During the concluding panel discussion at the Design Public conclave last month, Arun Maira brought up the need to design better conversations. Since then, we have been thinking, talking and writing about this subject. Namrata Mehta, in her comment to Aditya’s piece on conversation, brought up Aamir Khan’s new show, Satyamev Jayate, which got me thinking about the show’s actual impact.
Satyamev Jayate is just a few weeks old but has already become extremely popular specifically because of the kind of content it presents. The show is designed in a way that each week a social issue – dowry deaths, female foeticide, corruption, and more – is brought up for discussion. The actual victims are brought on the show to share their experiences, and then the audience attempts to determine solutions. The concept is new to Indian television and has paved the way for discussion on social issues that were normally being avoided on public forums.
One episode raised the issue of dowry deaths, and how it is still prevalent in not just the lower, but also in the upper classes. It talked about parents spending huge amounts of money on their daughter’s weddings, female foeticide, the fact that daughters are still cursed or unwanted, and the larger picture of gender inequality in India. Many shocking and moving stories and experiences were shared, and much emotion was expressed by both the victims and the audience.
This got me thinking, though, about what happens once the show is over. People are touched by these stories, but the next day they tend to get involved in their own lives, and the show becomes nothing more than a story discussed over chai and soon enough, it is forgotten. I think there is a danger that the show could become a source of entertainment rather than a platform of change. as it lacked an urge to move beyond mere conversations.
Conversations are essential for spreading knowledge and bringing attention to these issues, but what we need even more in our society, is action. Sharing stories is a definite start, but how the huge audience that watches the show actually get involved? The show has potential, but needs to move ahead and suggest real solutions to curb these issues, as well as facilitate wider participation and action. How can we move from talking to working? Your thoughts welcome.