The “lowering of the flags” ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border.

The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border is a spectacle one should not miss. The entire atmosphere is filled with excitement and patriotism. The show is a symbol of the two countries’ brotherhood and cooperation. People from either sides of the border cheer, shout and celebrate. This military practice is jointly carried out by the Border Security Force of India and Pakistan Rangers.

Here is the video of the “lowering of the flags” ceremony shot from Attari (Indian side).

 

FIFA World Cup: Festival Of Malabar Book Launch

FIFA WORLD CUP – THE FESTIVAL OF MALABAR was released by beloved uncle and famous novelist Sri. K L Mohana Varma in the presence of Sri. Dominic Presentation MLA. The function was held at the Parade Ground Fort Kochi. The event was part of “Shoot the rain” football tournament. Special thanks to cousin Sri. Ravi Varma, who organised the event.

Kindly leave a message if you want to buy the print version of the book.

The Kindle edition of the book can be purchased here

Photo courtesy: Harish R Varma

Turtle Walks in Chennai

It was one of my friends who told me about “Turtle Walks” a wonderful initiative that’s been happening on the coast of Chennai by a handful of volunteers.. The very idea of walking the entire night on the beach excited me. And on a Friday night around 9:30, myself along with my friend Samuel Eddy reached Elliot’s beach. Parked our vehicle, purchased some essentials like biscuits and water, to keep ourselves busy throughout the night. There was already a group waiting at the Elliot’s beach, waiting for their friends. We joined the group and left to Neelankarai, that starting point for Turtle Walk.

By the time we reached Neelankarai beach It was 11:30 P.M. There was already a huge group of some 30 odd people listening carefully to a small introductory talk by Arun, one of the volunteers of Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN). Arun was talking about various species of Turtles, about Olive Ridley turtles, the threats faced by these wonderful creatures, various conservation efforts taken up by various groups in different coastal areas of India. The turtle walks are one such effort to increase the chances of survival of the Olive Ridley sea turtle.

The Turtle walks route is a 10 km stretch starting from Neelankarai beach to Elliot’s beach. Now in order to increase the awareness of conservation of Olive Ridley turtles, Public are also taken along for the walk on Fridays and Saturdays. Our batch had almost 50, of all ages, from kids to retired people. 

By around 12:15 A.M, we started off from Neelankarai beach. We had hardly walked for 10 minutes; we came across a dead Turtle. One of the volunteers told us that most of the turtles get stuck in the fishing nets and die. We continued the hunt for the nests and almost 20 minutes later found the Turtle trail, the path taken by turtles to come to the shore and lay eggs.

With the help of steel rod, the volunteers started searching for the exact position of the nest. With the rod they dig up the places and the soil above the nest would be loose when compared to other areas. These volunteers are trained and they make sure that no damage is done to any of the eggs. After few minutes of the searching they found the first nest.

The Turtle nest is in the shape of a pot — a narrow neck and a wider chamber below, almost 2 ft in depth. The volunteers, with utmost care removed the soil above the nest and start collecting the eggs.

By around 1:30 A.M, collected almost 150 Turtle eggs from the first nest, entire gang, especially the kids, were so excited. Everyone was busy to have a look at the eggs, to touch it and feel it. Others were eager to have a look at the nest. As I was walking insearch of more nests, I realized to my horror the amount of filth and garbage we humans have dumped along our beautiful beaches. On one side we saw so many dead fishes and all sorts of garbage, the beach side was bubbling with life as crab in various sizes were running here and there.

Around 2A.M we came across the second nest. Eggs were carefully taken out, the nest was measured and then covered up.. Once all the eggs are taken to the hatchery, volunteers dig up a nest that is more or less the same in dimensions as the original nest and carefully puts all the eggs inside. Second nest had around 45 eggs. We continued The Turtle walk. On the way, around 3A.M, we met some fishermen. They were getting ready to go for the catch, keeping huge water cans in the catamarans and they would be back by 8A.M, hopefully with a great catch.

By 4:40 A.M ‘The Turtle walk’ concluded at Elliot’s beach. The volunteers collected almost 400 eggs from 5 nests. We were almost exhausted but happy and thrilled to be part of this wonderful initiative. During the walk, I made acquaintance with so many people, participated in the collection of Turtle eggs and most important walked almost 10 kilometers, first time in my life. I would say a night well spent.

