Dasi: A difficult life but dedicated to serve.

Dasi: A difficult life but dedicated to serve.

Looking back to the way I met Dasi I realize that it was not chance that brought us together but destiny! Sitting all by myself on the beach in Maravanthe, way back in 2004 I looked into the endless horizon wondering what I could do to save the amazing sea turtles from going extinct on our coastline.

My memory went back to the time when I first saw, this wonderful and impressive creature. I was just 12 years old when my father one day took me along with the Deputy Forest Officer to see the hatchery that was managed by the Forest Department in Maravanthe. As I entered, the very first thing that caught my eye was a huge Sea Turtle in a tank! IT WAS SO BIG. I had not seen anything like it before. I was absolutely struck with admiration for this marvelous creature which only grew as time went by!

Hatchling release in 2016 with an International Volunteer

Fascinated about the sea turtles, with pictures of them stamped on my mind, every time I would venture out into the beach I would eagerly look out for them. When I began to hear that the eggs of the sea turtles and even their meat was a delicacy much sought after by people, I became very disheartened. I was very shocked and upset when I saw for myself in several small ports these creatures turned upside down and being sold for their meat! These haunting images remained on my mind and constantly disturbed me. I kept looking for opportunities to do something about it. As President of FSL India, I saw that opportunity come and I decided that one of the first projects we would undertake would be – Sea Turtle conservation.

I snapped back to reality on the beach of Maravanthe. I sat there worried and clueless on how to start but with strong determination on wanting to do something. As I sat there wondering how I was going to find someone who had a wealth of knowledge on sea turtles, little did I realize that my help would come from someone who lived just a few meters away from where I was sitting lost in my thoughts.

Our last meeting, he spoke about the Sea Turtles with a broad smile!

Suddenly I heard the greeting, “Namaskara” and I looked up to see Dasi stand before me with a broad smile on his face. I had noticed him walk by me a little while ago nodding at me very casually. We started talking and at that very moment began a friendship which would last long! My heart was filled with joy for at last I had found a friend who knew all about sea turtles.

It was on that very day when I first met Dasi that the entire project in detail developed in my mind. It is amazing how the seed that was planted that day grew in 17 years. Today, my heart leaps with joy when I look at the Sea Turtle Conservation Project launched by FSL India which covers almost 60 KM stretch of beach. We have more than 30 fishermen who are passionately and actively involved in this project at present and over 500 foreign volunteers who have been a part of it as well. What has been fascinating is the momentum this project has been gaining and spreading awareness in our Indian society.

International Team Leaders Training – Meeting and interacting with a “Social Leader” and how one impacts the world around us!

Around 88 schools have been visited by our International and Local Volunteers creating awareness through puppet shows and setting up drawing competitions. Over 200 college students have been part of countless survey’s and walks on those 60 KMs beach. I am indeed glad that over thousands of people are being educated about Sea Turtles, their importance and threats! It is with great excitement that in the last 17 years, we have collected more than 14 thousand Sea Turtle eggs which would have otherwise been destroyed and have rescued at least 80 wounded Sea Turtles especially during monsoons, when they get washed on the shore and are too weak to return into the deep sea.

Hanging out with volunteers in the freshly built Turtle Information Center (TIC)

Today I look back and thank Dasi for making all this happen. If not for him I wonder how all this could have materialized. First of all he educated me on topics that I knew nothing about like the nesting areas, nesting season, incubation time and various other topics. He went a step further and volunteered to look after the nests and also help us relocate the eggs from other areas. What really impressed me was when the Forest Department offered to build a tank to tend to the wounded turtles if we would provide them a place, he stepped up and gave his patch of land to construct a tank! Rain or sunshine, Dasi would even sleep on the beach guarding the Sea Turtles nests during the nesting time day and night. He served in the Village Forest Committee and has the distinctive of being the first Temporary Forest Guard for the Sea Turtle Conservation Project.

2017 – hatchery and nesting ground near Dasi’s house in Maravanthe!

It was not just the project that brought us close but the wonderful time we spent together talking and laughing! I would wait eagerly with excitement for our long walks together in the beach as the sun would set. We would share special moments of our lives to each other. His knowledge about nature and sea creatures even without attending school would fascinate me. He was a wonderful human who was respected by absolutely everyone in his community. The fact that he was a natural leader was easily seen in the way he could convince and influence others to join hands in protecting and conserving Sea Turtles. What I like about him the most is that he considered it an honor to offer his service at every opportunity without compromising and not expecting anything back!  To him it was his way of giving back to the world.

Monitoring hatchlings released in 2006, with our first LTV Sea Turtle Project – Volunteers

Ever since his acquaintance with the Sea Turtle Project, we at FSL have seen Dasi face several tragedies and struggles. I have seen my friend Dasi go through the pain of losing his sons. When his grandson was diagnosed with a heart problem, he was heartbroken. We walked by his side, raised money through charity and along with a donation from FSL India, we ensured he went through a surgery in the hands of eminent Dr. Devi Shetty.

A few years back his wife passed away. Through all this Dasi stayed strong, but when his grandson suddenly fell ill and passed away, he just could not come to grasp with it and was in total denial. Making things more difficult two years ago, Dasi suffered a stroke and he could not walk any more. He was taken care of by his two daughters in their small outhouse but sadly last monsoon the roof of their house caved in! Desiring to help him and his daughters, we at FSL decided to start a crowd funding and renovate his house. Although Dasi breathed his last on 6’th May 21, we are still committed to building his house for his daughters.

Dasi’s view every evening – beautiful sunsets by the beach.

FSL India believes and promotes Volunteering and will continue to build his house through a Workcamp. If you would like to support us by being a Volunteer, giving building materials or by donating to buy materials and labor, please write to us at: info@fsl-india.org

I consider it a great honor to dedicate our Sea Turtle Conservation Project to Dasi Venkat Karvi and on behalf of all our International and National Volunteers and many local fishermen I thank Dasi for his selfless service. May he continue to live through this Project!

-Rakesh Soans, President – FSL India.

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