The heart of Incredible India turned out to be pretty incredible indeed. From the time we decided to go to the village of Janwaar in Madhya Pradesh with some of the kids from our Kolkata Skateboarding Group, for the first edition of the Janwaar Castle Skateboarding Challenge, my mind was set on doing a Help-Portrait session with the incredible barefoot skateboarder kids of Janwaar. My only apprehension was the availability of electricity in such a remote location. When i was told by the organisers of the event that there would be a bamboo house having access to electricity powered by solar panels, all that was left to do was to prepare for the help-portrait session. Which is nothing but packing the printer and the frames into the luggage and waiting patiently to give out the portrait to some happy faces!
Being in Janwaar Castle, its hard not to get a tad bit overawed by the amazing skatepark;( India’s biggest and certainly the most happening! ) especially when a skateboarding challenge is underway. My initial plan was to shoot the kids’s portraits keeping the skatepark in the background but i soon figured that might not work out so well; with all the frantic high energy activity going on. (Refer to the image below to get an idea of what exactly i mean by that. And oh, add blaring music and the berserk cheering by the audience and then you get the picture!)
I got some great assistance from one of the organising team volunteers and freelance journalist, Shail Desai, while lining up the Janwaar Champions ( the participating kids from the Janwaar Castle team ) for the portraits. After a quick discussion with him, I decided to zero in on some key areas that is symbolic of the Janwaar castle area beyond the Skatepark itself. The iconic solar powered bamboo house, a wall hand-painted with the Janwaar Castle logo and the resourcefully crafted DIY swing!
This Help-Portrait session clearly stands out as a very special one for me. Firstly because it was incredibly inspiring to witness and soak in all the positive energy around. Read a bit about our experience at the first Janwaar Castle Skateboarding Challenge HERE. Incidentally, this was my second help-portrait session enabled by solar powered electricity. The first one was in a similar location deep inside a village of West Bengal. I am grateful for this opportunity to Ulrike Reinhard, the founder of Janwaar Castle and Mannan Gupta, their community development leader, along with my team members from Kolkata Skateboarding, Anushree Bhatter and Joseph Daniel for the much needed support and assistance. This is something that will stay in my memory for a long long time!
The Janwaar Castle Community Organisation is a non-profit company under subsection (2), of section 7 of the companies act 2013 and rule 8 of the companies (incorporation) rules, 2014. The purpose of the Janwaar Castle Community Organization is to uplift the lives of the villagers in Janwaar, especially those of the Janwaar children. Read more about their initiative HERE or watch the documentary below to get an idea of how powerfully they are bringing about change at the grassroots level through creative and collaborative action.