I don’t work for a multinational and probably never will, which is just as well. In the tricky world of international brands, who knows what they really think of us poor developing nations, faithfully selling their products to our enormous and lucrative markets, what with an exploding retail scene and upwards mobility rocketing away and absolutely no idea about how to use the English language. A shopping mall here in Lahore has a gigantic poster for Bata, the brand we grew up buying rubber chappals from. It shows some lantern-jawed model casually leaning against what looks like an escalator, chandeliers suspended from the roof behind it, wearing what should have been a velvet smoking jacket but is really some abbreviated pin-striped blazer, holding a snifter of “brandy” and scowling manfully into the far distance. The angle of the photo makes his brogues look clownishly large, bigger than his head. Who is this man, brooding in a high-end shopping mall, and what is he contemplating as he takes his evening tipple in skintight trousers in what looks like the basement floor of Fortress Square? The caption proclaims that he is a “womanizer & comfortable with it”. Wow! Golly! Imagine that! A womanizer, in Bata shoes that make his repulsive misogyny comfortable for him by crushing every last brain cell he possesses! Hey everyone, if you want to be a hot woman-catching flytrap then wear these clown-brogues and hie ye to your nearest shiny-floored, chandelier-hanging public space and just stand there as the women fight each other to marry your manly-manliness immediately! You can sell tickets beforehand to this fight club and make some more money, so you can buy another pair of these amazing magic shoes and then really have everyone begging you for mercy!

Bata, Bata, Bata. This is what happens when your reach exceeds your grasp. You’re supposed to sell bathroom slippers and school shoes, and now you go and start thinking you’re some kind of upscale Russell and Bromley of Pakistan and try to be all modern with your models that wear capri pants with their strappy heels and now Mall-Dude and his public drinking escapades. But no, Bata is on a roll this week and so issued an apology for this tone-deaf advertisement that has probably incited the copy-writer’s English teacher to move to Dubai in shame. The problem? The apology was even worse than the ad itself. Never a dull moment for us. Bata wants us to accept their “sincere apologies for the inconvenience you may have experienced in respect to the poster which was printed out of Pakistan and inadvertently displayed”. Because the poster just happened, accidentally. The computers at Bata’s marketing department just took over one day and they printed out a seven foot high poster, then robots crept into the night and plastered it on the shop display. Then we all were “inconvenienced” because...why? Inconvenience is when roads get dug up and the LDA puts a board up saying “sorry for inconvenience” because it’s a hassle to now divert down a mouldering back lane. The poster would have been inconvenient if it had lain down in the middle of the shop and tripped up old ladies looking for the fake Fit Flops Bata sells.

No, Bata, we are offended and insulted by your cretinous poster. It came “out of Pakistan” so obviously you think, as the parent company, that is isn’t your problem—the dumb desis messed up. Nor have you addressed what exactly we are offended about because either you don’t know, you don’t care or a combination of both. What kind of daft do you have to be to first show a dude drinking, and then proudly proclaim he is a womanizer? A womanizer is a philanderer, a Lothario, a “tharki”. Are you really telling us that Bata, famous family brand, “pehlay Bata phir school”, is actively encouraging its male customers to be philaderers? Yeah bro, buy your black lace-up shoes and white joggers, and then come back after ten years for your sleazy big-boy shoes!

And naturally, because this is Pakistan, all the men are laughing and all the women are vomiting. But at the end of the day, it’s all the women who are buying the school shoes, the kids’ shoes, their shoes and their husband’s annual Eid shoe, so at this rate we are going to have the last laugh. Us, and Servis.