Features Saturday, August 30, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | August 25, 2014 | 03:57 pm IST Water is precious, or so thought Manju Latha Kalanidhi, a senior editor at Oryza, Hyderabad, who has come up with a 'Desi Challenge for Desi Needs'- India’s version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the Rice Bucket Challenge. India’s jugaad to the globally viral ice bucket challenge which makes participants post videos of themselves having freezing water poured on them and donate to an ALS cause, instead challenges them to take a bucket of rice and donate it to the nearest needy person. After this, they follow the original challenge’s instruction of posting pictures on social media and nominate other people to carry on the challenge. ( Manju Latha Kalanidhi, Image Courtesy: Manju Latha Kalanidhi's Facebook Page ) The challenge, needless to say, is storming the social media and Manju says she is 'overwhelmed'. "I saw a lot of my friends taking up the ice bucket challenge, which is also for a good cause. However, I felt that as Indians we could not connect to it at some level. Also people dumping water on themselves, shrieking, taking videos, the whole idea sort of went over my head", she says. It is then that Manju decided to give her countrymen a concrete challenge that they could 'connect' to.  Before initiating the challenge on social media, Manju, along with her husband, donated rice to people near their home. The challenge, now, has grown exponentially, thanks to social media and its spread.  What is even more interesting, Manju feels, is that people are joining in for the cause voluntarily. "I did not approach people personally to take on the challenge. People are taking up the challenge on their own. One person said that he’d create the Facebook page for the challenge, another created the poster, someone asked me whether they could start a blog and one showed interest in starting a website. It is like one thing led to another. The response is overwhelming", says Manju for whom the past two days have gone in a blur.  The company she works with Oryza is a website that publishes news, research and analysis on rice, and that is also how Manju thought of the rice angle. "We are rice eating country, and what can be better than donating rice to some one in need?", she asks.  The challenge, though just two days old, is sharply picking up momentum. "Some people are giving rice to individuals they know and a man recently donated to the Akshaya Patra foundation. The challenge is such that it can be taken by any one and donations can be given according to what people can afford", Manju says.  Post by Rice Bucket Challenge. Speaking about the ice bucket challenge, Manju asks, "Why waste water when you can donate rice instead and feed a hungry person?"  The original challenge has generated over $41.8 million in donations which will go in proceedings to fight against Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It is too early to speak of whether the Rice Bucket Challenge will fare equally well as its ice bucket counterpart did, but the trend seems to be catching up among the young and the old alike.  This is the first time Manju has done something of this scale and she feels that the success of this initiative is because of social media and the reach it has today. Borrowing lines from Shah Rukh Khan’s Chennai Express, Manju quips, “Don’t underestimate the power of social media”. ( All images courtesy: Rice Bucket Challenge Facebook Page ) 
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