Friends from across the border

International camaraderie at the UNIFI capital ASRA Regatta Race 2010 at Koovattur, ECR. Photo: M. Karunakaran   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

The silent backwaters of Koovathur village along the East Coast Road came to life as the young rowers from 52 schools in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India sped up their oars at the Association of School Rowing in Asia (ASRA) Regatta 2010.

Students from Sri Lanka and Pakistan were all excited to be a part of this prestigious event and were in awe of the beautiful location. For many it was their first international race and their first trip to India.

Janveeka Gunarathna, Mariam Omar, Amshi Demen and Anukshi Sumanapala from Bishop's College, Sri Lanka, were beaming as they stepped out of the sculls after finishing first in the girls coxed fours. “It was an awesome race. We have performed well as a team,” they said.

“This is our first trip outside our country as a crew. The regatta was a good exposure for all of us.” The cheerful, enthusiastic Sri Lankan team also bagged the overall award.

Friendly neighbours

Salma Arif, (Std VII), Hakim Faiz (Std VIII) and Mashal Fariq Khan (Std IX) of the Karachi Grammar School, Pakistan, were proud to take home their hard-earned medals. “We are representing our country here and are overwhelmed to take home these gold medals.”

They said that the three-day camp was a beautiful experience. The rowing team had some difficulties in getting their visas approved and had reached India a little late. “We didn't get time to adjust with the atmosphere and water. Here the boats are lighter and the water is rough compared to ours. But we still managed to do well.” The camp served as an opportunity for them to meet people from different places.

“Rowing is a new sport in Karachi. Yet, sponsors came forward to support us. People think that women are not allowed to participate in sports in Pakistan. But it is not so. We get a lot of encouragement. Our school even has a good rowing team,” said Hakim.

Salma said that India is really green compared to their country. “All the participants are very friendly. There is no hatred even when competing with each other. They would come and wish us good luck,” they added.


Azeem Adamjee and Musab Siddiqui of the Lyceum School, Karachi, Pakistan, who won the Men's Double Scull, said they saw good sportsmanship among the participants.

“They respect each other and for sure there is good friendship between India and Pakistan.” They added, “Over the past few years, rowing has seen more growth. Hopefully next time Pakistan will be able to host the regatta.”

The participants managed to find some time to go around the city and do some shopping. “Chennai is a busy, lively city,” they said. The girls were a little disappointed that they didn't get time for sight-seeing. They found the Indian food different, while the boys said that it was much the same and they liked the dinners. “We are looking forward to the dinner party on the concluding day,” they said excitedly.

Rowing the whole day didn't stop the students from dancing their hearts out at the party before bidding farewell to their new friends from India and Sri Lanka.

Meher Dilbabai, the young coach of Lyceneum Rowing team, said that the teams were friendly and good to them. “The senior category had some tough competitions. The Sri Lankan teams did a good job,” he said.

“There are participants from many states likeWest Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Assam, Rajasthan and Karnataka besides Pakistan and Sri Lanka. We took interest in rowing when we heard that there are 14 gold medals in Olympics for this sport. But the level of awareness about the sport in our country is very less. So we attempt to bring more attention towards this sport through this regatta,” said Sarath Reddy, UNIFI Capital.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 6:00:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/Friends-from-across-the-border/article16119258.ece

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