One Hashtag to Save the World

In continuation to a post I had written on March 2012, LINK for Purba Ray’s blog, I write this post after weeks of deliberation.

A strange new fad had gripped the world about 15 days ago. Suddenly, everyone one was dumping ice cold water on themselves, recording it and then challenging others to do likewise. And it was all done to spread awareness about a fatal disease.

I never wanted to deride this trend. Because if you look at the donations, the number has been quite positive. The last I read on Mashable, the donations had crossed $100 million mark. This time people have done more than like a page or post and share it. And more importantly, more people now know that ALS is a disease and not a reshuffled acronym for Age Sex Location which chatrooms had popularised in the days of yore.

From USA, the Ice Bucket Challenge went global. Since we Indians must ape everything the Americans do, therefore many have merrily dumped buckets of ice cold water on their selves.

As expected, this divided the Indian Twitterati into two groups – those who cried water wastage and those who responded by pointing at the “Holi! Fun!” folder on the first groups Facebook profile. Both groups have good arguments to back themselves. But, the biggest flaw in India’s version of the Ice Bucket Challenge was, that it was more based on the philosophy of “Monkey see. Monkey do” rather than the need to spread awareness about a deadly disease. We have celebrities dumping water. We have companies organising events for their employees. We have college students organising Ice Bucket events. It has become a big party, the Harlem Shake of 2014. Reminded me of the Tomatino parties that were suddenly being organised around the country post Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

ALS is a very rare disease. News reports mention that it is even rarer in India, such that no one even knows or rather bothers about the exact figures. I believe that there are two reasons why most Indians took part in this challenge – to join the American trend and be part of the “in” crowd or reread the first reason.

In the aforementioned guest post, I had mentioned that clicking likes merely gives you a sense of false altruism. This time, the pretentiousness had surpassed everything. Let us pretend that you are one of those who googled about the disease before plunging headfirst into the challenge. Do you seriously feel that a numb sensation for a minute was going to help you empathise with an ALS patient? No! There is no death sentence hanging over your head. You are doing it for fun. You are doing it for likes. You are doing it so that others will look at you approvingly. Get your pretentious ass off that high horse and first face the realities that plague us here.

The other strange thing is the nomination that is forced upon you. What if I don’t wish to donate? How does trying to send me on a guilty trip help? As a person challenged, I have no choice……it is that or become a social pariah. To Indianize and own this trend, we began the Rice Bucket challenge. Hell, we also have an Aata Thaili challenge because apparently the Gurgaon poor refuse to touch rice. Though again, the pretentiousness is rife in these trends too, but at least they are aimed at a problem India faces.

Do we need a rice bucket challenge? Again, this too does less for the receiver but more to boost our own ego. Why do we close our eyes to the bigger problem in lieu of short term solutions? A bowl of rice will feed someone for a day, a bucket maybe for a week. Then what? Does it suffice? There are many more types of nutrients that the body needs to stay healthy. But then we are more worried about the trend and that we have to put our most generous side forward.

There are many people in India that do not have access to drinking water and proper food. Basic healthcare is a challenge in many areas of the country. There are preventable diseases that are killing people. Because of lack of education and lack of facilities. But we are going to wait for another hashtag to trend in the west.

Is there a #HelpConstructARoad challenge? Is there a #SyNoToChildLabour challenge? Is there a #HarvestWaterChallenge? Is there a #SpreadSanitation challenge? There are countless NGOs that are working for the betterment of our society. Donate something there. Spare some time and volunteer. Donate for the ALS fund if you wish. Make a short video documentary. Get your friends involved in a good cause. But don’t boast about it and don’t blindly follow the herd.
And please don’t catch a cold for a few likes.

2 Responses to “One Hashtag to Save the World”
  1. I think the most appropriate action in the Indian context would be to do the ice bucket challenge by dousing yourself with fridge ka paani, and then donating the empty bucket to your maid so she can do her daily chore of standing in line at the municipality water tap at 5 am to store water for her own tenement.
    Fun ka fun, charity ki charity.

  2. purbaray says:

    Ice Bucket Challenge was the new Starbucks. Everybody had to click pictures doing it.

    As for awareness, who cares?

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