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DEEPTHI AIYANNA writes: The thing that matters the most to a Kodava, is preserving the identity of being a Kodava. The simple traditions of ancestral worship, respect for the motherland, love for nature, physical might and natural inclination of being a sportsperson sets us apart. It is this undercurrent that unifies all of us.
With time, a lot of the Kodavas, have moved away from the land and settled abroad. Much has been said, done and written about the dilution of culture due to external influences. There was a small acid test to this that I witnessed recently. It is the marvelous result that I saw that made me happy and encouraged me to share this first hand account with the Kodavas in and outside Kodagu.
It all began with the sport of hockey, which is better known as “Field Hockey” in USA specifically to set it aside from the more popular “Ice Hockey”. A small group of Kodavas based in Phoenix, Arizona, with a special place for this sport in their heart, had a dream of putting together an all Kodava hockey team, to create an identity for the Kodavas in America. With much effort, sponsorship and enthusiasm from Kodavas in USA, “Team Coorg” was formed in 2010.
“Team Coorg” successfully debuted in their unique gold jersey in the 6th Annual Phoenix Cactus Classic Hockey Tournament organized by the Phoenix Scorpions. I had the opportunity of accompanying the team this year in their red jerseys when they represented “Team Coorg” for the second time at the tournament. This year the team participated in the social division which required three female members to be on the field at all times.
We, the friends and family of “Team Coorg” showed up at the venue with just our enthusiasm and without much expectation. “Team Coorg” took the ground against the club “California Surfers”. Surfers drew first blood with 1-0 lead. “Team Coorg” equalized shortly after closing half-time at 1-1. The match then closed with a 2-2 draw. For “Team Coorg”, this came as a very huge morale boost. What better way could a Kodava celebrate? We played the “Vaalaga” on a boom-box and danced the traditional “Kodavaat”!
The team then played against ASU Sun Devils losing 0-1, against Colorado 1-4 and equalizing against Houston the next day 1-1.
Why would I call this marvelous and that this performance calls for a celebration? For one, the members of “Team Coorg” met for the first time on the day before the tournament and practiced for little less than two hours together. Some of the team members couldn’t reach on time for the practice session as they were still commuting from different coasts of US. This meant they dint quite know the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates. It was blind faith in a Kodava’s ability to play hockey. Mind you, the teams that they played against are university teams and clubs that are collocated and play hockey professionally all year round. Also, our team featured an under-15 Kodavathi!
What set the Kodavas apart that they were in such a great position to frustrate the other teams and hold them to such low scores? It was the instant bond that the Kodavas formed with “Kodava Thak” and unique ambience created by the sweet sound of “vaalaga” that reminded the players at all times that it was for Kodagu and to keep the spirit of Kodava kindled in their hearts. Far away from motherland, Kaveramme still beckons her children of Kodagu. No external influence could dilute this love of the land, culture and sport.
Team Coorg, USA, has a vision that “Team Coorg” will one day represent itself in all hockey tournaments across USA. For this to happen, we would like to reach out to more Kodavas out there who are willing to pick up the stick.
Please visit the Facebook page of Team Coorg and the blog for more information.
Special thanks to the Phoenix Kodavas, Ballachanda Appachu, Muruvanda Madhu and Kundranda Harish for coordinating this event with all their hearts.