You may or may not have watched Skater Girl, the latest Netflix offering, but there’s one thing that’s certain—it makes you wish that skateboarding was far more mainstream in India than it really is. And while it’s better late than never, did you know that there is a skateboarding culture in India, albeit not a very active one? However, Atita Verghese who has been met with questions about the film since the trailer first aired on the OTT platform breaks into a little laughter when met with this question.
The film follows the life of a village girl in Rajasthan as she discovers skateboarding and fights gender norms and poverty to go, compete at a national tournament. The film is pegged as India’s first feature film on skateboarding, a freestyle sport that is played by a mere 3,000-4,000 children and young adults in the country as it stands today, according to reports by Moneycontrol.
While Skater Girl is not Verghese’s story, she tells the portal, “I am doing a cameo in the film alongside other skateboarders from India. After all, the 27-year-old is the face of girls and women skateboarding in India.
It was back in 2012, when Verghese was 19 that she first stepped onto a skateboard, which she borrowed from her friend. Since then, however, she has co-built four skate parks and a few other skate spots around the country. She has also taught the newbies the art of skateboarding, and been instrumental in bringing this underground sport to the fore. In fact, in 2018 Verghese became the first Indian to join Vans, the American skateboarding brand’s team of athletes.
Since 2015, Verghese has been running an online platform called Girl Skate India, which holds skateboarding workshops and tours for girls and women from all backgrounds. She has taught in the IT city of Bengaluru as also in Janwar, a village of thatched huts and dusty roads in Madhya Pradesh - the challenge of bringing girls into a ‘boy’s sport’ apply everywhere.
“In Bengaluru, parents send their girls to skate parks easily but they may not want them to stay outside for long hours. And without practice, they can’t make progress in the sport,” Verghese tells the portal.
Skateboarding is making its debut at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year. However, Verghese is quick to point out that the sporting event is highly competitive, and that the sport being in its nascent stage is somewhat of a disadvantage because “India doesn’t have the infrastructure to match what some Asian countries have.”
However, she is quick to add, “I would like to organise more skateboarding workshops, and for free. You can do it all by yourself. You need to be physically and mentally present in the moment to execute a trick. And when that happens, it makes you confident. Confidence is a valuable skill set to have in anything. Nobody will serve that to you on a platter. I want girls to believe in themselves,” she signs off.