottCannoli remained the highest development in Pakistan all through on Thursday.
It drew the eye of celebrities…
And even foreigners acquainted with Pakistan…
What did not assist in any respect was the half-hearted apology issued by the restaurant.
“We are saddened and appalled by the reaction of the people, how they have misconstrued our banter with a team member,” they stated in a word on Instagram.
“This video depicts the gup shup between us as a team, and is never meant or taken in a hurtful or negative way. If anyone was hurt or offended we apologise, however that was never our intention.”
A photograph posted by Instagram (@instagram) on Mar 22, 2015 at 11:21am PDT
The house owners went on to say they had been “not required to prove or defend ourselves as kind employers”, saying their group had been with them for a decade, which “should speak for itself”.
“We are proud Pakistanis who love our language and our culture,” they concluded.
The “apology” might solely have served as gasoline to the fireplace, however since issues are likely to get ugly on social media (individuals resorting to character assassinations and name-calling, I’m you), let’s give attention to what went mistaken right here.
First issues first.
The ladies’s behaviour doesn’t seem like deliberately spiteful or pushed by malice — a minimum of on the face of it. The ladies should not straight abusive in the direction of the supervisor and even inform him shabash (good job) in Urdu when he makes an attempt to talk English.
What they’re being, nonetheless, is completely and unabashedly patronising. Their degree of entitlement is such that they’re making enjoyable of their worker of their definitely-not-Pakistani English accents on digicam whereas he’s standing proper in entrance of them. Awais might not be capable of articulate grammatically excellent sentences, however did his house owners assume he additionally wouldn’t perceive them so clearly poking enjoyable at him?
Even when we had been to imagine their argument that this was mere “banter” with a group member, do the ladies not realise this can be very in unhealthy style? Additionally, if it was actually simply banter, we might see the supervisor laughing within the video together with the ladies.
As an alternative, we see him nervously and self-consciously answering their questions and never difficult the ladies regardless of being placed on the spot on this method and laughed at.
“Gup shup” takes two — this was clearly one-sided.
So whereas the ladies could also be making an attempt to downplay the recording as some innocuous “gup shup” amongst colleagues, the undertones of a vital energy dynamic are all too apparent: that of an employer-employee relationship. The supervisor is aware of he can’t confront the ladies and should attempt to go what’s successfully a check as a result of they’re his bosses. They will hearth him instantly in the event that they wish to and the wage they pay him could be working his family.
And now some basic questions.
Why check his English within the first place? Does a restaurant in Islamabad obtain so many international prospects that communication could be an issue if the supervisor does not have full command on a language that’s not his first? And okay, even when it IS essential in some way to his job, was this some form of coaching? And was the supervisor requested for his permission earlier than being examined for his language abilities on this method on digicam?
AND, why herald cash and his wage?
The 2 ladies seem blind to the truth that in Pakistan, the language an individual speaks is not only a medium of communication however a facet that dovetails with the harsher realities of systemic and societal exclusion, class discrimination and the chasm between the haves and the have-nots.
To all of the social media warriors, boycotting Cannoli and affecting somebody’s enterprise and the employees’ salaries is not an answer; we have to realise it is a symptom of a a lot larger downside and as a nation, we have to actually sort out it at floor degree.
Start with your self.
Have you ever judged an individual’s manners, desirability or how educated they’re primarily based on their English proficiency? Have been you pleased with going to a faculty that “fined” college students for not talking English? Have you ever seemed down upon individuals who attended a public faculty or college? In case you are an employer, did you routinely end up inclined to rent the particular person ‘talking higher English’ even when the job itself had nothing to do with the language?
Now, be the client and assume over if at any level, YOU have been a part of the issue; did the 2 ladies really feel their supervisor wanted to talk fluent English as a result of their prospects count on that from a ‘good eatery’? Here is a innocent one: have you ever sniggered at a ‘properly come’ typo or comparable ones at a restaurant?
Have you ever consciously felt a restaurant supervisor/store salesperson/salon receptionist (the checklist goes on) pay extra heed to your grievance for those who communicate English — and do you employ that to your benefit?
In case your solutions to any of the above questions are sure, it’s possible you’ll be — even unintentionally — a part of the issue. If we’re to progress right into a extra egalitarian society and actually transfer previous the colonial hangover, we should cease instrumentalising the English language to use the feelings of our individuals in an effort to serve our personal ends — and cease utilizing it as some litmus check to guage individuals’s capabilities for xyz skilled place for the place language does not even matter.
It is time for some soul-searching and significant actions that transcend a boycott.