I would frankly not even have noticed that the Bandra Worli Sea Link is all purple these days if I had not been getting onto an early morning flight. As I got on to the Sea Link from the Worli side, I noticed a pink-ish haze surrounding the steel girders. As I got closer, the pink lighting was clearly visible. And when I looked back from the Bandra end, the Sea Link was resplendent in rosy pink … though it took a bit of research for me to figure out that what appeared pink to me was actually supposed to be purple.
As I nosed around a bit, I figured that it is not just the Bandra-Worli Sea Link that is all lit up with purple lights. Along with it, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) and the General Post Office (GPO) building are also supporting purple these days. Why? Well, to mark 10 years of the Purple Week.
To the uninitiated (and I too was part of that count up-until this morning), Purple Week is a global event which is celebrated with a motive to increase the awareness about epilepsy, a neurological disorder, afflicting millions in India and across the globe. Amongst the 100 countries which celebrate the Purple Week or Epilepsy Week, Mumbai marks the event with great reverence under the guidance of Dr. Nirmal Surya, the founder of the Epilepsy Foundation of Mumbai. While Dr. Surya and the Epilepsy Foundation seem to have got the fullest support of mandarins in government who allowed key structures of the city to be lit up in purple, there has been nearly no worthwhile coverage in mass media, and no murmur whatsoever in advertising. No brands, no pharma companies, no support groups, no NGOs have really stepped forward to capitalize on the Purple Week cover of the Sea Link. Missed opportunity? General apathy? I don’t know; I can’t say.
Not many are also perhaps aware of the fact that Purple Week starts annually on 26 March, and was founded by a nine-year-old-girl, Cassidy Megan. She planted the seed that has now grown into an international phenomenon. Cassidy, who came all the way from Canada to Mumbai recently has gone on record to say, “I was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of seven and the reason why I started this event is to let people with epilepsy know that they are not alone”. On the choice of the colour purple Cassidy added, “I chose this colour because lavender is the official colour for epilepsy but when I started it, I thought it would be easier for people to call it Purple Week and they can wear any shade of purple as it is much easier to find than lavender”.
When asked about why she thought of illuminating parts of cities, crusader Cassidy had this to say, “The reason we get people to have their town or city lit up in purple is to show those living with epilepsy, their family, friends and communities that the government, their towns, schools etc. stand with them. The other reason is it helps bring epilepsy out of the shadows and get people talking more about it.”
Well sadly, in India despite the Sea Link, the CSMT and the GPO being awash in purple, there aren’t very many people talking about epilepsy.
- Prima facie, awareness itself of the Purple Week seems an issue. Not enough publics seem either aware or concerned or involved.
- For once, government authorities seem far more on the ball on this one. Getting the authorities at BMC to agree to go purple at the Sea Link or CSMT of GPO must not have been easy to swing. But having moved the mountain on these key approvals, the Epilepsy Foundation has not been able to muster any worthwhile support or create a city-wide buzz.
- There are enough and more in the advertising profession who latch onto every causevertising opportunity, if nothing else but just for awards. Even these keen eagles seem to have missed a sitter.
The more I think of it, the more I am puzzled (actually amazed) on how government and civic authorities agreed to the purple wash in Mumbai. How come we don’t light up the Sea Link in tri-colours on national days (yes, some important other monuments in the city are so decked but not the Sea Link) but agree to support a global cause? I am not fault-finding but I am just a bit confused. I only earnestly hope that in the days to come when occasions do arise for government, business and communities to unite in support of a worthy cause, those in government will sensitise other constituencies and solicit their whole-hearted cooperation. This Purple Week could have been much bigger. Also more relevant and impactful. With more focus on those suffering from epilepsy. More good could certainly have come off it all.
(Carol Goyal writes on subjects that touch her heart.)