Last night, with about a hundred other people, I sat before a line-up of five stellar female comedians in San Francisco. (Aptly, they performed at the ‘Punch Line’ club.) The comedians poked away at people, places and attitudes - San Francisco and Mumbai featured high on the ‘crack’ list.
Though most of us turned up to laugh our Monday blues away, we were also there to contribute our bit(-es) for an un-laughable cause.
Nyna Caputi, a debutante director, organized the comedian line up to raise money for her soon to be made ‘Petals in the Dust’. The film hopes to lay bare some facts about the soaring rate of female feticide/ infanticide across India’s poorest and wealthiest communities.
From primary research I had conducted about 7 years ago in New Delhi for the Lawyers Collective, I can attest, that it is an issue everyone knows about but don’t really want to talk about. Sounds much like the ‘inconvenient truth’ of increasing disaster risk trends?
Which gets me interested in: how or when, do people develop empathy towards an issue and adopt it as a 'cause'? And, at what point do people start talking about a cause in their daily conversations to influence others?
Thinking back over the last couple of years, worldwide efforts to raise awareness about disaster prevention measures have achieved never-before success among school children, teachers and families, irrespective of cultural contexts or socio-political leaning. Why is that?
Perhaps because issues are easier to connect with and commit to, when they are emotive. That is, they are brought home to our most vulnerable moments and involve our most vulnerable members, as in this case, children and their wellbeing.
Also, lasting connections are most easily forged in an everyday, informal space – at home, at school, in the cinema, street or playground. This is where 'causes' germinate in our minds and hearts, through everyday experience, learning and practice.
Conducting school projects, art shows, street theatre, films or comic-relief, make for engaging ways to start an emotive conversation about issues that otherwise have a habit of staring you in the face, but not talking.
While we pray for those affected by the Sikkim quake, the Japan typhoon and other recent disasters, here’s hoping that we learn how to leverage our diverse informal spaces to get disaster prevention messages out faster, wider and better. Our daily conversations and practices can indeed, help save lives.