Atita Verghese is no ordinary woman.
Atita Verghese is no ordinary woman. Not only did she fight opposition from her school system and society, she also turned around her ‘black sheep’ tag to become India’s first female pro skateboarder, and start the movement, Girl Skate India. In Mahabalipuram this week for the premiere of her short film — which documents the journey of 12 women skating across the country — Atita talks to us about Chennai’s skateboarding scene, what she’s been up to, and her visit to the city.
“When I started out, not many girls were skateboarding. While the scene started growing rapidly, I questioned why no girls or women were a part of it. That is why I created ‘Girl Skate India’, as a way to feature and connect female skateboarders — and to encourage hesitant girls who might see women in the sport and come out to participate. Seeing more women skateboard has certainly helped,” says the Bengaluru-based skateboarder about the origins of her ambitious project.
She adds, “I’ve seen a marked difference in the number of women taking part in the sport, and signing up at the workshops.”
Talking about the Girl Skate India tour and the short film that will be screened in Mahabalipuram, she says, “12 women from different countries, including myself, travelled to different cities in India to help promote the idea of girls skating. We went to Kovalam in Kerala and worked with the NGO SISP, that rewards children for going to school — by allowing them to surf and skate! We also went to Bengaluru where we set up a DIY park, as well as skated in Goa and Hampi.
The resulting film was initially intended for screening in eight countries, but it ended up being shown in 11! Now, we’ll be releasing it officially, after we send it to different film festivals.”
Talking about her visit to Mahabalipuram, she says, “I was in Mahabs last weekend as well, because I wanted to attend the Covelong Festival and I fell in love with the place! I also stayed back to re-learn the art of surfing that I had to quit a few years back.”
She also met the 6-year-old prodigy, Kamali Moorthy, who made headlines recently with her skateboarding skills. “Kamali is a little boss lady,” she laughs and adds, “She is the perfect depiction of feminism in Mahabs. It is important to have girls like her to break the traditional cycle of gender roles.”
Atita also speaks of Chennai’s skating scene — “There is an existing skateboarding group in Chennai, and despite not having any practice facilities like ramps and bowls, they take advantage of what they have. There is a huge need for more designated spots in the city. In Mahabalipuram, the scene is special because in as little as one year, these kids who practice with no protective gear or shoes have progressed immensely. They have no fear at all, and their surfing style comes through when they skate.”
Atita concludes by telling us her future plans, “I would love to do more workshops and create a space solely for girls to skate in, judgment-free. We need a platform where they believe they can shred (colloquial term for skating well), they can fall, learn and skate without feeling uncomfortable.”