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Velas - The joy of life - By Ajinkya Pandharkar
I hate sitting at home.
Sometimes, I feel we have so little time in this world to experience everything that life has to offer. And in those moments, I realise how there are so many places to see and so many things to do. And so, on one fairly relaxed weekend, I decided to go to Velas for the turtle festival!
The weekend arrived and we were to travel not very far away from Mumbai… on the western coast of India… to a village called Velas. It is a small fishing hamlet in Ratnagiri district with almost nothing than can hold the fascination of a typical urban traveller.
There is no cell phone network too! Shocking? If it had nothing, why did we go there, you ask? The villagers there were doing something really worthwhile and beautiful. And only when you see what they are doing, do you realize that technology is not the pre-requisite for achieving something.
When we reached our homestay, a small bungalow, around 1.00 pm, there were 50 other visitors like us. Note that there are no hotels in Velas.
The village natives offer their own homes to stay; they offer a bedroll to sleep in the backyard of their bungalows. We arranged for our resting space while homemade lunch was being cooked. It seemed to be a perfect place to seclude yourself from all the city chores one is part of.
But hey! We were not here to relax.
We were eager for the clock to strike five and get to the beach soon –to witness a breath-taking event that was soon to take place.
Once we were done with the tea, we headed towards the beach. Hordes of enthusiastic visitors were excited to observe a rare view. Every one of us was there to catch a glimpse of tiny little Olive Ridley turtles making their way to the Arabian Sea and enter their world.
Every year, this nondescript village of Velas bears a witness to this truly heart-warming sight, as thousands of newly-hatched Olive Ridley turtles take their first steps towards the big blue sea. The tiny limbs were finding directions and moving ahead.
We were awestruck with the wonderful sight and seeing the volunteers helping the tiny creatures to reach to the waves.
FROM POACHING TO PROTECTING
What once started as a small-scale activity to protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtle eggs from poaching has now transformed into a large-scale movement undertaken by the #SahayadriNisargaMitra.
Every year, they follow the mother turtle to see the spot where she lays eggs. Soon after, these eggs are taken to a safe zone. With utmost care, they are buried, yet again, under the sand in a fenced area so that nobody can harm them.
Volunteers know the estimated day of hatching. Once the turtles surface on the ground, they are safely taken near the coast.
VELAS TURTLE FESTIVAL
Every year the Velas Turtle Festival is organised in the months of February and March with the hard work of the volunteers of Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra and contribution of villagers. Mohan Upadhye leads the team and has been successful in conditioning the villagers to save this endangered species.
What can I say, to me it was truly an experience of a lifetime!
To see life crawl its way to its destiny – a tiny hatchling finding its way on the sandy beaches towards the sea – is simply stunning.
Thanks to the likes of Mohan and his team the world over, who are diligently doing their bit to make this world a better place to live!