21 SEPTEMBER 2011

I receive an e-mail from S.N. Karthikeyan of the Coimbatore Kennel Club inviting me to judge their annual All-Breeds show in December. E- mail exchanges zip back and forth as contracts get scanned as well as resumes and return tickets are sent through the internet.

Tip 1. Get a visa prior to your departure for India. You can get it upon landing at India but the process is very tedious. It isn’t difficult to get an visa as the host kennel club will provide you with a formal invitation that you just need to download and submit it to the consul, also submit your e-mail communication, booking (if available already), 2 ID photos and a photocopy of your passport. The cost was the equivalent of USD147 and was a 2 week wait.

Things went down the wire as to booking a flight. It was easy to get a flight to India but difficult to get a return flight. India holds shows in December because the weather is cooler. But then December is one of the heaviest traveled month for the Philippines, a lot of overseas workers are coming home for the holidays making flights into the Philippines difficult to book. My co-judge Daniel Kwee had a ticket going home, Coimbatore to Singapore then Singapore to Indonesia which is home. He later told me he almost got stranded and had to take an extra flight to Chennai India from Coimbatore then fly to Singapore from Chennai then Singapore to Indonesia.

Tip 2. Book early and try to get the best value as most clubs work on a budget.

My return flight was provided by the kennel club, a longer journey but got me home non the less.

16 DECEMBER 2011 FRIDAY

Flight to Singapore via Singapore Airlines was at 8AM. The layover at Changi was 8 hours but Changi is an airport that I don’t mind being stuck in, Singapore USD can be bought with Philippine Pesos so you don’t have to change USD just for a meal.

Flight to Coimbatore India also via Singapore Airlines/Silk Air, arrived at Coimbatore India 1130 in the evening India time. The whole journey almost 18 hours even if flying time is much less. The Coimbatore Airport lacks a tube for you to get to the arrival area from the plane. You need to descend the plane via a staircase and walk a distance to get to the arrival area, this I had to do with a drizzle. Immigration was a breeze as all my documents were in order. Then baggage claim after which before actually leaving the airport, you have to have your bags scanned, I include my belt and watch so I do not trigger any alarms when I pass through.

Tip 3. Airport security and security in general is very thorough as they are very wary of terrorist attacks. Always be ready with your passport and to have your things checked.

I was met at the airport by Coimbatore Kennel Club Secretary S.N. Karthikeyan and President Vikram Dhamodaran

I was billeted at the Vivanta Hotel by the Taj. It has been only in operation for 2 months. It is a very beautiful hotel. The judges are usually billeted at the Residency but they tried out the Vivanta for us. Coming to this hotel after a lengthy journey was such a welcome respite.

17 DECEMBER 2011 SATURDAY

Breakfast buffet at the hotel was good. One side of the buffet had regular Indian breakfast and on the other side international breakfast. A fruit and pastry section, juice and cereal section all on a different side.

I had breakfast with my co-judge Daniel Kwee of Indonesia who I have had the pleasure of judging with back home in the Philippines. Over breakfast was a fun filled informative conversation.

We had lunch with Vikram at an exclusive mens club called the Cosmopolitan. Here we had traditional Indian meal of Chicken Curry, Pepper Chicken and Vegetarian Rice and of course their Kingfisher beer.

We then went to the first and only mall in Coimbatore to check out some cotton shirts. Coimbatore was historically known as an industrial province, they were known for manufacturing particularly textile and foundries. There isn’t much to see in Coimbatore and has been in fact referred to as the Manchester City of India BUT it is a bustling city that still is very much India. The people are very pleasant and warm. You will be attended to by them with a very strong urge to please.

Dinner was back at the hotel. Buffet dinner was like breakfast with one side of the buffet table being traditional Indian dishes and some international dishes on the other side.

Tip 4. Indian food is not hot as hell or outrageously rich with coconut milk. It is relatively mild and flavorful with interesting texture, their rice is wonderful as well as their desserts. Vikram was very polite to ask us what we wanted for lunch. We were very interested in trying out the local cuisine. If you want to play it safe then just tell your hosts you would want to have international food.

We decided to call it a nite early as we expected a busy next day.

18 DECEMBER 2011 SUNDAY-SHOW DAY!

We had a record registered entered dogs of 411, actual entries to show up was still 350. The show was held at S.N.R. College of Arts and Sciences with the ring being setup on a Cricket pitch. The show grounds is well organized with adequate seats for the audience. The annual Coimbatore Kennel Club is a family affair that can draw an audience of 8,000 to 10,000. My ring steward was the very efficient D. Mahesh.

