“It’s hard to catch them on camera” was a common consensus. The speed at which these kids zipped past us made us vulnerable each time we stood in that skate park. Each trick contained an element of surprise; we really had to up our own game.
The kids were a sensation, hard to keep up with. Such has been the impact of the skate-park in the heart of India, that children and their bodies are transformed entities. After all, who could have imagined a skate-park in Janwaar? A sport that finds a footnote of a reference in this country has become a way of life for over 70 children in Janwaar. Many have participated in competitions, travelled far and beyond Madhya Pradesh and many have aspirations that are limitless. Skateboarding has become a symbol of progress and ambition. A village steeped in a heavy caste divide finds hope in the new generation, willing to challenge boundaries that have permeated the village hierarchy for centuries now. The skate park has come to represent an equal space, as children from different castes share objects that defy the limit of independence. Rules are simple: “Girls First!” and “No School, No Skateboarding”. Janwaar is now witnessing a quiet transformation. The popularity of skateboarding has incentivised children to attend school and make their sporting arena an equal space that doesn’t discriminate based on caste and gender.
The Yuva Ekta Foundation has always believed in the power of stories and the story of Janwaar is one that needs to be told. It is a story that has connected many local influencers on one platform and helped create an environment of social change. In our visit to Janwaar we met the change-makers and had a chance to visit their institutions that have made this transformation possible. From the skate park in Janwaar to the Art Residency in Ichol (Art Ichol), we see potential that has been given a chance to blossom. These institutions have also allowed children to dream far and beyond caste occupations, have made them believe that barriers that have restricted them can now be broken.
There is however, a long way to go. The skate-park is only one such space in a village that is otherwise ready to believe in the ordinance of hierarchy. Generations that are not on the skateboard still find it hard to digest the change that they see. But Ulrike Reinhard and her team are bent on making this work. Their journey so far has been a long and arduous one. Through endless conversations and discussions with families, they have managed to generate a mutual trust that allows the villagers to see the tremendous impact skate-boarding has had on their children. The important thing to know is how easily a child’s mind can be opened up to look past social hierarchies. Adivasi’s and Yadav’s of the younger generation are now close friends who travel together and share their lives with each other. There is also a promise that it won’t be long before these divides collapse.
By the lake in the village is the spot of a new open-air library with a free access to anyone who wants to be enlightened under a tree. Janwaar is growing. From a spot in the map of Madhya Pradesh, it is now known on a global scale, as a model village and community that has shown others the way to be. We are extremely proud of our association with Janwaar Castle and Ulrike Reinhard. We hope that our visit marks the beginning of a long term relationship, and together, we can tell the story of Janwaar to everyone. Thank you for this opportunity and a big shout out to Anveer and Mannan (even though he wasn’t there physically) for making this journey a memorable one. As Arnold Schwatznegar says “We’ll be back!”