I have learned more about caste, class, religion and gender from my childhood days spent playing football in the fields than from fat theory books. That’s the beauty of sports. It does not matter who you are or where you come from. Heck, it does not even matter if you’re physically fit or even good at the sport (unless you’re playing professionally) — all you need is to be enthusiastic and show up! Although each sport is distinctly unique, the idea of sports is governed by a unifying spirit that transcends all societal differences.
The same binding spirit extends to the realm of art. Art is all around us and in every fiber of our being. It is not something limited only to white cube spaces and galleries to be enjoyed by an elite few but it belongs to the streets, as a democratic medium of expression for all. Today we are going to explore a homegrown collective of athletes and artists that embodies this spirit of unity in diversity. Founded by Rahul Chakraborty, Extreme Kolkata is a growing community at the pulse of youth culture, sports, and art in the City of Joy. They find their expressions through the diverse mediums of mixed martial arts, gymnastics, parkour, cycling, skateboarding, street art, graffiti, and tattooing.
In a candid interview with Homegrown, Rahul takes us through the building blocks of the Extreme Kolkata Collective, what it entails, and its future plans.
What was your inspiration behind the initiative, Extreme Kolkata?
I had a dream to build a community of people who like to play and create. It includes a community where we move, play, jump, run, fall and get up again and do it again — a place where we are all the same, with no disparity, no division, no hate, no jealousy, no negative energy. It's a place where anyone and everyone is welcome regardless of your age, skin color, gender, caste, religion etc. It is a safe place for all. There is no judgment, no nonsense, just pure fun and play. And today this dream has become a reality.
What activities are part of Extreme Kolkata?
Extreme Kolkata is a wide umbrella and the activities are many. We have skateboarding, long-boarding and in-line skating, parkour, MMA, slacklining, calisthenics, acrobatics, off-road motorcycling, dancers and flow artists (frisbee, dapo, juggling), rappers, musicians, cycle stunt riders (Mtb & BMX), graffiti, and street artists.
In which locations in the city, are the sessions hosted?
We practice mostly at a huge parking lot in Eco Park, Kolkata but ever since we have been growing exponentially we are collaborating with artists and athletes around the city and now we are exploring new places regularly to train and practice. I would like to mention here that we don’t have a dedicated space for our activities and sometimes the authorities from Eco Park try to shoo us away from our regular practice spot. I wish we had a skatepark or a dedicated space to practice.
How does one become part of the collective?
Becoming a part of Extreme Kolkata is fairly easy. One just has to connect with us and come meet the community physically to start with. As our community has many children and my main emphasis is maintaining the community as a safe inclusive space, I have a few guidelines that everyone needs to follow. The most important thing is to be respectful and supportive towards each other. We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. Anyone who comes with good intentions and energy is welcome to connect and share their knowledge and skills with everyone. And once the management is confident that a new member aligns with our thoughts and values, we include them in our community. However, any discrimination or disrespectful behaviour will result in immediate removal from the community. As we have people from different backgrounds and cultures coming together it’s important to learn to respect, understand, and empathise with each other. These are the only guidelines. If you come bearing love, you’re more than welcome but any negative energy will not be entertained.
How do you envision Extreme Kolkata growing in the days to come?
Extreme Kolkata is growing faster than anticipated. Many of our kids come from underprivileged backgrounds and have been exposed to a lot of violence and crime very early in their childhood. As a result of growing up in such conditions some kids really struggle with trust issues and empathy towards others. Some kids have high-stress levels, some try to bully others, and some used to steal things. All of this behaviour is a defence mechanism that these kids were forced to adapt so early in life because for them, the struggle to survive is immense. These kids have been deprived of love, care, and empathy. No one has ever made them feel seen or safe. All their emotions are driven by survival instinct. Now they are taught values like love, empathy, kindness, teamwork, brotherhood and a sense of family (community) — something that they all crave but hardly get. We inspire change by leading by example.
Our community comprises multi-disciplinary artists and athletes who are good at all the activities I spoke of earlier. So when the kids see someone doing what they love, it inspires them to also try new things. With kids, the ‘cool’ factor really helps. Extreme sports, arts and love are the trusted tools we use to inspire change.
We look forward to making Extreme Kolkata an NGO where we will be focused on empowering humans using these tools. We wish to work closely with the government so we can help each other in creating thriving communities. We are now collaborating with venues, agencies, artists and organizations to create and develop our presence through workshops and team-building activities. We just finished an exhibition cum Workshop at The Kolkata Tattoo Festival, which was a roaring success. We also recently organized a pool party where some of our kids were exposed to a swimming pool for the first time in their lives.
Their happiness is my motivation. I’m confident that we are meant for greatness and now I have the love and support of an army of empathetic artists and athletes beside me. Nothing can stop us now. We will grow beyond borders and connect everyone soon enough!
Find out more about Extreme Kolkata here.
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