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Interview Indian paddler Manik Taneja Co-organizer of the Malabar River Festival

Published on avril 12th, 2020 | by Kayak Session https://www.kayaksession.com/img-current-issue/upload-your-video.png

Corona Diaries #18, Manik Taneja (India)

Outside, rivers are starting to flow and spring is around the corner, and the sun is shining high. Yet around the world, many are grounded at home and it seems likely others soon will be. Though difficult, let’s repeat it, folks this is THE THING TO DO! It is necessary and worth it!

So, we at Kayak Session decided to take the opportunity to catch up with our friends in the whitewater community and see how they are coping across the globe.

Today we talk with Indian paddler Manik Taneja Co-organizer of the Malabar River Festival , who is stuck at home in Bangalore (India).

« There are stories and visuals of people with their families trying to walk back for more than 400 kilometers to get to their villages !!! » 

How zit Manik, where are you and what is the situation like where you are? 

Big hello from Bangalore, India. As you would imagine, I am stuck at home with the wife along with two cats and a dog for company.  The overall situation is not too bad, fortunately we aren’t facing a massive outbreak of the likes that we have been seeing in a lot of the western countries. All the same, the national government have decided to impose a mandatory 21 day lockdown.  The jury is out on whether this was a good decision . On one hand the intention was to control the virus from going out of hand since everyone understands that things can go out of control really quickly in a country like India but on the other, a large number of poor people and daily wage labourers were caught unawares. There are stories and visuals of people with their families trying to walk back for more than 400 kilometers to get to their villages !!!  One of the reasons that this happened was because in  such circumstances , rumour mills start spin on overdrive. One rumour that was going around was that this shutdown might last for 3 months and this created a lot of panic within the working class community. Many of them thought that if they were going to starve then that might as well starve at home with their families.   Hard decision for the government :  damned if they do, damned if they don’t.  

« the situation is extremely bad for all those in the whitewater industry up north near the Himalayas.  As far as they are concerned this is an absolute disaster of a season , more so for a large number of river guides who are freelance guides and not on a regular payroll. « 

Indian paddler Manik Taneja Co-organizer of the Malabar River Festival

How has Covid-19 impacted your plans for the season? Will the Malabar fest take place this year?

For us in South India, it is off season till the monsoons. Mid June is when the kayaking season starts so on a personal front there isn’t much kayaking anyway. However, the situation is extremely bad for all those in the whitewater industry up north near the Himalayas.  As far as they are concerned this is an absolute disaster of a season , more so for a large number of river guides who are freelance guides and not on a regular payroll. I fear this will seriously dent the future of paddle-sport in India since quite a few of them may be forced to seek other professions.  I hope I am wrong about this. 

« About 95% of the people are staying home. But then 5% of our population is more than the entire population of France » 

From a professional point of view, there isn’t much going on with us as well. Our kayaking classes and river camps are all suspended till the foreseeable future. In light of all what is happening it would be really optimistic for me to say that Malabar 2020 will happen.   Even if things get better soon , I am not too keen in having government spend money on the festival this year. The focus for the government should be to revive the local industry as soon as possible and get people back to work. At this point I would like to take a step back, reevaluate our business model and look ahead for the 2021. 

What is the Indian population reaction to the stay home – is it respected?

About 95% of the people are staying home. But then 5% of our population is more than the entire population of France .  Jokes apart, the streets are fairly empty but every country has some idiots and we have our share of those too. 

How do you spend most of your time?

I am also a software programmer by profession.  I have a day job at cloud computing company based out of California that also has an office in Bangalore. One of the good things about a software job is that you can work out anywhere where you have a good internet connection. Even before I was forced to stay home I was mostly working from home or somewhere near the river, therefore for me it is not such a big change workwise. 

 « Even if things get better soon , I am not too keen in having government spend money on the festival this year ».

manik taneja malabar river festival organizer (India)

How are you maintaining fitness and your sanity? Can you get any exercise or paddle at all?

No way I can go kayaking. The closest river during this season is about eight hours (by road) away.  I spend about an hour or two everyday with my mountain bike in the parking lot of my apartment building. There is a lot to learn and many new techniques that I am trying to learn, which I believe are helping my flexibility, agility and general fitness levels.  I feel like this experience and cross training will help me improve as a kayaker whenever I am able to get back at it , that is.  

« My mom has this saying that she uses whenever she thinks I need a pep talk “tough times don’t last but tough people do ! ». 

What are you watching right now? Any (kayak) porn recommendations? 

To be honest I am watching Netflix and mountain biking tutorials. Whenever I do watch a kayaking video it just makes me miss it more so I feel it is better to focus on things that more relevant to the times that we are living in. 

Any words of wisdom for your fellow paddlers across the world?

The situation I am sure is not at all easy for a lot of people and paddlers around the world, especially those whose primary means of living is connected to the sport.  All I can say is try to stay positive, look up and take this time as an opportunity to invest in yourself.  My mom has this saying that she uses whenever she thinks I need a pep talk “tough times don’t last but tough people do !” . 

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