Sunday, December 18, 2016

Alappuzha, Kerala, India

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held in a town* district called Alappuzha ( the -uzha to rhyme with barracuda ) in Kerala, is an early example of things being named after deceased members of the Nehru clan. It conveniently happens on the second Saturday of every August so you can stretch it to Independence Day and get a nice long weekend trip out of it. Although, if you are indeed able to make a long weekend out of Independence Day you are better off going somewhere else. It's an event with history and an integral part of their culture, the locals love it, the author has lived most of his life in landlocked cities, and despite all these things in its favour it didn't impress.

To begin with, it's the naval, pre-Industrial Revolution equivalent of Drag Racing, which is an odd choice of name for a sport which only involves going straight. It's exciting the first time but it soon proceeds on a misdirected journey of self-realisation to become, indeed, a drag. For those interested in the results or the event in general, the entire commentary is in Malayalam and is tough to follow for someone whose exposure to the language is limited to Appangal Embadum plus five more words, three of which are inappropriate even for sports commentary. The exorbitant ticket prices for the front row seats don't seem justified until shortly after the opening ceremony gets over. That is when the area gets invaded by drunk locals, albeit the jolly types, followed by my demoting it to a ripoff because I'm not fond of hanging out with lots of drunk strangers never mind how jolly they are. A much better return on investment can be had by not buying tickets at all and just winging it with the locals to a convenient, if not as good, viewing point near the shore, in the water, or possibly even the ticketed pavilion itself. Even snacks, the universal assuaging device from airlines to large family gatherings, aren't easily available.


We drove from Bangalore and reached late on the night before the races which meant we effectively had a morning and a few hours in the evening to savour the town. In a nut shell, and it's a shame that coconuts aren't nuts otherwise it would have made for a nice segue, there is a beach, the restaurant on the beach has some great appams, and every restaurant seems to have plenty of sea food and beef. There are no noteworthy sights but there are some noteworthy smells here and there.

Even in God's own country, children are jerks.

Crows can be sentimental too. Plus the trauma of being a part of a murder.
( When the water comes close, they turn around and hop away like a lazy coward. )

If someone tries to console you with the 'plenty of fish in the sea' phrase,
a reasonable response is to inquire about the number of fishermen.

Tweet length proofs and infallible answers to T/F questions.

Lead Up to The Boat Race

It's a struggle to figure out where to pick up the tickets and it's unclear how to leave before the event's over. The part in between is like any other event in India where you try to beat the crowd to the good seats, conjure up some space between two people, compress your pelvis to squeeze into that space, and then spend a decent span of time just waiting for things to kick off and praying you don't get cramps until after it ends. During this time, you can spot the participants warming up and figure out whom not to cheer for. This continues till the chief guest arrives, as expected, and contrary to the spirit of a race, an hour or so late.

Not particularly highbrow.

If that is indeed the boat of the ministers then it is very noble of them to not have a beacon on it.

A boat called Agni is very close to Drag Racing on the irony.
If you didn't get it, you didn't read the text.

Scantily dressed cheerleader.

Because the races are on the main course?

When your school forces you to sell fete tickets and your rich uncle bails you out on the last day.

The umpires surrender before it's even started.

The best things in life are for free.
That boat in the background is the all-women boat which everybody applauds for despite it being the slowest boat.
It's a short journey from here to equal prize money.

The Opening Ceremony

All the clubs line up in front of the dais as lamps are lit and people are garlanded. There are some ceremonies, some sort of speech, and some sort of aerobics and then everybody heads to the starting line. If you know someone tall and fluent in Malayalam, they should be able to give a better account of it.

When you've been a really, really, really bad girl.

When everybody's been a really, really, really bad girl.

Literacy rates are high so they can't have thought him to be Speeder man.

The Boat Race Itself

To me it seemed like the competition had a bunch of heats and the winners were pitted against each other in the finals. The wait between races is quite long so unless you concentrate you can lose track of what is happening and which stage the event is in. I am now going to proceed on a speculative-informative section about how the boats are staffed.

As far as I could tell, each boat had broadly three groups of people.

There is this lot. They periodically thump the floor of the boat to help the rowers keep rhythm.
Think of them as the project management guys.
The fish hate having them upstairs.

I suspect these guys do the job of the rudder. They seemed to be putting the least amount of effort.
I think of them as sales.

And the hottest, smartest guys who do all the actual work i.e. the tech teams.

It gets over by the evening so there is some more time to go sit at the beach or just walk around aimlessly.

Driving Through Kerala

We had another couple of days after the boat races got over and, as a result of some extremely poor planning, spent most of them in the car. The breakdown is as follows:
Day 1: Driving to Munnar over almost the whole of one day
Day 2: Driving to Bangalore over almost the whole of one day

When you aren't driving, and the tall guy isn't driving either.

It wasn't.

I checked and I'm afraid that this fertiliser company is rather boringly called Popsons and not Poopsoons.

Cumbum. The sort of name that keeps postmen going on those dull days.

However, if so many towns are named in line with the juvenile
insults theme then postmen probably don't have many dull days.

The sticker says,"Jesus is my GPS."
The technology scene in Israel must be really lucrative for him to give up his previous job.

A device that simultaneously attracts gay people and helps you keep them at a distance.

When entering Munnar.
You must feel silly sitting in a car called Swift.

Deck up an auto like a tank to fool espionage satellites into thinking our forces are mobile.
Laugh at Pakistan when they panic and attack us.

Destroying your own market.

* Geography correction. Thanks, Panda.

No comments:

Post a Comment