Why I shared the #ChaiWala’s picture

Published: October 18, 2016

If Pakistanis want to glam up their timelines with the photograph of this stunning young man, so be it. PHOTO: TWITTER/JIAHPHOTOGRAPHY

The piercing blue eyes. The stubble and the moustache. The attractive indifference. Blissfully unaware of the fact that thousands are ogling at him, he has become the hottest (pun intended) topic of debate, and has taken the internet by storm.

Bad start to the blog? I can already hear echoing disapproving remarks in my head that I have been reading on Facebook walls of friends. We over-read and over-intellectualise everything nowadays. I do too. This is why I thought many times before I posted the undeniably handsome chaiwala’s picture. Should I post it? Or not? And why exactly am I posting it? Am I posting it because he is handsome? Or am I posting it because he is handsome and is pouring chai, as chai is my self-claimed weakness? Or (what most people assumed was the case) am I posting it because he is handsome but is a chaiwala from an underprivileged background?

Just like everything else, there is no single ideologue behind the phenomenon of the chaiwala. People sharing his photograph are not a monolithic entity. There are different reasons each one of us may cite for why we clicked on the share button. My sharing was initially habitual – I share many things that are trending and interesting. But further contemplation also led me to understand that one of my biggest reasons for sharing it, twisted as it may sound, is that if it’s alright to admire women for their beauty and make it the biggest thing about them, why can a man not be subject to the same?

Objectification of both genders is unacceptable. But if it is something that humanity as a race has not been able to fight back yet, then just like the blame of the original sin is shared, let the burden of beauty be shared as well, irrespective of gender. There is a thin line between plain admiration and objectification.

What I would and do have a problem with is the accompanying surprise that he is a chaiwala. That this is a man from an obviously lower income background, and is yet so good looking. Like all things good in life, somewhere the upper tier bourgeois of Pakistan have come to believe that even looks and God-gifted attributes are co-dependent on money and affluence?

On another note, the chaiwala viral trend reinforces another fact: that our ideas of “beauty” remain euro-centric. The blue eyes, the fair complexion, the chiselled jawline. Makes me wonder if a dark complexioned equally stunning man would have garnered the same kind of attention.

An interesting stem of the chaiwala debates is very relevant: when doing street photography, what line of ethics do we follow? Did this young man give permission that he be photographed? For street photography buffs, if someone is in a public space, it’s alright to photograph them. Others fiercely guard a person’s right to forbid a photographer to take their photograph. This particular debate has grey areas; it’s not black or white, because after all we are photographed in shaadis and functions, with videos being made of our plates laden with qorma. Is that acceptable but this is not? Worth a conversation.

If Pakistanis want to glam up their timelines with the photograph of this stunning young man, so be it. Each one of us has different reasons and intent. Let’s not try to be mind-readers and assume that everyone who shared it is fickle or shallow.

As for the chaiwala, already people are offering him modelling assignments and lead roles in TV serials, thus he by now must have an idea that he has caused some kind of a stir. His giddying rise to fame and the media spotlights will blind him for a while, mess with his head, disrupt the comforting status quo of life as he knows it, and give him unrealistic hopes and ambitions. The hashtag #chaiwala would have already started losing the trend by the time the bullet of his fame hits him. We will all move on towards other trends in a matter of minutes or hours. But that’s just how life is.

  • Azam Gill

    Very strongly argued – enjoyed reading it!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Farahnaz Zahidi at about her best……. I raise my cup of chai…….cheers.Recommend

  • Queen

    Hope Arshad Khan aka Chai wala gets some modelling contract so his financial condition improves.Recommend

  • MR.X

    People are having fun…just enjoy the trend..no need to write an article about why you shared it…dont know why people need to write such articles ..are you looking for someones approval on this petty issue so someone can praise you and your ego is massaged??…This generation make a mountain of a mole ..Stop being so damn sensitive and chill…This will give you peace of mind.Recommend

  • Sane

    Are all other real social issues and suffering of common men has ended? Writing for sake of writing with no purpose, but to be published.Recommend

  • Aalo Ghosht

    Aahh… Double standards!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Apparently that has already happened…….the power of technology / social media is amazing.Recommend

  • Baz

    What the author did was plain wrong and sets a bad precedent. She exploited his innocence and simpleness by objectifying him. there are many super good looking people in Pakistan – both men and women and boys and girls. but that does’nt mean strangers can secretly take their photographs and post them for the world to see and comment on without their consent. what if someone did this to your sister or daughter? how would you react if some other “chai-wala” took your pic and sent it to his friends? you would too be pretty popular with his friends. with social media comes responsibility. the implications for this chap and his family after being launched at a young age with be lifelong. will you be around to see him through the roller coaster life will now present him with or would he be better off being left to his simple life? most likely you will move on to your privileged life and leave him to the worlds vices.Recommend

  • Afridi

    I don’t think you need to justify your actions to anyone . People ll always criticize just like some ll applause n encourage.. All it has done is good for the man who now may have a better shot at life and shall be able to provide well for his family through other legitimate means . So take it in your stride and happy sharing to you !!Recommend

  • Hira Mirza

    The reason why this article does or does not make sense has to do with the commotion that the whole chaiwala incident created. It became viral because of the beauty (blue eyes) element, and since we are quick to share everything saucy on the internet as of late, it all made sense. The nation is forming opinions, and we are debating about trivial stuff like beauty, and macro stuff like providing livelihoods/training to young unskilled people; that’s all it will take to becoming an informed people.
    If anything, we are learning more with every wrong turn we take. The issue has touched open issues of privacy, sexism, economic divide, power of social media and so much more. People who were previously blown away by the deep blue eyes are now discovering different ways of looking at the same chai wala, whether or not they choose to agree. Let’s discuss and debate before we give in, and use social media to know where we stand in times to come.Recommend