The wonderful festival of traditional South Indian boat racing – ‘Vallamkali’ - was held on 3 rd September 2011 at the Heart lake Conservation Park in Brampton. 16 teams had registered for the event, including many teams from USA. The races were held in heats format, as groups of teams put in energized displays of boat racing, vying to come first among strong contenders. It was almost like sparks fling from the water as the boats raced headlong for the finish line!
As the first heats started, the oarsmen built rhythm and speed into the race, bringing in ‘Jala Kesari Chundan’ from New York as first, and ‘Kairali Chundan’ from Scarborough as second. The second heats was very exiting as ‘Kalladayar Chundan’ from Mississauga edged out ‘iMalayalee Chundan’ for 1 st and 2 nd places. In the 3 rd heats, two rookie teams – ‘Canadian Chundan’ and ‘Palliyodam Padkuthira’ put in their best efforts to come 1 st and 2 nd. The last heats saw ‘Kairali Chundan’, ‘iMalayalee Chundan’ and ‘Palliyodam Padkuthira’ giving their all out efforts for a place in the final. After a fantastic duel, ‘Kairali Chundan’ from Scarborough came in first to go into the finals.
Mr. Vic Dhillon, MPP from Brampton West was witness to the races and spoke to the crowds about the excitement he shared with the fans on being part of the event.
Support from other community associations for the event was very much evident with the presence of Mr. John P John, President of Toronto Malayalee Samajam, Mrs. Mercy Elenjickal, President of Mississauga Kerala Association, Mr. George Kappukatt – President of Niagara Malayalee Association.
The boat race was preceded by the traditional festive Lunch – ‘OnaSadya’, served on plantain leaves. The lunch included 16 different varieties of South Indian dishes, served at a specially prepared tent on the shore of Heartlake. The Malayalee Diaspora that turned up early for the event had a mouth watering treat of these traditional dishes. Mr. Joseph Punnasseril, Mr. Sen Mathew, Mr. Sibicchen Joseph, Mr. Unni Nair, Mrs & Mr. Madhavan Ravi Varma, Mr. Fasil Mohammed, Mr. Chris Thomas and Mr. Joseph Vattapara ensured that the tasty dishes were arranged and served to all!
The event was not without incidents as the skies turned dark immediately after lunch and a gusty wind blew across the lake, threatening to uproot the festive tents. But the Malayalee crowd, hailing from Kerala in India – where monsoon and rains are rampant – did not lose heart. Not wanting to miss that their beloved boat race, they withstood the heavy downpour, sure that the wind would blow the rains away. And shortly it did – the sun came out, the heat was gone - to bring on the perfect boat racing climate!
The race started with a procession laced with the heritage of Kerala, as the legendary King ‘Maveli’, visited his people and wished them happiness, good health and wealth. The crowds were moved by the rhythm and passion of traditional drums ‘Chenda melam’, performed by Niagara Tharangam. Traditional art forms like ‘Kavadiyaatom’, and ‘Kuthira kali’ added charm to the procession. Mr. Manoj Karatha carried the ever-rolling Canadian Nehru trophy to the podium and Mr. Kurian Baby- President of BMS, unfurled the Indian flag as the Indian national anthem was sung. This was followed by a Water Procession “Jalaghoshayathra”, as boats carrying vivid umbrellas added color and beauty to the clear waters of Heartlake.
The guests meanwhile were curious to see the beautiful floral arrangement ‘Athapookalam’ laid by Mr. Shibu Daniel & Shaun Mathew. And as the races started, a traditional Keralite food pavilion ‘Thattu kada’ manned by Mr. Mathai Mathullah, Mr. Moncy, Mr. Jose Cochin foods, and Mr. Kenneth started serving excellent Keralite snacks to re-energize the crowds and the teams.
As the awards were presented, Brampton Malayalee Samajam was keen to highlight the efforts of the Race director Mr. Biju Thayilachira and Race Manager Mr. Salin Joseph, the team registrar Mr. Madhavan Vasudevan, the start line officials Mr. Biju Mathews and Mr. Fazil Mohammed, the lifeguards including Mr. Shaun Mathew and F.A.S.T Rescue, the boat provider- Capt. Ramsay and his crew, the photographs provided by Mr. Abraham Mathew and Mr. Madhavan Ravi Varma, the senior Judges panel at the finish line, the excellent commentary provided by Mr. Rajeev, and sound system support provided by Mr. Dominic Joseph. Dr. Elsy Jacob, acting president of BMS mentioned he special thanks to the crew from ATN Television, Jaihind Television, Brampton Guardian Newspaper, South Asian Focus newspaper, Madhurageetam Radio and to Minister Linda Jeffrey and MPP Vic Dhillon for their support to the event.
Many individuals had come out with voluntary support for the event, along with sponsors like Family Optical, K&K Refrigeration, Kenedy Ruth Dental Center, Brampton MediPlex, Air Route travels, Cochin Foods, Fahim’s catering, Elegant Blinds, Pullum Luke and others. Without their financial support this event would not have happened.
For the people attending this event– the whole event was a welcome change as they were able to eat traditional lunch ‘Onasadya’ in open air, at the lakeside! They enjoyed a Carnival atmosphere with Chendamelam, Jalakhoshayathra, and a thrilling boat race This was a super package from Brampton Malayalee Samajam to the people of Kerala on the occasion of Onam festival!
Secretary, Brampton Malayalee Samajam