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Janwaar Castle is a learning camp with a skatepark at its core. It's a social experiment and the goal is to transform the village of Janwaar into a wealthier and more prosperous place.

Does the tiger belong to a caste or a tribe?

Posted by on Jan 23, 2017 in Blog, Kids stories | 3 Comments

In September 2016 Mannan and I have written our first short story for children for Highlights CHAMPS. Finally in January it was published.

This is the original text we’ve sent in:

Does the tiger belong to a caste or a tribe?

Janwaar is a small village in the eastern bufferzone of the Panna National Tiger Park in Madhya Pradesh. It used to be the area where the cattle from the people in Panna was grazing. Panna is the next bigger town, 6 km away.

Ramkesh, a 12-year-old Adivasi boy is living with his parents and two siblings in Janwaar. An Adivasi in this village is an untouchable. Just like in any other Indian village. They are suppressed by the higher caste, the Yadav. It’s coded in their genes – and both groups co-exist in this accepted reality. A reality which prohibits that Ajay, a 13-year-old Yadav interacts with Ramkesh. That’s what their elders taught them. Learning from them, the boys would not enter each others homes, eat food together or even talk. Two completely isolated worlds in the same small village.

Two years ago, something unexpected happened. A German lady, Ulrike Reinhard, came to the village. She was blown away by the natural beauty of this place and decided to build a skatepark there. She gathered funds and with the help form 12 skateboarders from six different nations they completed the skatepark in 3.5 months. Everyone in the village was curious, but no one really understood what was going on. In April 2015 Ulrike handed 20 skateboards to the kids . And the kids didn’t hesitate a second and gave it a try. And they loved it. They enjoyed it and just kept on going.

The parents and teachers were happy to see the kids smiling. They didn’t understand what was it about but it made their kids happy. So they let them go.

The Yadavs were of course the first to come. Ajay was one of them. He learned quickly and became the rockstar skateboarder of the village. Ramkesh slowly sneaked in, but only to watch. He would never go and ask a Yadav for a skateboard. Over two days Ulrike observed him watching what was going on in the skatepark from a distant corner. On the third day she went to him and asked, “Do you want to try?” He smiled. He nodded. His face lit up and had that look of intense burning longing. She offered him a board, the safety gear and the shoes. He put on the gear, but decided to leave the shoes …“I want to feel the board” he said and went off. Ramkesh is a natural born skateboarder. No one could stop him from skateboarding anymore.

Ajay and Ramkesh share their passion for skateboarding and they became really good friends at the skatepark. So did many other Yadav and Adivasi. At the skatepark, there is no caste, there is no tribe. There are just skateboarding kids. We call them “The Tigers” because they live at the borders of the Tiger Park.

What started at the skatepark, soon spread like wildfire. All kids, no matter where they came from, would interact freely where ever they met, may it be school, at the lake or even at each other’s houses. They would play, study and even eat together. They’ve learned to live together. They’ve broken down barriers.

Like a seed that grows into a plant, this process also grew vey organically. There was no sudden change. Even the parents didn’t realize how their own attitudes were changing. First they just allowed their kids to skate and few months later, without even realizing, they were comfortable with all the kids playing together. Somewhere in their mind their stance against the other caste softened.

Africans say it takes a village to raise a child. In Janwaar we say, it takes the children to change the village.

Today Ramkesh and Ajay, the two Janwaar tigers, train together. They learn from each other. They are unlearning their prejudices and looking forward to a common future. Soon they will leave India for a 4-week journey to explore skateboarding in the world. Their dream is to become really great, great skateboarders …!

And this is what they’ve made out of it – nice layout:

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  1. Manish Sidhu
    January 26, 2017

    Beautiful 🙂

    • ulrike
      January 26, 2017

      Yeah, I think so too 🙂

  2. Janwaar Castle When work becomes a children’s story - Janwaar Castle
    March 19, 2017

    […] In Jan, another story was published in “Highlight Champs”, a sister magazine of Champak – “The tigers of Janwaar” […]


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