Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Mixing Fun With A Cause

12-year-old Rayn Kodithodi, on a stand-up paddle, is trying to create awareness of environmental damage to rivers

By Shevlin Sebastian

On September 23, around 50 kayakers, from different parts of the country, set out, on the ‘Chaliyar River Challenge’, from the town of Nilambur. And in this group, there was one person who stood out. He was the 12­year­old Rayn Kodithodi.

Unlike the others, he was on a stand­up paddle. Clad in a white T­shirt and blue shorts, with a black helmet, and sandals, he moved forward, using the oar, with skill and confidence.

There were some tough moments, when I encountered some rapids,” he would say later, to this reporter at Kozhikode.

Nevertheless, Rayn coolly navigated the waters till they reached Beypore, 68 kms away, three days later. Along the way, the group picked up slippers, water bottles, and food waste wrapped in plastic packets. “The Chaliyar is a garbage dump,” says Rayn. “It is only when you go on a kayak or a stand­up paddle that you understand how bad the river is. People throw so many things into the river.”

It is to create awareness of this environmental harm that Rayn’s father, Kaushiq, along with his wife, Ruby, started the Jellyfish Project, based at Cheruvannur, near Kozhikode city, three years ago. “We want to tell people to avoid throwing waste into the waters,” says Kaushiq. “We are also focusing on schoolchildren so that, at least, the next generation will be sensitised about the issue.”

Their son has been sensitised. “I will never throw anything into the river,” he says.

Ruby says that for children, kayaking is the easiest and safest way to explore rivers. “And it is a far better hobby than watching TV or playing video games,” she says.

It was at age four that Kaushiq put Rayn in his first kayak at Dubai, where the former works as a sales director in an IT company. “I held my first kayak paddle at the age of six, and from that point onwards I got hooked,” says Rayn. “But after a few years when my dad got me a Stand Up Paddle board, I knew that this would be my favourite water sport activity.”

Rayn pauses and says, “Paddling is fun. It gives me joy. When I am on a stand­up paddle, I don’t have a care in the world. And it is always good to be in close touch with nature and water.”

But there have been some harrowing moments. Once when Rayn was in a kayak, on the Chaliyar, a 10 cms long spider fell inside the boat. Rayn became frightened. “The spider remained motionless,” says Kaushiq, who was in another kayak. “Meanwhile, I managed to calm Rayn down. We pushed the kayak to the shore. Then my son got out. We upturned the kayak and the spider calmly moved away.”

Says a smiling Rayn: “I really got scared at that time.”

But, for the most part, he is relaxed and smiling. At the conclusion of the ‘Chaliyar Challenge’, in celebration, Rayn jumped fully clothed from a boat into the water.

Like his father, Rayn has been an active campaigner. On July 23, he also took part in the ‘Catch of The Day’ programme at Cheruvannur. The ‘catch’ was the garbage, collected by a few boys.

Incidentally, the waste that is collected will be recycled. “We are working closely with a wastemanagement expert, Dr. Reena Anilkumar,” says Kaushiq. Asked whether he will do conservation efforts, like his father, when he grows up, Rayn says, “Most probably.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)

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