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Showing the ropes of a new sport

By Prasanta Phukon

Shillong boy Chandan Deka is walking a tight rope, literally. The 25-year-old techie turned adventurer is on a mission to popularise an activity that is still known among a handful of people.
Deka started slacklining only last October. It was his elder brother, Dhiraj, a rock climber himself, who initiated him into the adventure sport.

“Slacklining is the act of tying a flat rope between two anchors or points and walking on it. It is usually practised by tying the specially designed rope between two trees,” explains Deka.
The first time he tried walking on a rope he failed. But he did not give up. “The process was very easy. It was a 2 inch slackline that I had to balance on. I kept going at it for a while and in about 6 to 8 hours I was able to stand comfortably on the rope and then walk from one point to the other,” he recalls.
Two months into slacklining and Deka was already participating in highlining.

Today he is able to perform at many intermediate “here is still much more to learn”, he says. “There is a bunch of people in our country who you may see performing crazy tricks.”

In countless cities around the world, slacklining has been widely accepted by people of all ages as a form of exercise that is also fun, therapeutic and environment-friendly. “Moreover, it’s an activity that brings one close to nature and instills a strong sense of community,” the young slackliner adds.
As a slackline enthusiast, Deka is trying to make this popular among youths. Almost every Sunday, Deka converts a portion of Golf Link into his training ground. The response so far has been heartening.
“People from all walks of life, irrespective of age, gender and social standing have tried slacklining and I have welcomed everyone who has wanted to try it,” says Deka relaxing on the slackline.
Deka left Shillong after his graduation in BTech from NEHU in 2017 and went to Bengaluru to seek better opportunities but never felt at home. “While I was working in Bangalore, I always remembered home and wanted to go back,” he remembers.

Being an IT engineer, it became difficult for him to stick to his career and pursue his passion for slacklining. It was at that time of dilemma that Deka got a job offer from Pumpkin Rooms in Shillong. The new job gives him enough room to continue slacklining.
Now back home with his parents, Deka is dedicating time in promoting the sport. During his stay in Bengaluru, he would visit different places in and outside Karnataka for the sport with ‘Slacklining Comunity of Bangalore’ that earned him followers, who include renowned personalities.
His biggest achievement was doing highlining in between two mountains in Lonavala which I did after a few weekends of training. “There I conquered my fear of heights,” says Deka who also has interest in rock climbing and swimming.

“This made me think deeply about promoting slacklining in Shillong as well,” he adds.
Talking about the benefits of the sport, Deka says slacklining helps in injury rehabilitation, enhances focus, concentration and memory, increases body strength and overall fitness and improves posture and balance.

Despite these, hurdles in promoting the sport remain, the first being finance. To get better gear and sling it requires a good financial support, which Deka is yet to find.
Deka says he does not have sufficient gears to practice numerous competitive stunts for tournaments abroad. So he is planning on his own to get some better gear.
“I would like to thank Scooby, a colleague from the Bangalore Slacklining Community, for gifting me a line (sling for Slackling) by which I am being able to demonstrate in Shillong,” he adds.
Another problem is space. At present, Deka is looking for a regular place where he can start a community and where he can share what he has learned. “Youths these days are always busy in the digital world. Slacklining will bring them closer to nature,” he says.

Then there is fear of the authorities. Deka says he always fears that some official would not allow him to do this activity in public assuming it is harmful. “This happened to the slacklining community in Bengaluru too. Slacklining in India faces a lot of challenges. We keep getting thrown out of parks and public spaces. I have a friend 'Samar Farooqui, who was India’s first slackliner to go for world competition, who even got arrested in Mumbai for slacklining. As this activity is not fully authorised as a sport we are facing these problems,” says Deka, now sitting upright on the flat slack rope.
Changing people’s mindset is another challenge.

“Sometimes it is difficult to explain to people about the sport… they even compare it to circus,” he laughs.
According to Deka, most people first think it’s just like walking on a tight rope “but it is completely a different feeling when we actually do it and this is fully a safe sport and any age group can do it”.

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