Are you willing to be a part of the slacklining community in Mumbai?
With a slacklining festival slated to take place at the end of the year, followers of the adventure sport seem to be growing in numbers
Samar Farooqui at the Malabar River Festival in Kerala in July this year. Pic/ Elvin Lonan
It’s 7 am on a Thursday morning, and we’re at Girgaum Chowpatty, which is surprisingly bustling with activity for that hour. While a dancer perfects her moves to the sound of Rahat Fateh Ali’s Afreen Afreen booming from a speaker, a few yoga enthusiasts are practising their asanas. But, all attention is temporarily diverted as a bunch of slack liners shuffle along with their lines (a flat nylon webbing measuring an inch or two) in tow. Quickly, they anchor the ends of the line to the trunks of the nearby trees, and the stage is set.
With fingers loosely pointing to the sky, wrists and arms in constant motion, they walk on the line like it is solid ground. Samar Farooqui, the only professional among them, bounces and jumps on the lines, showcasing gravity–defying stunts. “We are essentially glorified dombaris (a nomadic tribe from Maharashtra who walk tightropes in public),” jokes Farooqui. Practising the sport for over six years now, the 25-year-old is at the forefront of this wave of ‘slacktivism’. A full-time slackliner, he is the founder of Slacklife Inc, a company that promotes slacklining in India. This year, Farooqui plans to organise a slackline fest, a first of its kind highlining carnival in India, to ring in the New Year.
Slacklining is the practice of balancing on 1 to 2 inches of flat webbing tensioned between two strong anchor points such as trees or pillars. The sister sport of tightrope walking, a slackline is different because the rope is dynamic; it moves with you, whereas tightrope walking is performed on a wire or steel cable. “You can sit, stand, walk, jump practise yoga, meditate... the possibilities are endless,” says the Haji Ali resident, who has a diploma in Adventure Tourism Management from Queenstown Resort College, New Zealand.
His slacklining adventure began in 2011 when he was introduced to the concept by his ex-boss. “I could barely balance for a second the first time I got on. On my second try, I did better, which made me believe that it was actually possible to learn this with a little persistence,” says Farooqui, who has in the past slacklined with Farhan Akhtar, Johnty Rhodes and Raghu Ram.
Slackline enthusiasts from Mumbai practice their skills at Chowpatty
Modern day slacklining started in the early 80s as balance training and an activity for rock climbers in Yosemite Valley, US. In Mumbai, however, the community is still niche with not more than 20 practitioners.
Shantanu Joglekar, a Dadar resident, came across the sport while watching a video on People are Awesome that showcases ordinary people doing extraordinary things. “It took me a month before I was able to walk the line till the finish,” he says. Another youngster, Mayur Parmar from Dharavi got hooked to the sport through his friends. “I saw them practising it at a garden in Shivaji Park. Curious, I tried it out and since then, I’ve been practising it every weekend,” says the 22-year-old, who works for a travel agency.
Mayur Parmar has been practising slacklining for the last 8 months. Pics/ Poonam Bathija
However, many in Mumbai, prefer to step out of city limits to practise the sport. In 2014, Farooqui was arrested for slacklining at Marine Drive, where he was charged for 'obstructing pedestrian movement' and fined Rs. 1,200. However, that hasn’t come in the way of Farooqui’s love for the sport or his passion to promote it. For now, he’s busy securing permission for the festival. “I’m expecting a decent turnout, because three years ago, when I had come back to India from NZ to be a professional slackliner in India, the community would have been about 150-200 people (judging from Facebook figures). Now we are over 4,000.”
To be part of the slacklining community in Mumbai
log on to https://web.facebook.com/slackarmy/
For festival details, log on to http://betweenyears.com
>> Focus on a point ahead of you. Make sure to centre your weight on the foot on the line.
>> Use your arms for balance by holding them out to your sides at shoulder height.
>> Once you’ve found your balance on the line, hold it there for a few seconds before attempting to walk.
>> Make sure your legs are slightly bent.
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