Divyansh Sharma and Harshita Tripathi are 4th year students at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. They recently launched the ‘Talking Taboo’ initiative that seeks to break socio-cultural taboos.They have been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Raksha Raina who is currently pursuing law from NUJS.
- Hi Divyansh and Harshita! Congratulations to you both! Can you tell us a bit about your initiative and its objectives?
Hi, thank you! ‘Talking Taboo’ is a social change initiative through which we seek to have conversations that the society has traditionally considered as ‘taboo’. We often see how people around us shy away from talking about things such as sexuality, mental health, suicide, etc. By creating the safe space called Talking Taboo, our idea is to mainstream stories of people who’ve suffered as a result of shunning down such important conversations. Our mission is to empower through narration and to this end, we run a podcast by the same name, alongside dissemination of our message through social media platforms.
- How does your initiative work? How do you go about with increasing awareness around taboo issues?
We interview guests from various fields, from social activists, entrepreneurs, bureaucrats to members of vulnerable communities, and talk to them about taboo issues from diverse sets of perspectives. We ask them the reason behind the formation of taboo, and how to go about breaking it. Our recent session was with an IAS officer, Ms. Ira Singhal on her condition of scoliosis (spine curvature), and the kind of problems that persons with disability face in our society. We also talked about what basic changes can our listeners make in their daily lives to be more accommodative of their differently abled peers.
In addition to our podcast episodes, we also run an Instagram page @wetalktaboo through which we disseminate awareness generating content.
- What motivated you to start this initiative? Did law school have a role to play in the decision?
Well, definitely. For both of us, law school was a massive cultural shock. From the comforts of our four walled homes, we had suddenly been thrown into this barrage of diverse people, mindsets and attitudes. Seeing the diversity of experiences and stories of people around us, it took a while to get used to the idea that all experiences are valid, and all narratives deserve to be respected. Unfortunately, the liberties from our Constitutional Law classes were not very much seen in practice when we started understanding how social institutions censor speech and ways of life. Talking Taboo is just our small way to stir a conversation and create a discourse, which we know will make a big impact if everyone starts making small changes in their outlook.
- What are the various taboo topics that you discuss on your podcast?
We cover a variety of topics that we think have become taboo over time. Our first episode covered the issue of ‘drag’, which is basically an art form that seeks to question gender notions and the rigid roles of a ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in our society. In another episode, we talked to a psychotherapist on the topic of suicide and mental health. We tried to understand why people do not want to talk about mental health, and discussed what are the various things that we can do to be more sensitive towards those around us who are dealing with depression and suicidal tendencies. In our future episodes, we seek to cover issues such as pornography, female sexuality, masculinity and mental health therapy.
- Did you face any obstacles in setting Talking Taboo? If yes, how did you overcome them?
Yes, we did actually. Considering that we’re running an initiative that is shaped around extremely sensitive issues, navigating these can be tricky at times. Ranging from some people reporting our stories to us not being able to get some guests because of our non-commercial nature, we have faced a variety of issues. More important is our consciousness that there will be multiple obstacles in the future as well. Ultimately, we, as a platform, are aware that the topics we pick up to break down may sometimes be in outright defiance of social morality. But disruption does not happen in a single day. Eventually, it all comes down to perception- how bad do you want a change? And we aren’t stopping!
- How has the response been so far? What feedback are you getting?
Well, it has varied according to the issue in question. As a platform, we have managed to secure hundreds of followers within a few days of the launch. Our podcast listeners have vastly varied, depending on the issue and guests. For greater reach, we have also diversified the platform. We have opened a YouTube channel, where people can find all our podcasts now. We have also started focusing on content creation over Instagram, in order to supplement the message we spread from the podcast. Since we are a fortnightly podcast, we try to generate conversations around the issue two weeks in advance of the launch itself!
Right since the launch, we’ve received great support from our batchmates and friends. A lot of them wrote to us regarding how these conversations are personally driving them towards introspection and self-awareness. We’ve also had very supporting guests, and we hope to keep the message alive!
- Can you tell our readers about what you have in mind for the future?
Well, we’re thinking a lot of things actually! We are planning to go multi-lingual in order to improve our reach. This will increase representation in both our guests and audience, something that we’ve always valued! We are further thinking of collaborations that will help us spread the message. Eventually, it is about our audience and what helps get the message across better. We will try to stay as relevant as possible amongst our audience, and as a platform, will always strive to work towards that.
- Lastly, where can people reach you and find your work?
We are available on Instagram @wetalktaboo, and our podcasts are available on our channels by the name of Talking Taboo on YouTube, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, and Breaker. In case someone wants to reach out for a topic/guest suggestion or would like to appear on our show, we can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.