Kerala ‘vallomkali’ in England

Another weekend with Amma and another scorching day. There is a programme arranged to encourage Kerala tourism and the Nehru trophy snake boat race which is held annually in the Punnamada lake in Kerala is coming to Oxford. Kumar annan and his drum team have been invited to perform and we decided to go and watch them.

The boat race is being held at Farmoor Reservoir which is about 5 mikes from the city of Oxford. We left home around 1030. The satnav initially said that we would get there in about a couple of hours but then it took us on a wild goose chase. There were hold ups on the motorway and the satnav kept changing it’s mind and rerouting us. Tempers slowly started to get frayed and bladders started filling up. Lakshmi became hot and bothered and I wondered if the best course was just to come back home.

We stopped at a service station, refuelled and morale returned. Soon we were parking the car and walking to the entrance. Kumar annan and team were waiting not far from the entrance and our timing was perfect. They started their drum roll as we joined the group and followed the racing teams from the entrance to the venue.

The function started and the announcements began. For a programme that was meant to encourage tourism, the leaflets, announcements and speeches were all in Malayalam. And so were the audience. The place was teeming with Malayalees with very few English or Europeans.

It was lunchtime and the choices were far too many. We settled for fresh parrottas and curry. Finding a shady area to sit was our next quest. I forgot to bring the plastic mat and so my cardigan had to be sacrificed. We then joined the rest of the group as the speeches got underway. The Speaker from the Kerala assembly and an MLA were the main guests for the afternoon. We didn’t have much to do and so decided to go for a walk. It was too hot and Amma decided to stay back and look after our bags.

We walked around the reservoir and headed down the stairs, here we found a pathway which lead us to the riverbank. The narrow path which was created amongst nettles and thistles gave way to a reed meadow as we approached the river. Part of the walk along the riverbank was in the shade and the breeze kept us cool for the rest of the walk. Dragonflies and butterflies buzzed around us as we made our way. Lone swans drifted around leisurely and looked as if they were lost in their own thoughts. I had left my phone back in my bag and so couldn’t take any photos. Ducks gathered in groups under the shade provided by a low tree which hung over the river. Occasionally a boat drifted past without making too much noise so as to not disturb the wildlife. A board reminded us that warblers and water voles inhabited the route.

Soon it was time for us to return. Lakshmi was falling asleep and the walk was taking us further away from the venue. The boat races had started, and we found some shade and sat down to let Lakshmi have her afternoon nap. She woke up in time to see the last part of the boat race. By this time the heat was getting less intense and we took Amma for a quick walk down to the river bank again to take some photos. The swans and ducks had disappeared but a couple of dogs were having a swim and a couple of canoes went past.

When we got back a band was playing. The lead singer was singing Malayalam devotional/classical songs to the accompaniment of a rock band. It was a strange mix. As I tried to make some sense I realised that I was enjoying it and found myself tapping along to the beat. He ended his stint with a ‘Vallom Kali’ song and everyone joined in and had fun.

The main guest for the evening was Shashi Tharoor. He was meant to arrive at around 6. It was now well past 7. Kumar annan and co had to stay behind to welcome him with their drum session. We decided to leave. We still had a long drive home. As we drove our car out of the car park we could hear the helicopter bringing Tharoor land. Politicians and their time keeping, what did we expect? Most people were already on their way home.

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