No School, No Skateboarding: India’s First Rural Skate Park

Photos by Pratik Chorge



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f you find yourself in Bundelkhand’s Janwaar village on a bright morning, you will witness a sight to behold — girls and boys whizzing around on skateboards, practicing ‘Flips’ and ‘Nosegrinds’.

Located along the fringes of the Panna National Tiger Reserve, the Janwaar Skating Park is a not-for-profit project that teaches village children skateboarding free of cost.

manilal
Manilal, one of several goatherds, makes his way through the village. The village was formed when these villagers were relocated here from within the forest area.
ramkesh
Against the fading light of the evening sky, Ramkesh, 10, squeezes in one final jump for the cameras.
The first rural skatepark in India is an island of fun for the village children.
The park, popularly known as Janwaar Castle, was built by German community activist, Ulrike Reinhard, center, for the local kids.

Children start training here as young as the age of 5, practicing twice every day. “I started with the idea to empower the kids, help them learn a new skill, and encourage them to study — girls, as much as boys,” says Ulrike Reinhard, the German activist who built the park.

Children have access to the skate park only as long as they attend school regularly. Reinhard says the attendance at school has gone up since the skate park started.

The park is a place for unfettered fun, but has two strict ground rules. Rule number one: girls first. And rule number two: no school, no skateboarding.

Shivjeet Yadav, 12, studies in the 7th grade at a government school. His father, Roshan, is a farmer and mother, Chandarani, is a housewife who also helps her husband in the farm.

In this Madhya Pradesh village, many children remain out of school, especially girls.

The number of girls attending school has gone up in recent times. At the park, too, girls get preference. The kids share 15 boards, but like good young gentlemen, the boys must let the girls go first.

The park bridges caste disparities by bringing together the village’s Adivasi and upper caste Yadav and Kushwaha children to play together.

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The kids are so attached to their skateboards that they rarely let go of them. To them, it’s the ultimate definition of fun.


Web Producer: Gurman Bhatia
Editor: Zehra Kazmi and Sahiba Chawdhary