Daler Mehndi became the latest, unlikely performer of the Ice Bucket Challenge when he emptied not one but three pails of ice on his turbaned head with much self-produced fanfare.
Mehndi also nominated superstars Amitabh Bacchan, Shahrukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra as the next do-gooders in this international chain of samaritans.
A bunch of other celebrities have taken the Challenge as well. Sania Mirza. (Twice). Ritesh Deshmukh. Bipasha Basu. The meme is growing faster than the disease ever has.
Like Daler, most of them mentions ‘ALS’ or ‘good cause’ in their videos. But it is debatable if they are entirely aware of this globally virulent activity.
The Challenge has been taken by some very important people, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Satya Nadella. The idea is to raise awareness and funding for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - a genetic brain disease that affects males in their 40s and 50s.
The disease is no doubt serious, debilitating and worthy of more research, but there are at least five other illnesses that affect far more people and are far more preventable. Won’t our Indian celebs be better served raising awareness on conditions that would actually benefit by individual intervention and involvement?
HEART DISEASE - The urban curses of stress, smoking, sedentariness and a rich diet have made this the biggest Indian killer. Studies indicate that in a majority of cases preventable factors play a heavy role in the development and progression of heart disease. So maybe the next time these superstars are peddling bags of chips and cans of Coke on TV - if not smoking stylishly on screen - their thoughts will go back to the Ice Bucket Challenge and what it really stands for. (Infographic)
MALARIA - That mosquitoes remain silent killers in India well into the second millennium is a deplorable scenario. Research indicates that over 40,000 Indians die of malaria every year. Overall, the number of malaria cases is 9.75 million. It is truly a disease of confounding reach and proportions. But wait. Water-logging, sanitation and public awareness can take a backseat. Maybe Malaria doesn’t sound as fancy as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (Infographic)
AIDS - Maybe Daler Mehndi should have emptied a can full of condoms - new as well! A country of 1.3 billion that is progressing assiduously towards even greater, utterly unmanageable numbers, India could sure do with basic know-how on the French Letter. Forget about the numbers, this enormous amount of unprotected copulation has given rise to an insidious cluster of infected individuals that now number 2.39 million (according to a dated 2008–09 study) and 1.4–1.6 million people (as per a more recent report). (Infographic)
WATER BORNE DISEASES: Cholera. Dysentry. Typhoid. These sound like diseases from another time and place. But they’re still major killers in our country. The Ice Bucket Challenge - with its mostly pristine five-star ice - is in particularly poor taste here. Over one lakh people in India die of dirty water diseases each year. In one-third of India’s 600 districts, ground water is unfit for drinking as the concentration of fluoride, iron, salinity and arsenic exceeds tolerance levels. (Infographic)
So, enough of this shallow slacktivism where our celebrities indulge in a silly act without highlighting the issue behind it. Sure, they can promote awareness for any disease of their choosing, but surely that needs much more than soaking yourself for Facebook LOLs.
PS: If you’d really want to do the ice water challenge the right way, just follow Sonakshi Sinha’s example. Attagirl!