by Malvia Somanna

Janwaar is situated in Madhya Pradesh’s Panna district, and the ‘castle’ that it boasts of is the local playground where children are learning how to skateboard.

Bagging the limelight at Play Arena in Bengaluru, was a group of skate-boarding enthusiasts hailing from a small village called Janwaar in Madhya Pradesh. The group was an elite lot, who practiced at a skatepark brought to them for the first time called Janwaar Castle in Janwaar. Speaking to Ulrike Reinhard, the woman behind the success of the park, we find motivation to be the key drive.

Can only skateboarding trigger the kind of change witnessed in Janwaar or would any other sport do the same?

I am tempted to say only skateboarding can because skateboarding culture is often understood as counter-culture. Against the mainstream, it’s about disobedience, resilience, finding your own way. It’s about everything this village Janwaar did not have. So when you build a skatepark in such a village and hand our skateboards to the kids, something has to happen. No? That’s a very natural thing. Too contrary are the two scenarios –  the traditional village where nothing has happened over the last decades and on the other side this very dynamic and attractive sport.

Helping hand: Girls at Janwaar Castle

What changes have you seen in the village with the advent of a skatepark?

I see the skatepark as a disruptor. It has made the villagers especially the kids move. They are finding new ways. So all I or we do is guiding them on their new ways and help them to move forward. The moment, movement starts, change happens. Most importantly, it is a change which is initiated, started by the kids, villagers themselves. Not by us! And this is why the chances are pretty good that it will sustain.

Is it an academy that you have started for these kids? What are your aspirations for the kid skateboarders in it?

We don’t have an academy and we will never have. This is not our goal. Our goal is to drive change with the ‘tool’ of skateboarding by using its great cultural impulses. Our aspirations are that these young kids become critical thinkers and more complete human beings so that they feel confident enough to take their lives in their own hands and work for a better future!

Ramji crowd

Give us an insight into Janwaar Castle. Who forms the cream of this small community?

In Janwaar, we have the greatest pool of young skateboarders in India. At least 50 kids stand pretty firm on their boards. Two of our ‘newbies’ so to speak just attended the ‘Jugaad’ competition held in Bangalore. Our youngster Ramkesh is one of the child prodigies. Kamali Murthy also has a good style in skateboarding. We have Asha and Arun who just returned from the World Championships in Skateboarding in China.

Ramkesh ready to roll

Do you think skateboarding as a sport could see changes its way in the near future in our country?

In my opinion, skateboarding is still very new to India. It only started maybe 8 years ago with small spots in Goa and a very first skatepark in Bangalore which unfortunately had to close down. Nick Smith and the ‘Holystoked’ team paved the way. It is still a small community and there is hardly any market for it. Rollerskating, is at least ten times more popular according to market sales. So skateboarding becoming an Olympic discipline could actually be a big leap forward and it should be embraced by everyone- it’s a great sport with  a great culture.

 


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