In an exclusive tête-à-tête with TheVibe, professional slackliner and highliner Samar Farooqui deconstructs the slacklining and highlining scene here in India.
“Getting people out there instead of being indoors” is the mantra of 27-year-old professional highliner and slackliner Samar Farooqui. Tracing back to when the sport surfaced in the Indian subcontinent, he says, “I think the first place that saw slacklining in India was Hampi in the 1990s. Only about three or four people knew about the sport back then and there were a few slacklining evangelists in Cubbon Park in Bangalore and Pune then.”
Samar’s beginnings in the sport were organic from the very start. The 27-year-old professional highliner was introduced to the sport through his kiteboarder-friend Jehan Driver in India, before moving to the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown in New Zealand.
“I opted for slacklining over skydiving because I could bring this sport to people, unlike skydiving where I needed to take people to the airstrip to dive. In cities like Mumbai where finding time for oneself is not easy, you can slackline right in your building lawn or elsewhere within the city. Plus, India was not really adventure sport-friendly, so I wanted to return to India to become a professional slackliner here.”
Slacklining in India does come with its set of challenges though. “We keep getting thrown out of parks and public spaces. I even got busted by a cop in Mumbai for slacklining at a spot in Marine Drive where I’d been slacklining for 3 months before the incident. It was nice to see that regular walkers there came to my rescue and fought with the cop arresting me. I went to court and saw the case through until the end.”
The maverick says, “Besides the physical and mental benefits, the sport is a lot of fun and can be personal when I can do this alone in nature or it can be interactive and social when done among people. Another big motivator is that its a reason to get out and explore places that are highline friendly.”
“Even today, it puts me in a meditative state, where I have singular focus; at the task at hand. Many athletes describe it as being ‘in the zone’.”
Throwing light on the slacklining hotspots in India where you can go, rig a slack and slackline, Samar says, “You can head to Lonavla and Nashik in Maharashtra, Badami and Hampi in Karnataka and Rishikesh.” After people have set up highline in a spot, anyone can head there later, rig it up and start right away. “It takes 5 minutes to rig a slackline and 5 minutes to de-rig. The time required to rig a highline can vary from 1.5 hours to more, depending on the location, terrain, and the ease of access. 90% of the highlining spots in India have been set up by me,” he informs.
You can also catch slackliners doing what they love at Hauz Khas Village Park in New Delhi, Pushpa Nursery Park in Juhu in Mumbai on most Sundays, and probably Cubbon Park in Bangalore. Speaking about the future of the sport in India, he says, “India has huge untapped potential with immense scope of possibilities for the sport to grow here. Personally, I want to go a pan-India tour setting up spots for slacklining and highling, if only a brand would fund the project.”
Having represented India in the competitions abroad, the founder of his sports and recreation company Slacklife Inc. says that he sees himself mentoring those competing in the slackline world cup. “Personally, I want to do the first base line here where I walk the line and jump off with a parachute. And also the first high altitude line, where I walk really high, say about 6000 meters. But it is not easy to get funding for these projects.” Samar hopes that the country’s authorities take notice of the newly emerging sport and proactively give permission and recognise the sport in India.
Recently Samar went slacklining with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and described the event as life-changing. “A few of my international colleagues from Crossing Lines (https://www.crossinglines.org/) were bringing slacklining to the Syrian refugee youth at Beka Valley, close to the Syrian borders in Lebanon. Slacklining is known to alleviate symptoms of the post-traumatic disorder and helps with focus, balance and channelling energies. Having been a beneficiary of the sport, I wanted to give back to it and get back to my fundamentals.”
He adds, “I connected with the team with whom I have interacted on other professional slacklining platforms to volunteer my services. I too was an angsty teenager in my youth, and connecting with these children who had lost their families, homes and country, was an eye-opening experience for me. It was a learning experience, and our shared values fomented fresher, newer perspectives while giving an insight into the harsh realities of the conflict.”
Over the ensuing two weeks, the crew trained about 350-400 children. The best part of the workshop was to see the smiles brought on the faces of these enthusiastic children. He recalls, “Today the region is gripped in a human conflict of unseen proportions, in fact, there have been reports of heavy shelling just 3 km off the border, across the mountain, from where we held our workshop. Slackline is more than just an athletic sport, its universal values help transcend cultural and political divides to bring its practitioners closer.”
The slackliner hopes to make similar inroads with the sport here in India. He says, “We are actively seeking funding and remain hopeful that the CSR route will allow for a similar opportunity as Crossing Lines to be present here. Our endeavour is to spread good vibes through slacklining to all those in need.”
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