When Manju Latha Kalanidhi, 38, donated a bucket of rice, took a picture and posted it on her Facebook page on Aug 21, she did not imagine that it would soon go viral on social media. The 'rice bucket challenge' Facebook page has been viewed by over 280,000 people. It has over 70,000 likes.
The initiative caught the imagination of everyone with more and more individuals, including celebrities and groups, coming forward to participate in the challenge to cherish the joy of sharing.
The challenge involves donating rice to someone in need and sharing it online to inspire others to do the charity. It is believed that more than 10,000 kg of rice has been distributed in India since the challenge took off.
"The latest is that people in Cambodia have joined it. Several organizations have come forward to donate rice to the poor," Manju Latha told IANS.
People in countries like Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia are also participating in the programme to feed their poor, she said.
Manju Latha, a journalist based in Hyderabad, replaced ice with rice to make it suitable for Indians.
The 'ice bucket challenge' is meant to encourage donations for research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ASL), a neurodegenerative disease. The participants pour a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads and challenge someone to do the same. If they can't, they have to donate $100 to the ALS Association.
Celebrities such as Bill Gates and Roger Federer have participated in the ice bucket challenge, the idea of which was floated by US baseball player and ALS patient Pete Frates.
"I did not like wasting water and going through that torture to escape charity. I wanted something very local, which is desi," Manju Latha said.
"The participants in the rice bucket challenge in fact escape the cause as they don't end up paying. Here the participants are inspired to donate," she said.
iCONGO, an international confederation of NGOs, and the United Nations early this week announced the Karmaveer Chakra Award for Manju Latha. The award is given for doing something small, yet significant, to make a difference in the world.
"The concept of charity was always there in Indian society. We just wanted to give it a boost. We are asking people to donate to anybody around him who is in need," added her husband Devuni Vijeye. They, however, feel that everybody should participate in it as just visiting the website, clicking like or making comments will not help.
But why rice? Manju Latha pointed out that rice is staple food in India, which is a rice-growing country. "Rice donation is part of Indian tradition. I think feeding a hungry stomach is the best charity one can do," said.
Rice also has a long shelf-life and it makes donation easy, anywhere and anytime.
The journalist is elated over the massive response her initiative has evoked.
"It was not expected at all. I am happy that the entire nation is able to connect with this," said Manju Latha, who is planning to rope in NGOs and ensure that it does not become a one-time affair like the ice bucket challenge.
After southern actress Sandhya, well-known Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt also backed the initiative.
"Anything which is good, imaginative, which has the humanity's concern at its heart will find legs. I think what started in the West always existed in our country. We have forgotten this," Bhatt told IANS.
"The rice bucket challenge is just a symbol that what the nation needs to inculcate is empathy towards weaker and those who are not strong enough to fend for themselves. What belongs to the entire mankind has been usurped by a handful of people; so it is binding on those who have it to share it with have-nots. Perhaps then only we will have a safer, peaceful and humane world," added Bhatt.