Community award for The Blue Yonder
Since inception of The Blue Yonder in Feb 2004, there were three recognitions that came our way. First was when Outlook Traveller chose River Nila as one of the top 5 River Journeys in India in their 5 th anniversary issue in 2005. Then came highly commended mention at the Responsible Tourism Awards at the 2006 WTM in London for using tourism as a tool for poverty reduction and the last was the Honourable mention as a tour operator at the 2007 Conde Naste Travel World Savers Award in NYC. Though we were excited about these recognitions, what touched our heart most was when our community members decided to gather together in Thrissur in Kerala last month to give an award to acknowledge the work we are doing in Responsible Tourism along River Nila.
Vayali and TBY were born in the same year. We both had the single minded objective of bringing attention of the world to our dying river, which has been the cradle of culture and civilization for eons. While Vayali went around gathering folk art forms and folk songs of Nila, especially from the Valluvanad region, TBY took the initiative to bring in sensitive travelers from across the world to see the whole process. For the traveller, it was a great opportunity to go through the process rather than looking at tourism as a stage managed 'product'. For us, those who spent our childhood on the banks of River Nila, it was the opportunity to bring together those who loved our river, the people and the culture, which is fast eroding into oblivion.
Since last four years, with support from Nila Foundation, we have been working with folk musicians, percussionists, martial arts experts, sand miners, folk artists, potters, serpent worshippers and fire worshippers. River Nila was the link that brought all of them together. It was overwhelming for us to be recognised amongst our own people. What we started as a short term project is now a life time work and we know the recognition we have received from our own people is only increasing our responsibilities to respond positively to the surroundings we live in!
Depicting eco history of communities across the world, the memento gifted by Vayali was crafted by 'Narayanettan' who is one amongst the many 'caste' potters who were born into families living on the banks of Nila. The 'Kumbhara' community migrated to Nila from Telungana region of Andhra Pradesh several hundred years before. Similar to many other skilled artisans who settled along Nila who came from places like Tanjore, Ujjain and rest of the country, these potters are now etched in the civilization that we call as Nila
Art on its sunny side up: Shopping Responsibly
Have you traveled to the same place twice? Have you ever gone back looking for familiar faces? Have you ever looked closely at a souvenir or an artifact that you picked up from a far away place? Have you cared to find out where it was made? Who made it? How it was made?
We know so little about what we own. It comes with a price tag and that’s the end of the transaction.
Especially in a country like India – the myriad, meandering, contrasting images can be overwhelming. India is spread across 28 states, but it’s almost like 28 separate countries – different languages, dialects, faiths, festivals, rituals, arts, crafts, traditions and beliefs - a lifetime of experiences. What’s fascinating is people actually get around the country constantly adapting, evolving, diversifying, sharing and protecting.
What a potter can do with his clay, and a dancer can do with space, a painter can do with paint, a musician can do with sound, a storyteller can do with words, a singer can do with voice, a sculptor can do with his hands and a crafts person can do with his mind - a relationship that an artist has with that medium.
Post Tsunami intervention and Sustainable Tourism:
An Interview with Madhavan Namboodiri , a technical consultant to a disaster management project in Alapuzha, Kerala who is concerned about tourism invading into this area without the consent of local community members.
TBY: What happened in the village of Arattupuzha during and after Tsunami?
MN:The Tsunami, which struck Arattupuzha (Alappuzha District, Kerala, India) on the 26th of December 2004, resulted in loss of life of about 25 persons, shelter and livelihood of hundreds of people. A Project entitled “Local Initiatives in Mitigating the Environmental and Livelihood Problems of a Tsunami affected Panchayath in Alappuzha District, Kerala, India”, was initiated during April 2006 by SEUF with financial and technical assistance from AREED, France, in order to support a community managed sustainable programme for mitigating the environmental and livelihood problems of Arattupuzha Panchayat, caused by the Tsunami of December 2004. This project was named as Punarjani, which, in Sanskrit means, revival/restoration. Based on the lessons learned from and recommendations of a Preparatory Phase (April – December 2006), a Project Implementation Plan (PIP), for the Second Phase was approved and the implementation started in January 2007 and by December 2007, just completed one year. The initial results and lessons learned are so exciting and all the stakeholders agreed that this programme should continue with slightly changed focus. Discussions on the scope and need for preparing long term plan for mitigating the environmental and livelihood problems of critical coastal region is going on amongst stake holders. Meanwhile this Action Plan for the Second Year (2008) is being developed to assist in implementing the project in 2008.