In the age of Netflix and chill, an audio media is changing India’s mode of entertainment and news consumption. And years after people had written the obituary for the radio, audio is making a comeback – as podcasts. They are talking about everything from sex and Kashmir to Indian parenting.
The podcast revolution is a welcome change from the Arnab Goswamis and Sudhir Chaudharys of Indian media. Podcasts are giving a mic to voices from India’s silenced corners.
Content we deserve
Podcasts are finally giving Indians the stories and deep-dives they want to hear.
Dear Pari is India’s first narrative podcast on adoption. Dear Pari is about two parents Priya and Rakesh and their journey of adoption. It delves into the legal, psychological and emotional aspects of adoption, a topic that is still shrouded in stigma and silence.
Then there is Sanskari Sex, a podcast for millennials that aims to bust myths about love and sex. Virginity, the “art of flirting” and public display of affection feature in some of the episodes. “Flirting is supposed to be majorly verbal foreplay, not a private display of your body parts, sending nudes is not flirting,” was the podcast host Swati’s advice, one that definitely should be heeded by most Indian men.
Issues like these are seldom broached on mainstream platforms, at least for the purpose of spreading information and awareness. This is primarily because of limitations set by distributors and to a certain extent online streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar. But audio platforms like Audioboom, Spotify and Apple don’t have such extensive restrictions.
A light in dark places
Since the dilution of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the communications blockade in the Valley, mostly whispers and sanctioned news has made it out.
However, Firstpost’s Voices from the Lockdown brought out Kashmiri stories from Kashmiris. These were dispatches of how the lockdown had exacerbated the subjugation of vulnerable sections of society like women and minors, of how ethnic Kashmiri Muslims were being targeted by the Narendra Modi government and the impact of the lockdown on apple traders and truck drivers.
“How can we come here [in the Valley] if we can’t even talk to anyone. We’ve just been operating in Jammu,” a truck driver is heard saying in Episode 9 of the podcast. In another episode of the podcast, a journalist explains how she’s had to travel nearly 10 km every day only to send out her story.
At a time when media channels were being kept away from reporting about what was really going on in Kashmir – the empty roads, heavy police presence and a growing number of detentions – this podcast helped shine a light. So even if these stories couldn’t be seen, they could be heard thanks to just one recorder and a telephone.
Long way to go
Despite the obvious gains, podcasts in India still have a long way to go. The topics of conversation are still largely urban-centric, and only a handful of podcasts are being produced in a language other than English.
A good model to follow perhaps would be the podcast industry in the US, which is said to have generated about $479.1 million in 2018 alone. There are podcasts about cooking, minority rights, space simulation tests, Woodstock, Donald Trump’s impeachment and even philosophy.
Indian podcast industry still has quite some ground to cover. However, quietly but surely, the medium is becoming the message.