Interview with Baumi Baumsen about Janwahr DIY in India by Jonathan Hay
What’s the spot called. How did it get the name?
The spot is called Janwar Castle. The idea came to me a couple weeks after we had built up a lot of stones in the park. The whole outline of the park is decorated with stones so that the whole park looks like a castle / fortress. So you’d better be careful if you fly out of the park. It could end up painfully if you fall into the rocky moat.
Is it DIY?
Hmmm, if DIY means making your own tools? Or if Tony and Sourabh risking their lives to hook up a power supply and tap into Indian overhead lines and building our own DIY outlets and fuse box construction lights? If DIY means the whole park is built by 90% of people who have never built a skate ramp? If DIY means doing what you want and making ramps in a freestyle build, sometimes 60 hours straight without sleeping, eating or drinking? If DIY means using your own money at the end. If DIY means that at the beginning there was nothing and now you have a fully functional park with 41 meters of self shaped granite coping? Yes, it’s DIY.
Where is it?
Janwar, Madhya Pradesh, Central India somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Janwar is a small village with no power (except a few hours a day) and no running water. The next small (big) city called Panna is around 8 km away. It’s a place where kids have nothing to play, girls and women have no say and men are corrupt as fuck. Beautiful nature at least.
What’s the background on the project?
We the School want to create a better life and learn employment techniques for kids and girls over there. Behind the idea of making a skatepark in Janwar / India stands one person, who’s name is not worth mentioning here. I call her the Dragon of Janwar Castle in a yellow jacket and turquoise helmet. While we worked at the park we got told by the village people that they used that place before as a spinach field. And now they lose 30,000 rupees every year. They were not really fine with the Dragon who came and took the land from them! For us it was like a first view of how ruthless somebody can be in the name of charity. The background is to give the kids a place where they can be kids. Also to get them to school. No school / No skate! Later on they want to build a Womens’ center and some Internet / Computer house as far I understood. Believe me it is hard to listen to the Voice of a Dragon in a yellow jacket and a turquoise helmet. So basically the skatepark gives the kids activity, friends and community and all the good things that belong to skateboarding. But be careful of the Dragon in the background who is sitting there and use good people like marionettes! Corruption can be everywhere! We got to feel it.
Yamato Living Ramps, + 2er, Holystoked, Skateaid who were in charge to get in contact with Skatepark Builders, transferring the donated money for the project tax free to India and supplying some boards and guards and helmets for the kids. And
we the school.
Which people built the park?
Atita Vergehse, Shake (Abisheck Shakenbake), Happy (Gautham Kamath) from Holystoked Collective from Bangalore, India.
Tony (Devendra Uniyal)and Sourabh Sharma Dehli Electric Boyz-Freemotion from Dehli, India.
Finn Re AND Jacob Wiese ARNIZ Crew from Germany.
Don Everett Bach and Augustin Vanuxem NNTv from Dehli, India.
Angad Singh Gwalio from India.
Filip Jedraszak from Malmö, Sweden.
Aditya Gupta – Freemotion skateboarding from Dehli, India.
Uktarsh Gupta Ranchi Skaters and BMXers from Ranchi, India.
Baumi (Fabian Baumgarten) 2er – Yamato Living Ramps from Hannover, Germany.
All these people, during the time they were there, risked their lives twice daily to come to the construction site in Janwar from sleeping in Mad-Law. The 30km round-trip either on a motorcycle (sometimes without a headlight) or in two totally crappy cars, on a highway through mountains full of pits, wild animals and over-loaded trucks, passing like thunder with full speed close to the millimeter could also be interpreted as a suicide attempt.
The whole time there were long hours, sometimes up to 20-40 hour shifts, with not enough food, super cold (at night down to zero C) and thick fog with visibility equal to zero, and I mean zero. That we survived at all is luck! Within two months we’ve saw almost every couple days a truck or a bus crashed and lying in a ditch or something got killed by an accident. For what was all this risk for every day? In order to build a park just for the love of a peace of wood. With no payment, only for the kids, skateboarding and to feel that you are still alive. The Park is Built by True People.
Who came up with the design and what was the reasoning?
