Though they were born in two different places on the banks of Kerala’s second largest river, the Bharathapuzha, their common passion for reviving the dying river and infusing a new lease of life into the vibrant cultures it nurtured brought Kochi-based travel photographer Ajay Menon and Pondicherry-based responsible tourism campaigner Gopinath Parayil together.
Ajay, born in the artists’ village of Vellinezhy, and Gopinath, who hails from Ponnani, where the Nila merges with the Arabian sea, are now on a mission to fuel a conservation campaign for the river, which reduces to a trickle during summer due to large-scale encroachments and deforestation.
As part of a photo-documentation initiative, more than a dozen travel photographers from across the world would reach Palakkad by July second week to initiate a monsoon journey through the river from its origins in the Anamalai hills to its merging point at Ponnani.
Exhibition on cards
The drive will last 14 days and the outcome will be exhibited globally. The initiative will also involve meeting opinion-makers, artists, environmentalists, writers, cultural personalities, artisans, painters, performing art experts and so on who have been nurtured by the river. “It is a monsoon photography journey inspired by the river. While I would suggest the frames to be taken, Gopinath will do the duty of the story teller,” said Mr. Ajay.
Mr. Gopinath, founder and one of the trustees of the non-profit Nila Foundation and the initiator of responsible tourism movement The Blue Yonder, rediscovered his bond with the river when he visited the river to pay obeisance to his father. “It wasn’t even the beginning of summer, there was little water in the river and I had to literally roll over to make sure that my body was wet enough,” he says. “The journey is a sequel to many initiatives we launched in recent years to protect the river. We are bringing together a larger collective of lovers of the Bharathapuzha. They have one thing in common — the dying river. The river they couldn’t live without; the river they want to share with the next generation,” he said.
Stories of the river
While supporting the official initiatives to revive the Nila, both Mr. Gopinath and Mr. Ajay want to revitalise its rich legacy. “The memories of the river can be revived by collecting stories that are linked to the river, and also by documenting the music, the traditions, rituals and art forms associated with the river,” said Mr. Gopinath.
Those who wish to be part of the initiative may contact them. Phone: 91-99524 23593. Email — sneha@theblueyonder. com