My “Problem” with Glamorized Awareness.

I am somebody who can today safely say “i have seen the world of television go through a sea of change”. I grew up with Star Plus having its 7-8pm slot of Barkha Dutt, Vikram Chandra. I was inspired to become a journalist and therefore the right cause. I then grew into a heralded era of it becoming a mixy matchy world. Television grew into a new animal with soaps, “new gen serials”, news becoming the empowering tool. I remember i started getting irritated, very early on, when i noticed news channels becoming the self proclaimed judges of the evils of society. I had started getting bemused by how medias role was going through such metamorphosis.

Alongside i was growing up, making my choice of legal studies over journalism, human rights study over corporate law, exposing myself to the world of “causes” and training myself to become a change maker. I trained with NGO’s, kept my theoretical knowledge in place by studying the subjects and learnt that the world has never been as nice as i imagined it sitting inside my home.

“Change” through the power of masses has always been a part of my training’s. Advocacy/ awareness are words integral to a person working in the social sector. Therefore when Jessica Lall solidarity march took place and masses walked to the India gate it mattered to me that people are “aware”. The throng of emails stirred the emotions about “the wrongs of law” and the masses were affected. I was a part of the walk too as a young law student and remember asking people around me do you know what went wrong in the court and did not hear a single yes. That somehow mattered to me but i brushed it away as a law student ego rush. Lot of years after that i was thronged with emails about “its time corruption is weeded out” and while i was trying to read the proposed law and the older one i kept away from the march, the protests, the frenzy. Somehow this time it mattered more, that the masses had no clue of the proposition being made but were gung ho becoming “part of the aware population”. I was questioned and re questioned about my non participation and my social sector work status vi-a-vis my complete indifference to “the movement of the century”.

Just when Anna and team decided to take a breather, the television started becoming interesting on a channel that is not the news channel. The promo having Aamir singing “meri jaan, meri jaan sunday ke sunday” had a lot of people around me having exciting conversation about what was to come. The first episode made the skeptic in me stronger ,about where the stream about “awareness” was flowing. Female foeticide as the starting episode, the tears, the gasps, the bewildered looks were nothing compared to what i heard around me in the “educated, informed class”. I was again asked about “my problem with awareness” and i started to think about it.

Aware implies knowledge gained through one’s own perceptions or by means of information. When i hear the reactions around me i see the two aspects of the definition getting mixed up! Issues like what the serial is trying to address are what have existed in the society forever. If a country with a growing rate of “educated, intellectual youngsters” needs to form perceptions now that “gosh it happens in cities” through the “informed knowledge” being fed by the show, i see a huge problem there. What such awareness is not doing is what ‘awareness’ is used for in the social sector. It is used as a tool to bring about factual knowledge to bring a perception change that triggers questions relevant to the context of the issue. There is responsibility attached to this, since awareness has to make action oriented people a reality. Perceptions cannot be fed to masses that are already becoming lethargic to the social realities. Creating real crusaders is far more critical and requires more responsible citizens created and not just high drama dose of crying victims! Does this glamourised dose ask questions beyond the typically expected ones? Did the episode on female foeticide probe into why are girls killed in cities? What has the affect of upward social mobility of women been on this trend? Did anyone question  the credibility of the evidences that are produced?

The medical debacle episode had the doctor writing a public letter to Aamir Khan stating the facts of the case and how the protagonist in the story (the husband of the dead wife) had hidden some key facts. Every episode did what it had set out to do- titillating the senses of the “empowered class” in the country. The actor reached places where activists should have been- in the PM’s office, in articles about social impact, becoming the mascot of change. What i found missing was his responsibility to say that i will also lead the actual change. I was saddened when a friend, who is a crusader for children’s sexual rights, called me after the CSA episode and said “i have media calling me to ask if Aamir Khan led to the releasing of the law in the country”! I have a problem with glamorized awareness as it does not answer the real question “who will bring the change if everyone is happy with just high drama sitcoms?”

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