I did the design and we changed somethings here and there while building, some ramps are freestyle. To explain to everybody at the site what we were going to do, Ralf Meier (www.maierlandschaftsarchitektur.de) was so kind to create a 3D view of the design. Everybody could say what kind of idea they had and if it was good enough, we built it spontaneously. Yamato helped to get in contact with Skateaid, so that I could explain to them why Holystoked, together with me, was the best choice to build a skatepark in India. I convinced Skateaid with my experience I had already with building in India, that we don’t want again that a lot of money get wasted like the bowl in Pune (close to Mumbai) because nobody included the skater! Skateaid understood that and also that we are the best solution to get a skatepark (400 square meters) with the budget We the School had. Sad that We the School work with a Dragon who is not able to listen because the Dragon has too much to do with spitting fire at everybody around her. The Dragon missed the point of why we are the best solution and felt really quickly disturbed by us, but before the Dragon showed up with her real face she let us finish the park.
Is there water nearby?
Yes luckily. Located next to the construction site is a source and a fountain. However, no drinking water. If that was empty, good luck! We had no transport the last three weeks, and it was 8km to the next shop.
What do the locals think about the park?
The villagers were, in the beginning, not sure about the sense of all that, (they lost the field of spinach that they were allowed to use). They didn’t know anything about skateboarding. So it was a long process before they understood the evolution that came with that place and skating. The kids love it and used the finished ramps like a slide while we worked on the rest. They took care of us better than the Dragon. They helped us with food, motorcycles, warm fire and they don’t even have anything of that by themselves really. But they saw the bad body condition everyone of us had, through the worse conditions we had to live in.
Yes the kids are skating now. They have two rules “Girls First” and “No School – No Skating”. Some tourists visited the place as far as I know. But mostly the kids of Janwar.
How do you plan to provide skateboards for the community to actually use the park, or is that their problem?
Skateaid supplied skateboards and safety gear to the kids, so they all have boards now. How they get stuff in the future the Dragon is in charge of, but I will try to keep one eye on it and Holystoked another.
Do you think euro / us skate teams will start doing tours of India with more and more diy spots and skateparks to skate, or is it still along way off?
I think so. They already did it right! Skateboarding in India grows! And fast, in 2013 you had maybe around 30-50 skateboarder and 3-4 places to skate in the whole of India. Now the scene count is over 1000-2000 skaters, if I had to guess. And not sure about how many new spots, but a lot that I can say for sure! The country and the population is so big that skateboarding just gets lost and you almost can’t see or feel skateboarding in India if you are not into it. But all of them, the whole scene, is working hard to get the attention from the rest of the skate world and they deserve it. If you are born in India and your family is not rich you have definitely don’t have it easy. And they have a lot of rippers out there who live in the worst condition you can imagine and are still going to skate. I respect that! It takes a little while before India gest the right attention for sure, but one day they will get what they deserve, otherwise they will come and take it! India have a billion people, imagine if just 1% of them start to skate!
How did you build this park without the involvement of Levis, Nike, Redbull, or Converse? I thought they were the KINGS OF DIY! haha
Yeah you thought so but what you didn’t know is that the 2er crew are the KINGS OF DIY! haharhar.
How was it funded?
The money was raised by We the School. They did some auctions where some artist designed some used boards and sold them for 300$ each. Atita Verghese, the first female skate ripper of India designed one board for one of these auctions. Skateaid donated also some money and took care of a few things even if it wasn’t there responsibility. Yamato Living Ramps and 2ER donated some shaping tools for the project. Mantu the owner of the land put also some money in. And thanks to all the people who donated for my flight back home after I got ripped off by the Dragon of Janwar Castle. Without these people I would had been stuck in India, after I worked my ass off.
Plans for the future building skateparks in 2nd and 3rd world nations?
I go to Rwanda/ Africa, in 2016 to build a skatepark. Even after all this the Dragon tried to ruin my name and Holystoked’s name, first by calling me behind my back a drug junkie (ohhh, we smoked some w**d) and second with saying that the Holystoked skatepark in Bangalore (we built a few years ago) is closed because of drugs and alcohol. Skateaid is smart enough to see the truth and asked me to do the Rwanda Project. Also I continue trying to support the Indian skate scene whatever comes, however it looks. I have a few ideas for some projects that would need a lot of support. So in case somebody is able to support some great ideas for skateboarding in India or you think I can help you in some ways with your project, get in touch with me!
My buddy from the construction of the Janwar castle. Holystoked Collective, ARNIZ, Free Motion, NNTv. My Homies at Yamato Living Ramps and 2er without you…. wouldn’t be able to do stuff like this!
And special thanks to the Living comedy show Tony and Sourabh the Dehli Electric Boyz!
Tony on our first session in the Park “I just realized that my first concrete park that I skated, I had to build.”
Sourabh on one our Bike trips with no light in the night “Don’t waste energy, waste your LIFE!!!”
Never Forget! Thx. – Baumi
Interview with Baumi Baumsen by Jonathan Hay / Confusion Magazine