PALK BAY : Standup Paddle for Conservation

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No reason to stay is a good reason to go.  In search of my Vitamin Sea, here is my next trip to an NGO OMCAR (Organization for Marine Conservation Awareness and Research) Palk Bay Conservation Centre in the southeastern coastal state, Pattukottai, Thanjavur District lead by its Director, Mr. Balaji.  

 

Palk Strait is a strait between the Tamil nadu state of India and the northernmost part of the island nation of Srilanka.  It connects the Bay of Bengal in the northeast with the Palk Bay and thence with the Gulf of Mannar in the southwest.

 

This shallow enclosed water body is ornamented with sea grass beds and mangroves on the northern side which serves as a habitat for a diverse array of sea lives which supports local fishery and also to protect the fragile ecosystems of this region. 

 

Thanks to forever! If it never comes near, a gentle breeze always pulls me there, sets my mind and soul clear……..

 

A man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose the sight of the shore and my short trip to this NGO to create awareness about stand-up paddling is to challenge and change the slant the society has on conserving water bodies to develop the water sports. 

 

My morning started with packing my paddle boards and the camping set on my favorite vehicle with a schedule to start by afternoon to this wonderful place near my hometown Thanjavur. With all set ready, I ventured my journey with beautiful ride on the by-pass road with stunning views of nature throwing different shades of its color on us.

 

A drive sounds nice down the lonely road with music on drowning in my own thoughts on the preparation for the next day at the beautiful coast.  I reached this place at 9 pm where Mr. Balaji, (director of OMCAR) greeted me and introduced the place, the students group from the mountains and the plan for the next day. 

 

The group of NFLC (Nilgiris Field Learning Centre) students who were part of Western Ghats tribal youths was travelling there for the first time who never had any experience on the ocean and that stirred my soul to train them on paddling sport.

 

After a wonderful dinner, went for a walk to the beach with the moonlight….. Just the moonlight.  I could hear Ocean to Ocean full heart to full heart, clear quiet mind, blossoming with light with trees dance sway insatiably exposing invisible secrets.  Enjoyed the peaceful night sleep there at the center ….

 

Paddle! Paddle!

It was a miraculous sunny day to set for the paddling in the beautiful shallow water body.  The weather was perfect with sun rising, burnt orange skies with crystal calm sea ahead of us.  I gave a brief instruction to Balaji and the tribal youths on paddling and taught them on the DO’s and DON’T’s.  I and Balaji started on different paddle boards that I carried from Chennai and gushed into the glistening sea.  

Balaji could not balance and fell the first time and then gained the confidence, picked up the paddle, set his sail into the blue sea.

Choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep, There I stood, which I can feel, which I can touch, which I can see, the sea breeze, the warm air and the unlocked view………

 

We both came back and I started training the tribal youths again and cheered them to do paddling in the magnificent waters that we could not sea anywhere in south.  Enjoying savoring the sea salt on my lips, I set the students in my paddle board, instructed them to first lie on the board and paddle with their hands and then sit to use the real paddle.  The youths were so terrified on this tremendous experience and showed their interest in learning this sport in the new horizon.  We also had the village children with big eyes roam through their dream that carry smiles of unrest hauntingly beautiful and dark, enjoying the paddling.

 

Never stand still. Move in a direction even if you crash or fall………

 

With an impressive experience and involvement from the youths, we ended the session and came back to the Centre for refreshments moving on to the next plan for the day.  I had brought few presentation on my recent expedition in Ganges to demonstrate the team on the necessity of conserving the water bodies and took them through the basic of the expeditions and a light touch on geo-basics.  The time was running out and we had no stop watch to stop it.  All the eyes were fixed on the screen with complete absence of sound.  We took a break for a healthy tea by the cook at the Centre.

 

Balaji gave a short presentation about the Org – “The foundation is a registered non-profit organization working on coastal ecosystem conservation issues through public awareness, research targeting the youths and children of the fisher folk community.  They are into ecological mangrove restoration, children environmental education programmes and also fisher women empowerment programmes with research programmes on mangroves, seagrass meadows by providing internship programmes both national and international research students to explore the natural resources of coastal and adjacent areas with field trips.

 

The Greatness… It does not come in big packages, it is, that small little steps and small little things you do with your heart!!!

 

We had a great session followed by a fulfilling lunch prepared by the cook. “I am in an eating mood.  A wag would say ‘sure Kumaran what’s new?’ But I know the difference, it’s a matter of control and today I have no control….Had a good rest in the afternoon.  

 

Evening started with a group picture.  A picture is worth a thousand words. I have these pictures in my head that give me a road map to the life I want to have….

 

We left again for the paddling but with one of the Palk center security Muthu who is also a native fisherman.  The sea as I close my eyes, and in I breathe, the salty air, of summer breeze, the sound of waves, kissing the shore, as crabs scuttle.. Oh the beauty, where sea meets land.  I went for paddling again and this time with snorkeling kit, however the sea was muddy and was not co-operative for taking pictures.

 

Back to shore, there goes my heart ripped out by the breeze and carried off by the miles of the wind, driving me insane, I spent some quality time with interviewing Muthu on how fishing helps their community and he gave clear insights about it.

 

Here we go with the next session on camping at the Center; I started the session late evening with my camping kit ready for the training and a live demo.  The students were trained with the basics of camping by explaining the kit displayed and the technique to assemble the camping tent.  Also, the basic requirements for a good camping are also taught.  The learning session ended with a group activity by splitting the students into two different groups and making them to assemble and dismantle the camping tent.  It was an energetic and active knowledge sharing session at the end of the day.

The sun sees your body and the moon sees your soul…..It was a perfect closing for the day and I went to bed with a contented soul with the moon watching above me.

 

Next day, Morning sunlight, I simply admire the way it merges with the dying darkness and made my last walk to the sea to do my paddling and this time with the entire group of students and also the kids from the village.  Of the sea, come take me to the sea that slices the sun in half and watch it bleed, our fears melting on the sea shores…. I had seen the vision of learning paddling in the eyes of each and every student present that morning with me which filled my soul with unexplained pleasure.  Every student did the paddling with me with more confidence than the previous day.  That gave me an immense delight that I have achieved my purpose of creating the awareness on the importance of the water sports, though to a smaller group but I believe that this is going to reach heights. I also did the paddling with the village kids who showed deep interest to paddle as this shallow water body is part of their family.

 

Never realized the time went by quickly and it was time to get started back to Chennai.  Sea water flows and with the sunshine it glows, Adventure follows…

 

Deep from my heart looking at her “Sea you Soon”