How can we move beyond mere conversation?

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.

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4 Responses to How can we move beyond mere conversation?

  1. sarthak says:

    why do you need our thoughts…i mean even this is just a discussion…we are still not working & only talking..!!
    even if our thoughts are liked by the people…then also how will you give them life??

  2. Muzammil Hussain says:

    Great post Shreya! It seems to me like an attempt by Amir Khan to be the Indian version of Oprah. But on a more serious note I do believe that it is a good example of public participation. When they were airing the promos of the show, it looked as if its a visual account of his (Amir Khan’s) journey around the country looking for social issues and finding solutions for them but the actual show turned out to be something else. May be that would have been a better way to go about where issues were dealt with hands on rather than just talking about it on a platform.

  3. CKS says:

    Really interesting thoughts, Shreya. It seems like there’s a danger of the show becoming rather voyeuristic, which I thought was the problem with Oprah as well, especially in more recent times. But then again, just the fact that these issues are being talked about on an open forum is pretty revolutionary in itself, especially since we usually don’t acknowledge them in any public forum, despite awareness that they exist.

    It would be very interesting if they designed an additional platform or network or something that people can contribute to in some way – knowledge, funds, volunteerships and internships etc. – so that the case studies and conversations can continue being broadcast, but there are also opportunities for further action.

  4. Alok says:

    Hello Ms Shreya.
    Thank you for your interesting post. Here are the humble views of a reader of this blog:
    We should simply be grateful for the fact that the issues here have been raised publicly. Mr Khan’s weighty persona has only lent the necessary gravitas to the cause.
    What interests me more is the common character of the general Indian public. We are loathe to admit flaws in our character, faults in our behaviour and our civilizational/cultural failings. Indeed, we will quickly attack anyone who tends to point at our follies, and try to shoot the messenger.
    As a society, are we so far gone by that we now need the only person to take up these issues for public discourse, to also provide us solutions?
    In my little understanding, a fundamental change in our education, and rigorous enforcement of upto secondary education, is one way to attack our backwardness and pettiness at its roots. This needs strictly to be backed up by transformational changes in our civil administration, and strict applicability of the law to the rich and the mighty. Many of our weaknesses would have solved themselves had not there been vested interests that sought to keep them alive.
    But the larger Indian society has accepted this kind of manipulation and hoodwinking, haven’t we? How do you break this circle of joy, is the intractable problem at hand!
    Thank you again.

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