Of Satyamev Jayate and why we fail to address social issues
Last Sunday started in a rather unusual way. Aamir Khan, in his show Satyamev Jayate, exposed a grim reality of the world's largest democracy. His focus: Female foeticide. The issue caught fire within moments and led to a flood of news discussion, articles, tweets and Facebook posts about how this is a harsh reality and how Aamir is doing a fantastic job. I agree.
But why now? Why does it take someone like Aamir Khan to start a Sunday morning show to address issues which we ignore routinely? Issues that we think do not bother us and thus don't matter. Why not the mainstream media? Why not us? Ashutosh of IBN7 posted a Facebook status a few evenings back, "I wish news channel editors could show same courage as Aamir did with Satyameve Jayte." His statement reflects a harsh reality.
But what is forcing this compelling harsh reality? I remember an argument I received four years ago prior to starting YouthKiAwaaz.com that social issues are not commercially viable.
Most of the corporate sponsors come from this ideology. The fact that advertisers do not want to "bore" the audience with social issues and the fact that the mainstream media wants to showcase something that is more surreal - something that targets the aspirations of the people is a big contributing factor to the way a channel, or a television program, a newspaper is run.
The daily soaps that show an ultra rich family, womanising and showcasing how it is the lady of the house who is the one to suffer the most or rather, who must always suffer the most, add to it.
The reality TV shows that make fun of the very fact that opposite sexes must respect each other, and that dignity and culture must be promoted, not degraded, add to it. But the reality stays - that is what is commercially viable, and that is what fetches the sponsors and producers good money. But then who will bring forward problems which are really forcing life and death situations on many?
The mainstream media and their biases aside, there is another crucial issue. We are 1.2 billion people and the fact that must not be ruled out is that the national media is a very segregated sector when compared to the population.
Can we really expect a sector that is time-bound, that has over a 100 news items to cover - to really look into all of our country's social issues? Not quite. And even when these cases do come in the newspapers and on TV channels, we don't pay attention. So how do we fill the gap? Where are we failing?
As Aamir said at the end of the show, the media, the government and the judiciary will keep doing their job. But the real will to make change happen lies in our hands. And as I see it, the lack of will goes back to the time we are born. From the moment we enter school to the time we get our first jobs - we are only taught what we need to know to become a better worker.
The moral value system and the fact that there is a life beyond the mundane wants is missing. The fact that our education and upbringing does not lay enough emphasis on how we can better the country and contribute to its development matters a lot. The reality that we see after watching Aamir's show needs to be told to us in our early years - and that in an enriching yet fun way.
Our ideologies are formed from the time our learning process starts - and that's when we need to be hit. I remember having a half-hour class for moral science in school. That was almost like a free period for all of us, even the teachers, and was held only on Fridays. I hear they removed that class too. Shame!
Aamir's show is an indication that a star studded show can be started without frills and that there is more to media than what we see. The turn this show takes would be an interesting watch, but one thing is for certain - for 24 hours, I saw a different flow of emotions on my Facebook news feed, in my twitter stream and over text messages.
I got calls by people who wanted me to see the show because Aamir was talking about a crucial issue. I read tons of articles, and saw healthy and enriching discussions at 9pm on most of the news channels - and these were both about his show, and the issue of female foeticide. For 24 hours, I saw a ray of hope. I saw citizens who wanted to be aware and needed an outlet.
Will Aamir's show bridge this gap that has been there for decades? None of us can answer this question other than all of us.
More about Anshul Tewari
The writer is founder and editor of www.youthkiawaaz.com, one of India's important online platform where young people voice their opinion on crucial issues that concern them and the country.