Tip 5. You do not have to award a CC or Reserve CC to the best dog or best bitch if you believe they don’t deserve it. The 1st place and sometimes even BOB should be good enough.

Tip 6. Be prepared for things to get lost in translation with the handlers. The majority of them are not professionals, assume they are having a difficult time understanding you. They understand “Up and Down”. They do not understand “Triangle”.

Tip 7. Always err on the safe side. If you believe your safety is at risk then don’t examine/touch the dog.

Tip 8. Expect the ring to have photographers, winners of previous classes inside the ring. They will be out of the way but in the ring. If this bothers you then tell the ring steward. I was tolerant of this as I knew this was being done to make matters quicker as I had 350 entries to judge.

Tip 9. A handler might approach you in the ring after you award your placements. You have to be quick in letting your ring steward handle the situation. We all know that getting into a discussion with a handler/owner is a no win situation. So don’t paint yourself into a corner and just let your ring steward handle such situations. I was lucky to have a very strict ring steward who would instruct handlers to leave the ring immediately and at times reprimand them if necessary.

The stronger breeds to me was the GSD. If we are to agree that the classes is representative of the results of existing breeding plans, then it would go to the GSD. They had good, consistent entries in both dog and bitch classes. The next would go to the Danes where I found a also a good and consistent entries in the bitches which to me would be future foundations of the breed. MY Best in show went to a GSD. During the show I met several other members of the club and also fellow judge D. Krishnamurthy.

The show ended around 9ish. We decided to go back to the hotel and have a hearty dinner and cold Kingfisher beer after a tiring but rewarding show. I have judged big entries before and when you get to Best in Show, any fatigue seems to just go away. I always have the biggest smile when I get to the level of Best in Show.

19 DECEMBER 2011 Monday-LAST DAY IN COIMBATORE

A good nites sleep, a hearty breakfast started the day. After breakfast we scheduled a session at the spa. Sometime before lunch Mahesh my ring steward came by for me to sign the CCs.

Tip 10. Have a stamp of your signature made as this will really take a lot of signing. I however like to sign these documents by hand as it has a more personal touch.

The rest of the officers arrived and it was also during this time that they reimbursed my expenses.

Tip 11. Before you leave for your trip, make sure you e-mail the club representative all your expenses, make a breakdown and tell them this is the amount you are reimbursing. State if you want it when you arrive or before the show. It would be nice to receive it before the show so you can get it out of the way. When I arrive, I give the person I was communicating with the hard copy of the contracts and the receipts of the expenses. Rest assured that the Coimbatore Kennel Club will keep their word as to matters of reimbursement. Try to keep your expenses at a minimum as much as possible. I knew I got a fairly costly ticket because it was the holidays so I decided to pay my travel health insurance on my own this time. Having chaired the show committee of the Philippine Canine Club Inc., I know how it is to work on a budget.

We then had lunch at the Residency Hotel and the Indian food was also very good, a different flavor as compared to the Vivanta. I had to cancel my appointment at the spa as Vikram the club president changed my flight to a more reliable airline-Indigo this would mean an earlier flight leaving Coimbatore for Chennai. I appreciated this as it shows the concern of the officers for my well being. At the Residency we had to part ways with Mahesh which did not end with just a firm handshake but a warm hug as we said our goodbyes.

At the airport Karthi and Vikram assisted in getting my e-ticket at the Indigo counter. Again, goodbyes did not end with a firm handshake but a warm hug.

FINAL AND MOST IMPORTANT TIP-IF YOU GET AN INVITATION TO JUDGE A SHOW IN COIMBATORE INDIA, MAKE SURE YOU ACCEPT THE INVITE!

The journey back was lengthy as I had to take three flights but it didn’t matter after a wonderful experience in Coimbatore. I caught up with Dr. Raymond Lo and Fred Salud also All-Breed judges on the Thai Airlines Bangkok Manila flight, they also enjoyed their experience in India. That’s the way I guess it is with Incredible India.

I would like to thank Simon Sim for the recommendation, Club President Vikram Dhamodaran, Club Sec. S.N. Karthikeyan and my steward D. Mahesh. Daniel Kwee who was very good company.

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