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Say it with a hug

NILEENA M.S

I nternational Free Hug Day saw a huge crowd of volunteers who wanted to simply gift a hug…



Creating awareness: A hug says it all.

Recently, a group of youngsters holdings placards were seen at six busy spots in the city. The cards held high above in their hands read “Free Hugs”. They were part of the campaign conducted to create awareness about AIDS.

The campaign, conducted on The International Free Hugs Day, (July 3) met with mixed reaction from the crowd. Some were bewildered and some amused, while some hurried away shyly, on being approached by the campaigners extending a warm hug. Initially people were reluctant to hug them back, but slowly more people came forward.

“At least 40 per cent of the people don't know that AIDS doesn't spread by touching the patient. Two years ago, even I didn't know this. We should not shun people suffering from AIDS, they just happened to be unlucky in their lives,” said Asish Gupta, one of the campaigners.

“Our aim is to give the message that AIDS doesn't spread by touching. By hugging people we do not know we are just highlighting this point,” said Dev Parvani, another campaigner.

After receiving a hug from one of the campaigners, Tamilarasi P., said that it is the best way to spread this message.” The campaign will surely work out,” she said.

Just a gift

Karthick Sundar, the organiser of the event, was surprised at the media attention received by the campaign. “I didn't expect the media to give this much importance to the campaign. This is really encouraging and will help in the success of the campaign,” he said.

The Free Hugs campaign, the brain child of Juan Mann (known only by this pseudonym) — an Australian, is conducted by gifting hugs to strangers on the street. It is seen as an effort to make others feel better. But the campaign was banned for sometime following opposition from the police officials. Even during the recent campaign the police had tried to stop them; the organisers had a tough time explaining to the officers at the Elliot's beach police booth that they had already got permission for the campaign from the Police Commissioner.

“Last time we tried to organise a campaign with the help of college students, but we didn't get permission to go ahead with it,” said Karthik. The campaign was conducted by ‘Shadow of Bodhi', an organisation headed by Karthick who is also a fashion designer. “We started off with five people, now there are 26 people with us.” he said.

Chandrima Bhattacharjee, who had come to the beach with her colleagues from Cognizant Technologies said, “There are many people who are still not aware of these things. This kind of campaign will help spread the message.” Her friends too seemed to agree with her, welcoming the campaigners and hugging them.

Saadiya, who had also participated in a ‘free hugs campaign' said that it is a nice experience to be a part of campaigns like this. “When we hugged old people, they blessed us and prayed for our good. That really touched me.”

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