Women to row in Kerala boat race

August 6th, 2008 - 6:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Kottayam, Aug 6 (IANS) A boat club in Kerala is all set to enter the record books when 116 women will row a 35-metre-long snake boat at the 56th edition of an annual race to be held at the Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha. Barring four men, who would be standing and controlling the boat, the oars during Nehru Boat Race would be used by only women, Mathew Thomas of the Kumarakom Vanitha Boat Club told IANS.

“This is the first time that an all-women team is handling oars and this is happening for the first time on a snake boat,” said Thomas.

The team has been practising at Kumarakom for the past two days.

Said an oarswoman: “This is a dream come true for me and for many of us who have become oarswomen.”

“We are mere labourers and to get an opportunity like this is something which we can never ever forget,” she said as she was about to row a snake boat for a trial run.

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race commemorates former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to the state in 1952 when a boat-pageant accompanied him on his trip from Kottayam to Alappuzha.

The first race was conducted impromptu at that time in Nehru’s honour. Thrilled by the performance of the oarsmen, Nehru jumped into a snake boat disregarding security arrangements and protocol. The boat proceeded to the jetty with him on board.

On returning to Delhi, Nehru donated to the oarsmen a silver trophy, which is a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus, with an inscription and his signature.

“The snake boat that we will be using for the exhibition event during the Nehru boat race is made of metal and not like the conventional snake boat made out of wood,” said Thomas, who has been designated captain of the all-women boat team.

“Since this is the first time that women are taking on the oars, there have to be experienced people to control the snake boat and hence there are four men, including me. Next year there won’t be any man on the boat,” Thomas added.

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