Meet The Woman Who Is Changing India with #TheRiceBucketChallenge
Hyderabad-based Manju Latha Kalanidhi is the founder of ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’, a social initiative that involves donating a bucket of rice to a poor person. She was honored with the United Nations Karamveer Chakra Gold award 2015 for her social innovation that has gathered over 1.8 lakh kilograms of rice for the deserving. She is also the recipient of JFW Women Achiever award and was shortlisted in #100WomenAchievers of India and Femina L’Oreal Paris Social Influencer. Besides her social initiative, Manju also plays the role of a journalist, wife and a mother.
You are a full-time senior journalist, wife and also a mother. And you also look after the initiative you founded. How do you manage your personal life, professional life, and the ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’?
I am super organized. Always been that way, much before I got a job, got married and founded the ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’. I use technology, apps, and various methods of communication to stay organized on top of things. For example, I tend to forget to oil my daughter’s hair twice a week. To ensure that I don’t forget, I have set a reminder alarm that rings on the planned day and time. That helps me remember my job. Or take another example, every evening an alarm rings at 7.06 pm to remind me to a call my daughter and enquire about her school assignments. 7.06 is her birthday. I try to keep everything online so that I can access my work or personal files from anywhere and anytime. Basically, I work on the cloud concept.
Which of the above roles do you like the most?
I love being the journalist. It was a decision that was exclusively mine. That’s my first identity. In fact, I am able to sustain ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’ because I am a journalist. It helped the idea not to be a fad that faded away.
What drives you to multitask?
I think it is the drive to enjoy various opportunities that life presents me. Instead of having a monochromatic and unidimensional life, I like to have a colorful and dynamic life. I am a mother, I have a job, I am a wife, I am a colleague...I play various roles. Sometimes you can see me at a pub having a good time while at other times I am a part of the jury to give away scholarships. If I won’t multitask, I will miss out on such opportunities. It helps me to see various facets of life. The zeal to live a vibrant life is what drives me to multitask.
How has ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’ changed your life?
The success of ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’ has served as a message – that an ordinary, middle-class and middle-aged woman like me can garner the nation’s attention. I didn’t have to be glamorous or be a Page 3 socialite to grab eyeballs. The success of ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’ goes on to show that India still values a good act.
The fame that came along gave me a lot of unexpected opportunities. From being chosen for the ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign (December 2014) to being a part of panel discussions on various TV channels, it has taken me to many places. I was also privileged to be a part of Round Tables on governments where I gave my suggestions on how to handle various challenges, managing water issue was one such topic that I shared my views on.
‘Rice Bucket Challenge’ brought along with it the ‘achiever’s’ tag. And a bit of celebrity status as well! Now, people recognize me and they want to pose for selfies with me.
Does it affect your personal life?
Yes, it does. I have a family and they demand time. When I am away from town on work and am unable to spend time with my daughter, I overcompensate on days I am with her...I get her books, chocolates, goodies...I take her out for brunches and lunches. Sometimes, as a journalist, I get to visit fun places and I take my daughter along. So, it’s work and fun both at the same time.
You are an accomplished woman. What message do you have for women who want to be excel?
Believe in yourself. Be clear about what you want in life. You may want to be a homemaker or you may want a great career and not have a family life, or just a simple job to help strike work-life balance…whatever it is, it is possible and only you have the power to make it happen. Regardless of what the family says, what the society says, what your friends say…invest your energy and efforts in nurturing your dream. In present times, there is an easy access to resources and there is enough inspiration around to keep you going. Nothing should deter you from reaching your goal. Have a dream and passionately chase it.