By Riti Das Dhankar
Technology gives people a world wide exposure, like a window that opens onto another part of the world showing the picturesque canvass that lies beyond our horizon. Technology also has the power to make people famous and make the things that famous people do even more famous. Thanks to the speedy internet and smart phone cameras, everyone seems to have their own share of stardom these days. The few basic things needed are a bucket, some ice to go into the bucket, and ice cold water. Once these elements are arranged, one is good to go.
Social networking sites have been going berserk lately with an insane amount of videos that have been uploaded for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge originated as a means to generate awareness and funds regarding the Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease. The good part of the media hype and attention is that most people who had no idea what ALS is or how it affects people now have some amount of knowledge regarding the disease. Undoubtedly, awareness has been created and with each ice bucket challenge video being uploaded, more and more people are getting to know about it. Also, with a fair share of celebrities involved, a good amount of money has also been collected for the cause.
The challenge that originated in the US has gone viral and has managed to spread at an alarming rate all over the world with India being no exception to it. Like the place it originated in, the challenge no longer remains confined to sportspersons, film stars or CEOs. People we know, our friends, friends of friends, relatives, and basically everyone around have joined in enthusiastically. It is good to know that so many people all over the globe are so willing and happy to join hands for a cause, almost like restoring our faith in humanity. But, it is also deeply disturbing to know that most people indulge in activities of such a nature on pure impulse, as a means to be a part of something famous, to get the approval of the people around without keeping in mind the environment we live in or the consequences that the actions would bring.
India is a developing nation. Spending an hour listening to a news channel would give any person a fair idea of the challenges our country faces on a day to day basis – electricity and water being a few of them. Of the numerous uploaded videos, it is surprising to note that only a handful have been thoughtful enough to have attempted to save the water that is being poured on them. For the rest, it is more of a fun activity that they are doing for a good cause. Even more surprising is that a number of people have started raising funds for various other purposes and still have not bothered to change the name from ALS ice bucket challenge to the cause they want to espouse. It is almost like the game of passing on the whisper where what was said and what was received at the end of the game are two entirely different things.
It does seem a bit ironic when awareness and funds are being raised for a problem by spilling a bucketful of water, thus indirectly accelerating another problem.
A brief look into the origin of the ALS ice bucket challenge would reveal that the practice of pouring freezing cold water is in keeping with the geographical and climatic situation of the place where the challenge originated. It is not meant for a place where the temperature hovers around 40 degrees, the rains have not been promising, and where the government advertisements displayed everywhere urge people to save and conserve water. For people like me who belong to Rajasthan and have seen the Thar Desert closely, spilling of water simply means wastage. Our country cannot afford to waste water because we do not have an abundance of clean water. Like India, a lot of other countries also face water scarcity. The majority of households in India gets a limited supply of water at specific times. It is horrifying, scary, and shocking to see it being wasted. When I say the water is being wasted, I do not mean to question the cause for which the trend started; nor am I cynical about the money that has been raised for the cause. It is heartening to see so many people, especially the youth, are jumping in to pitch in and do their bit. My only point is that we need to be a little thoughtful before causing more harm in pursuit of something good.
The power of communication and information technology is a boon. Almost anything can catch up and can spread. In the Indian context, the fast catching up Rice Bucket Challenge seems to be more appropriate: each person donating a bucket full of rice to people who are in need and nominating a few more so that a chain reaction takes off. This would not only help people directly, providing an essential commodity to alleviate hunger but would also help people in thinking and contemplating what actually helps the masses. Forget the ice, forget the rice, and forget the bucket. The goal is to help someone, to inform and include others in an act of selflessness, to make sure everyone does their bit.
Be it the Ice Bucket or the Rice Bucket, the challenge is not to unwittingly imitate. True challenge lies in understanding the ideals, the needs, and the causes behind the issue and, then, to do the bit that would actually make a difference, irrespective of the ‘views’ or the ‘likes’ or the ‘shares’ that happen on the social network.
Riti Das Dhankar is a freelance writer. She is doing her PhD in Psychology from Jaipur, where she completed her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issues of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Inland Labor Migration in India” (Edited by Soma Chatterjee, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada) & “Debating the Disability Law in India” (Edited by Nandini Ghosh, IDSK, Kolkata & Shilpaa Anand, MANUU, Hyderabad).