The chill shower is spreading like wildfire across continents. From former US president George W Bush to Mark Zuckerberg, Hollywood stars Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe to football icons Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, the Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the world by storm. Country after country, world leaders, celebrities, sportspersons and common people are taking the ice-cold shower to spread awareness and raise funds for the little known amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron affliction also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease that kills nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord leading to paralysis and death. The challenge has gone viral on networking sites, arousing tremendous awareness on ALS and garnering about 70.2 million dollars within less than two months while the stunt, started in 2013, is stated to have mustered only around 64 million dollars in the whole last year.
India too is not left untouched with Bollywood actors and sports stars dousing themselves and passing the dare on to others. The idea is also being cloned for other causes. Already an improvised offshoot has come up in the shape of Rice Bucket Challenge, to motivate people to take to charity. The “Indian version for Indian needs”, as its Facebook page describes it, involves donating rice to the poor or feeding cooked rice or food to the hungry.
Initiated by Hyderabad-based Manju Latha Kalanidhi, the page has already got more than 10,000 likes within a day. The Ice Bucket Challenge and its desi twist reflect the ability of social media to highlight social causes and issues on the domain of the mainstream, not only bringing focus but also action to mitigate them. Social media with its unsurpassable power to enthuse and engage can be leveraged to draw much-needed attention to many neglected issues. For a country like India, such initiatives hold more import as innovative, fun-filled ideas that catch on with the imagination can be channelled through social media to stir mass response to pressing issues.