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Sharmneen Obaid-Chinoy—Reuters Photo
Sharmneen Obaid-Chinoy—Reuters Photo

KARACHI: The premiere of Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s new documentary surely called for a red carpet event, except that this time the carpet unrolled, leading a path straight into Lyari.

The screen at the South End Club Cricket Stadium auditorium on Friday came to life with that famous clip of the smiling Chinoy dedicating her Oscar to the people working to bring about a positive change in Pakistan. That was Chinoy’s inspiration behind her new venture, a series of six documentaries on Pakistanis giving the nation “many reasons to believe in Pakistan, despite all the negativity that presently exists in our society”.

The first documentary in the series Ho Yaqeen highlights the work of a courageous teacher, Sabina Khatri, who runs a school in the violence-hit Lyari.

“The moment I enter Lyari, there is that sign that reads ‘Welcome to Lyari’. It immediately ends my fears,” says the lady in the documentary. Hence the roller coaster atmosphere in that part of the city has no effect on her as she goes about her regular work at the Kiran School, which she has founded to help the children of the area.

So far she has managed to bring about a change in the lives of 90 little ones, some of whom after starting out at her school have also been admitted to bigger schools meant for the rich. Sabina says that her work is not finished after taking care of the teaching bit.

Admitting the brightest children in Lyari to her school, she also holds regular classes for their parents. The mothers are taught how to help and guide their children at home with their lessons, while the fathers are also called to make them realise their responsibility to their children.

“The mother knows what’s good for her child, but it is the father who after being made aware of any problem will take the step to remove that hurdle. He is after all the decision-maker,” says the educationist.

Then when a child is admitted to a bigger school, she is not through with him or her, following up on them, getting their progress reports, etc, and discussing what is going on with the child with the parents.

The selfless teacher called on the stage by Chinoy after the screening of the documentary was touched by the standing ovation she received from the audience.

“In Pakistan, you turn a stone and you may find a diamond. But how many here care to turn the stones? Just teaching is not enough, you have to open your heart and bring your students into it,” she said.

She was glad that her school had now inspired a team of young people to start another such school in Lyari called the Orange School.

“Pakistan needs heroes and their stories are to be told again and again for they are going on and on, day after day without any expectation or rewards. We cannot deny the negatives in our society, but the positives have to be highlighted, too, in order to inspire others here,” said Chinoy as she thanked her SOC Films team for the hard work they put into the project.

Replying to a question as to how she found the subjects for her new series, Chinoy told Dawn that she had people looking for such inspirational souls from Karachi to Kashmir.

“Four of them have been found and finalised as subjects for the documentaries and we have almost made up our mind about the remaining two as well,” she informed.

The occasion also included the launching of 101 Reasons to Believe in a Better Pakistan, a coffee-table book about other inspirational people working to bring about a positive change in their communities.