For a significantly long length of time, I ignored the ‘tea boy’ hype, dismissing it as another social media delirium, which is why I had no plans of taking my pen up on Arshad Khan , a former tea boy spotted by a very talented Islamabad-based photographer, Jaweriah Ali, until the image given above was instagrammed by a magazine. The magazine shared two pictures, one of Arshad Khan and the other of a young boy selling tea on the streets. Both the pictures left me with very deep thoughts – or to be more precise – questions. The first and most important of them was: Where are we heading?

Women and men praise Arshad Khan for his looks and the artistry of his fateful picture, but avoid taking his name? Not that being a ‘good looking chai wala’ is something shameful or alien, but do we really lack basic decorum of conduct?

My thoughts wandered towards Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, being repeatedly called ‘Pakistani bus driver’s son’, not only by common people but even by most of our national newspapers. I repeat, not that being a bus driver’s son is disgraceful, but do we really care about what we imprint on the hearts and minds of human beings that are being talked about when we choose our words so carelessly? We become cruel enough to force the other person to think that despite the hard work and talent that he possesses (‘good looks’, in Arshad Khan’s case) it is shocking to rise up to this level, just because you hail from a less-than-privileged class. A sense of discomfiture, a feeling of hiding your prized relations because of social eminence and a concealed disgust at working this hard at such a level, are the key thoughts that a standard mind can conceive from being called anything this puerile.

If this entire episode took place with a female at the center of it, would the results still have been this candid? A number of concerns rise here, too. Does our society really shy away from accepting that harassment could also be faced by men? Harassment has never actually been a ‘women-only area’. But in this particular case we have done away with such concerns because of the prospective fame and lucrative modelling opportunities presented to the man.

Isn’t it unjust to measure a person’s experience by simply their prospective monetary gain or popularity? I agree that the young man would be famous and, personally, I wish him wealth and prosperity, as well, provided that those who upstretched him to this level, support him afterwards too. What we fail to predict is would such a person, with curtailed exposure, be able to digest over-night fame? Let’s suppose he does that. But, then, would he be able to survive the fall which we, as a nation, are used to giving to our over-night ‘celebrities’? Shall I remind you of Reshma, Muhammad Shahid Nazir (aka the “One Pound Fish Man”), and Majid Jahangir (of 50-50 fame)? The list is endless. Do I need to say anything else here? People possessing a certain talent may survive even after our nation’s flirting campaigns, but do these models, risen by our collective love for fair skin and blue eyes, be able to subsist the obscurity when we would be done with our coquetry? My question is, are we really raising a celebrity or another forgotten face? Do we really need to establish the latter just to feed our playfulness?

On the other hand, the picture of a child with scared eyes, selling tea, no doubt has no comparison to what has been shared more than enough, but why are we visionless and insensitive enough to give no reaction to something which has a connection to humanity, rather than to beauty? Undoubtedly, the two pictures are not to be compared, but our attitudes towards each certainly do need to be. Some time ago, I undertook a volunteer mentorship at The Citizen’s Foundation, and, since a friend of ours had to leave due to an emergency, we had to go looking for a volunteer to work with us in a far off village to teach the deprived. None of the people we found were fitting for the job, since some were unwilling to teach and some were unwilling to teach for free!

Over there, some people came looking for a child either to take care of their children or to help with household chores, and some required them to go to the market every day to buy general items. Not only do we ignore the dilemma of the innocent souls working hard for us at that tender age, but we also become so visionless enough to ignore their safety, as well. Further, child labour also breeds child abuse.

But since we are too busy praising the blue eyes of an adult, we conveniently forget those little souls and their tough backgrounds and placate our conscience while taking advantage of them. Do we not have a lot to ponder upon and change?

I leave you with this question.