Late on Wednesday night, a video of the two owners of Islamabad’s high-end restaurant Cannoli went viral in which they attempted to rid their boredom and entertain themselves by berating an employee for his proficiency in spoken English, an employee that has been with them for almost a decade. The ensuing apology was an embarrassing excuse itself, dripping in privilege and lacking authenticity.
The self-claimed ‘proud’ Pakistani owners who ‘love’ their culture and language could not fathom why the public was appalled at what they called ‘banter’.
The very fact that Uzma Chaudhry and Dia Haider found hilarity in putting their employee under the spotlight to test his spoken English, a language that isn’t the primary or secondary language for most Pakistanis, isn’t remotely funny or entertaining but a reflection of how unchecked elite privilege and behaviour is in society as well as in the eyes of the law.
The incident has been widely criticised on social media, with actors, activists, influencers and the public calling out the owners for their blatant disrespect. However, the backlash doesn’t seem to have hit home, with the owners stating, “We are not required to prove ourselves as kind owners”.
The tone-deaf statement made by the restaurant owners brings back unsettling memories of another such incident that led to a lot of outrage during the first wave of the pandemic. The incident involved popular fashion designer Maria B. who sent an employee of hers back to his village after his COVID-19 test came back positive; after much hue and cry the brand thought it best to restore its reputation by launching a video series in which Maria B. taught people how to disinfect their homes from the virus (and possibly anything that she considers below her standards, including the safety of others).
The public’s reaction to the incident is shocking, it’s shocking not because of what happened but because the public expected anything else in the first place from Pakistan’s illustrious and magnanimous elite.
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