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Nehru Trophy Boat Race- Kuttanad’s Olympics on Water

 The entire Kuttanad is eagerly waiting, to see which Chundan will lift the coveted Nehru trophy; they have been waiting for this moment for last one year. Preparations are in full swing, all over you see practice races, people from all parts have started coming in, and gallery’s work is in progress, it is the race time, the World famous Nehru Trophy Boat Race on the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, held on the second Saturday of August every year. 58th Nehru Trophy Boat race is happening on 14th August 2010

Nehru Trophy race is the most competitive and popular of the boat races. On the day of this fiercely fought boat race, almost two lakh people gather to watch the event. For the people of each village in Kuttanad, a victory at this race for their village boat is a matter of great pride and something to be celebrated for months to come. It is also one of the main tourist attractions in Kerala.

 

Photo courtesy: nehrutrophyboatraces.com

Nehru Trophy

The first boat race was organized in 1952 in honour of late Pandit Jawarlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India visit to Alappuzha. 8 Snake boats participated in the procession, Nadubhagom, Chambakkulam , ParthaSarathy, Kavalam, Valiya Diwanji, Napoleon, Nethaji and Gear Goss. The winner was Nadubhagam Chundan. Panditji donated a Silver Trophy, which was a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus. This trophy later came to be known as Nehru Trophy.

Boats’ own country

Kuttanandu is a place of boats. Different kinds of boats are seen always roaming over the waters of this part of the Kerala. The boats are differentiated based on their purpose, all home-made out of indigenous materials.  All these boats are used for the race, ranging from to the smallest one which measures 18 feet and accommodates almost a dozen crew, to the biggest ones called snake boats. A lot of skill, labour, time and money go into the making of these boats which are objects of envy and wonder.  The most popular varieties of Racing Boats are called Chundan, the magnificent Snake Boats, nearly a hundred feet long and with 150 rowers, Churulan, pleasure boats used by rich people in olden days Odi (Iruttukuthi), earlier used for smuggling and Parunthuvalan (Veppu), boats that were used to carry stores for the soldiers in olden times and each differs from the other in the shape of the helm and prow, and capacity to accommodate the crew.

The major attraction of the boat race is the competition of snake boats (chundan vallams), measuring over 100 feet in length, with a raised prow. Over 100 people are needed to race a snake boat. The Nedumbhagom snake boat which entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest rowing boat in the world was 135 feet in length. Now Vellankulangara snake boat hold that record, which is 140 feet long. The Chundan Vallam also holds the record as “the biggest water vessel used for sports purpose”.

Preparation

Preparations for the big event begin several weeks in advance. Selection of the oarsmen is one of the crucial events. The best oarsmen are selected and trained under the supervision of the senior oarsmen. They take the vow to observe strict abstinence and celibacy till the race is over. The synchronized way of rowing needs long and devoted training. A single neglected act of a single oarsman can lose the race.

Each ward in the village and at time rich individuals takes responsibility of feeding the athletes on the days of the practice. Mass and sumptuous feasts are arranged for the athletes during these practice sessions. Boats are also treated with special care. The boats are made out of single tree trunks, usually Kadampu and Anjili (Artocarpus Hirsuta) The boat is smeared with sardine oil for smooth passage through water.

Community Participation

One of the reasons for the success of the event is its community participation. Most of the race boats belong to the joint ownership of the people of the locality. Single owner boats are often hired out by a group of people belonging to a particular locality for the purpose of participating in a boat race.  Money required for the preparation and the race is collected from the locality itself.  And boat race season is the occasion for stirring the warmth of friendliness and brotherhood in the locality

The festival begins with a colorful procession of various boats. They move in a formation down the 1.4 KM stretch of the lake and oarsmen singing couplets from “Kuchelavritham Vanchipattu” the classic Malayalam poem written by Ramapurathu Warrier to entertain King Marthanda Varma of Travancore in early 19th century during a boat journey from Vaikom to Thiruvananthapuram. The numerous beaded umbrellas are held aloft in each boat and various floats depicting Kerala’s rich cultural heritage follow. Various artists perform “kathakali” “theyyam” “panchavadyam” and “padayani”.

The race happens over a length of about 1370 meters that is divided into eight tracks, each of 30 meters width for carry out of the competition. Oarsmen singing Vanchipattu can be heard from a distance. The people of Kuttanad are keenly waiting for the D day, their Olympics on water.

How to reach Alappuzha?

By Air

Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Kochi International Airport are the nearest airport. Thiruvananthapuram to Alappuzha is 150 km and Kochi to Alappuzha is 75 km

By Bus

KSRTC buses are plenty which are connecting all the major cities in Kerala. Private luxury coach buses are also available from destinations like Bangalore and Chennai

By Train

Alappuzha is well connected by train from different parts of India. Alappuzha railway station is within the city limits