3 February 2023
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It’s time to wrap up 2021 by unwrapping it all over again.

It’s that time of the year when you are making (and promising yourself to keep) New Year’s resolution with half the plans you made at the start of the year still rotting away in some recess of your mind. But wouldn’t it be unfair if we walked into 2022 without taking a look back at the year that had so much in store for us?

Let’s take a ride back through some of the biggest highlights that defined 2021.

January: Cannoli’s English crap makes the cut

Two owners and a manager of a restaurant called Cannoli in Islamabad suddenly find themselves in social media glare for one reason: English. January the twenty-first begins with a storm of rage and condemnation sweeping across Facebook and Twitter after what appears to be a video of two women introducing their manager to viewers makes it to the internet. They decide to do it because they are bored.

A few seconds into the video and it becomes obvious that the two are mocking their rather anxious manager’s English, but this “innocuous gup shup” backfires when the internet loses its cool. To sum up what ensued, an Urdu mushaira outside the restaurant and a flood of memes would suffice.

February: Dananeer gives party a Gen-Z makeover

A five-second video takes over social media out of the blue and sets off a stream of recreations. Dananeer Mobeen, an influencer with hardly half a million followers at the time, becomes the big thing on the internet overnight and brings Pakistan and India together to share a few laughs over her career-defining “pawri” moment. Celebrities from both sides of the border jump on the pawri bandwagon and the crazy viral trend even lands Dananeer at a cadet college on the screen. Party being redefined as “pawri” was undeniably one of the biggest highlights of this year and still dominates the trends.

March: Meghan Markle’s ‘pit siyapa’ hits close to home

The British royal family’s American daughter-in-law sits down with Oprah Winfrey and lifts the lid on what sounds eerily similar to the typical sasurali dynamics ubiquitous in desi households. Although it is hard to know how many of the 17 million watchers were from Pakistan, a number of them women, find solace in the wave of empathy that sweeps social media after the interview. From concerns on the skin colour of her unborn child to incessant scrutiny, Meghan’s trials and tribulations strike a chord with South Asian women who endure crappy in-laws. Isn’t that Kahaani Every Ghar Ki?

April: Aamir Liaquat’s inner naagin rises

In Pakistan, Ramazan transmissions are incomplete without Aamir Liaquat’s antics. The titles of his Ramazan shows have been shuffled over the years but what he puts on display hardly records any deviation from his choices for controversial stunts that can leave you mortified sometimes. This year he lets the serpent in him rear its head and take over him on national television. It is no wonder the video is a little unsettling to watch but it manages to set off a meme fest on social media anyway. If only there was a snake-charmer on the show…

May: Alizeh Shah’s tank top tanks ‘modest’ expectations

You won’t get in trouble with Pakistani audience for as long as you keep playing the quintessential daughter, wife or daughter-in-law on the screen. This had been the case with Alizeh Shah until she appeared in an avatar radical to her popular portrayals in dramas. Her debut song Badnaamiyan with singer Sahir Ali Bagga goes completely unnoticed for her vocals but her black tank top in the music video stirs enough storm on social media for the song to emerge in top trends. Alizeh is amused as she watches moral police raiding her social media profiles in vain.

June: Moral brigade marches on Hania Aamir

A video of Hania Aamir with singer Aashir Wajahat blows up Twitter. Some saintly souls are suddenly offended by the sight of Hania lying with Aashir and singing along to Hasan Raheem’s Teri Arzu. Quite predictably, they take it upon themselves to remind Hania of her “limits” and how she has disappointed them like never before. The controversy does lead, however, to episodes of online harassment following which the actor takes a break from social media.

July: Hum Style Awards red carpet flares up social media

The 5th HUM Style Awards takes place in Lahore with high expectations. But when the red carpet is lit up by some strapless gowns, backless tops, thigh-slits and plunging necklines, everyone forgets about the wins and snubs and starts whining about the “scantily clad” performers instead. Some people worry if we have any cultural identity left of our own and others advise stars how they could have danced better had they not put those high heels on.

It was in July that Hareem Shah broke the news of her marriage too.

August: Sadaf Kanwal declares husbands our culture

Social media collapses over Sadaf Kanwal’s interpretation of feminism, which she reduces to household chores and taking care of husbands. She will iron Sherry’s (Shahroz Sabzwari) clothes, pick up his shoes and should know where his stuff is kept. Sadaf is trolled for what many people call “myopic, oppressive and patriarchal” interpretation of feminism and #Sherry becomes the hashtag of the day. But the viral clip leads to nasty personal attacks too following which Shahroz comes forward in his wife’s defence and denounces the trolls. Sadaf caused quite an uproar online with her statements.

September: Nida Yasir’s F1 logic travels faster than Formula cars

Nida Yasir proves (yet again) how she can pull off morning shows without having to research what she is going to cover and who she will be interviewing. That’s no surprise. But what comes as a surprise, however, is the clip that goes viral from 2016. Nida invites two young Formula scientists and what follows may give you a stab of unease as Nida’s deficient knowledge on the subject keeps unravelling until she has made a complete fool of herself on live television.

October: ‘Original sin’ on Juggun Kazim’s morning show

Eating apples on Earth is never so controversial until Juggun Kazim introduces a relatively new but arduous way of consuming the fruit. On her morning show, several apples are suspended on strings from the ceiling and the men from competing teams are instructed to eat them, but there’s a catch. The ambitious participants have their hands tied behind their backs and every time they try to take a bite off the fruit, it slides sideways. That is when Juggun makes things a bit easier and deploys women to assist their partners. Juggun is blasted online for what some viewers think is vulgarity.

November: Internet hits upon Shadab Khan’s oppoganger

The T20 World Cup gives people several reasons to celebrate and the biggest of them is Pakistan’s victory against India. The 12-match losing streak is finally broken and Indian cricket fans get a taste of their own medicine when Star Sports India’s popular but rather irritating Mauka Mauka advertisement turns into a “maukery” on social media. After fans move over the semi-final loss they rewind the tournament and discover something that makes them forget about the trophy: Shadab Khan’s oppoganger in the stands. Read here to find out what followed this discovery.

December: Overseas uncle’s auntie stunt backfires

Some Asad Uncle based overseas rubs social media the wrong way by sharing a video of music icon Shazia Manzoor, calling her a “random auntie” at a wedding. The short clip of the singer sliding out of a red Lamborghini in style while treating viewers to her iconic vocals triggers a war on Uncle Asad’s timeline. He immediately realises he shouldn’t have let Twitter know he didn’t know Shazia, apologises, but requests angry fans to keep bashing and schooling him all the same. Uncle Asad then announces he will repent by listening to Shazia Manzoor’s music on repeat.

Back to our resolutions.

The story was originally published on December 8

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Abdul Gh Lone

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