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The age of responsibility

The most influential advertisements of recent times are for brands taking up the responsibility of causes, writes Ashish Mishra. See graphics

india Updated: Mar 29, 2010 01:17 IST

Disasters indeed have a way of maturing people. Any wonder then that the recent troubled times have seen both the society and markets grow up to responsibility, rather promptly.

Holi this year was dry. Contrastingly, many crumbling Mumbai facades in the dilapidated mill areas got a colourful facelift. Another Facebook assisted facelift saw Mumbai’s Mahim wall turn into a three-kilometre-long canvas for a colour splash as graffiti art. Many other walls followed suit fashionably. Art activism actually emerges as a new genre, with social issues in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad being painted as subjects by the local artists.

The signs of responsibility show up all around us. The world of ad commercials interestingly leads the way. The most influential ads of the recent times are for brands taking up the responsibility of causes. Idea espouses a range of causes from anti-communalism to rural education, to environment. Tata Tea creates an awakening against the cancerous social evils. Nokia advocates recycling to save the environment. Lavasa does its bit for the better planned future cities. Surf and HDFC Standard Life continue to fight the overdose of hyper-parenting and financial dependence of the elderly, respectively.

Extravagance gives way to austerity. The self obsessed celebrities, as a welcome change, show off their social consciousness instead of their designer labels. It’s still a show off but perhaps the most tolerable of them all.

Luxury, of all the things, gets accountable too. The Taj Group of Hotels begins promoting its ultra premium properties as responsible luxuries, building eco-friendliness as well as social causes into their hospitality.

Media joins in to populate these culture signs. A tangible contribution for a specific cause of Lighting a Billion Lives gets taken up by NDTV. The same channel partners auto major Toyota for Greenathon, now in its second innings. Cause-led TV programming dominates the small screen with issues ranging from the girl child discrimination to autism being taken up.

The world of cinema gets responsible too. The biggest hits in the Indian cinema become a showcase of the ‘cause cinema’ genre. From Koi Mil Gaya, to Taare Zameen Par to Paa to 3 Idiots to My Name is Khan, the big themes of Bollywood attempt to exploit cause, heart and responsibility.

After the arms race, the ‘We err, you learn’ minded global powers have another game to play — passing the buck on environment. Carbon emission norms are treated seriously now and even if Hopenhagen didn’t yield substantial results, it surely is among the right debates to engage in.

Disasters indeed have the power of creating a sense of responsibility. And the converse is also true. If the culture sign of a growing sense of consciousness and responsibility continues, disasters can perhaps be averted.

The writer is Chief Strategy Officer and Head, Water Consulting