That’s what the organisers of the Oz Fest proved to be last Saturday on the Marina. With yoga at daybreak, a knock-out cricket contest, a DJ spinning popular tracks… beach-goers never had a dull moment

Yoga by the beach is inspiring, even if it means picking your way through the sands of the Marina at 5.45 a.m., bleary-eyed and listless. With the sun still tucked in its bed, it was dark all around, yet a group of 80 yoga enthusiasts were already on their mats. Yoga instructor Alex Medin from Norway, popularly known as the “Spiritual Gangster”, went over to the makeshift podium to lead the group.

This event was part of the Oz Fest, organised by the Australian Consulate General in Chennai, in association with Carrot Adworks, 136.1 Yoga Studio and Chennai Live. “Since Australia and Chennai share a passion for the beach, we thought of organising an Aussie Beach Day. It's a wonderful platform to promote activities that are common to both the countries,” said David Holly, Australia's Consul-General to South India.

Oz Fest was launched in October last year when Australian Prime Minister Julia Guillard visited the city. This fest has so far been held in 18 cities in India of which eight are in the South. The order of events for the day included yoga, followed by a knock-out beach cricket contest and an evening of DJ music.

Chanting and yoga

The yoga session conducted by 136.1 Yoga Studio started off with 11 rounds of chanting. By the time we opened our eyes after the chanting, the sun was up and the sky, the colour of an apricot. “Time of sunrise — 6.23 a.m. So let's start with surya namaskar,” smiled a lean and flexible Medin. There was soothing background music, as Australian duo Edo and Jo sang kirtans to the soft strumming of the guitar, and the gentle strains of the harmonium and flute. It was all quite beautiful and rejuvenating; never mind the occasional bouts of yawning. We began to feel like celebrities as a motley crowd of onlookers gathered, some looking at us in awe.

There was a pleasant breeze. A few clouds in the sky helpfully shrouded the sun so it didn't get too uncomfortable for those on the beach. Next, Medin instructed us to stand on one leg, hold the big toe of the other leg and stretch it out. The other trainers from 136.1 walked around monitoring our moves and helping us balance, saving a few from landing on the sand in an undignified manner. This practice apparently helps one find his/her balance. (I am still trying to find mine, though!)

The organisers of Oz Fest seemed particular about not missing out on details. As a result, photographers stationed around took photographs, and a crane-mounted video camera panned the sands, capturing the activities.

The 90-minute yoga experience ended, but it wasn't the end of entertainment for the day. It was time for beach cricket. There were eight teams in the fray. These included universities and corporate houses. Cricket always manages to garner followers, no matter what time of the day it is played, the venue or the players.

This game, however, had a few rules that were different. The matches were all limited to six overs and each team comprised 10 players. Each team was entitled to a power over, during which the runs scored would be doubled.

The first match between The Hindu and Hindustan College had many anxious moments. After winning the toss, The Hindu team elected to bowl first. Hindustan lost its first and second wicket for 11 runs. With the final six balls remaining, the batting side opted for the power over. In a frenzy to double his team’s runs, one of the young batsmen tried to sneak a single when there wasn’t a possibility, ending up getting run-out. Maybe the catchy beats of Gangnam style blaring from the speakers inspired him to leave the crease.

Team Hindu required 52 runs to win. The batting opened on a rather slow note and a wicket was down in the second over when the team had notched up only seven runs.

The puli aattam performers danced around, one of them painted like a tiger shouting, “Six podu pa!” As if on cue, Shagant hit the tennis ball for a huge six, followed by two more, taking the total to 34/4. With nine balls remaining and 17 runs to win Shagant lost his wicket. It began to feel like a movie plot now, with the drama building up. In the final over, the team needed to score 15 off six balls and opted for the power over. Ranjith managed two consecutive sixes doing for The Hindu what Dhoni did for Team India in that famed World Cup win. With that The Hindu moved to the semi-finals. The next few matches saw B.S. Abdur Rahman University beat VIT, Infosys beat Chennai Live and Scope International beat Vodafone. Unfortunately, The Hindu lost to Scope in the semis, while Scope went on to win the overall contest, taking home a glittering trophy. “Made of crystals?” we asked Holly, who replied with a grin, “I’d like to say diamonds,” but, “no, actually it’s just a meticulously crafted trophy.”

Meanwhile, there was action in the sea too as three bright-hued Australian-designed 29er class yachts from the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association daintily sailed past, giving excited onlookers ample time to click pictures.

The evening was rather sunny and muggy. But it did not deter people from flocking to their favourite haunt — the Marina. DJ Nabarun Ghosh belted out a mix of Indian and Australian music. ‘Hookah Bar’, ‘Varriya’, ‘Muqabla Muqabla’, ‘Ottha Sollala’... more people gathered, enjoying sweet corn and ice cream as they listened to the foot-tapping music. In the distance, a bajji vendor swayed to the beats of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Cant Get You Out of My Head’, as she spiritedly dunked batter-slathered molagas into hot oil. Certainly a far cry from the kind of music she usually listened to on her transistor but nevertheless she seemed to be having as good a time as the busload of people who alighted and strolled along the shore.

The Oz Fest organisers in their orange T-shirts sat back tired but were all smiles about an event that managed to keep beach-goers thoroughly entertained on Saturday.