“She always loved nature and movement (sport, dance, adventures).
A ‘well-educated city-girl’ from Delhi, who has had a comfortable life with no reason to complain. However, she felt she never got enough opportunity to explore her love for sport and movement to be able to acquire even their basic skills early on. Additionally, given the patterns that our society and education system follow, she was led to believe that such activities were only recreational bits of fun to fill time and at most, add some nice dimension to one’s personality.”
Kriti Gupta studied Interior Design and practiced it for 3 years. Today, she practices Vanargiri/Parkour/ADD (l’art du replacement) full-time. “It’s my passion, personal pursuit, and my profession. I teach it, have my own company – Vanarshala – with 3 partners, who are also an integral part of my life, have designed and opened India’s biggest outdoor Parkour/ADD/Vanargiri training facility in Gurgaon, on 22nd February 2020, says Kriti.”
As for sports or movement, Kriti skated for 7 years during school, camped, trekked, danced and Kalaripayattu for a few years. In 2016, when she was 26, she also completed her Basic Mountaineering course to quench her thirst for being outdoor & to move meaningfully as she had realized that design was not what she wants and it didn’t interest her. She thought it ripped nature apart and most projects were emotionless commerce.
Getting into parkour was by accident for Kriti. She says,” I’m the one who continuously challenge myself; mentally and physically. One of my college friends (at CEPT University, Ahmedabad) may have noticed these qualities and wrote to me when I was practicing design in Delhi (at Studio Lotus) that something like ‘Parkour’ exists and he’s heard that certain groups in Delhi give lessons. I googled to see what exactly Parkour was, I liked it and googled again to see who’s teaching. There were a few names (some of whom are now our counterparts in the industry (she smiles) and went for a session to the one that responded most clearly. This was Aman’s team, who were all among, what we can call, the first generation of Parkour teachers in India. So, I immediately started going for Parkour (again, as a ‘hobby’) twice a week, like students now come to us.
From there, with Aman Roy, who was my second Parkour teacher (first was Piyush sir, who is now based in Pune), I created this world, which we call Vanarshala because he also has free imagination, an open heart and also believes as I do, that anything is possible because the mind is everything. If you can imagine it, you can live it. Now here we are. He is one of us 4 partners in Vanarshala and it is built largely on his ideals, values and the way he envisioned this profession to evolve back when it was almost nothing!”
When asked about how was her family reaction when they got to know about her practicing parkour, she says, “my family is pretty progressive. We have deep, energetic conversations, for which, my father is to thank. My father is a dynamic, imaginative man, with a conservative set of values but an open-mind. My mom was a strong, liberated woman, too. But since we lost her when I was 8, my father is to take credit for shaping me this way. Any movement that I had done this far, even if only as hobbies, was thanks to my father’s encouragement and confidence in us. He always wanted us to be multi-dimensional, shining, compassionate beings with deep self-responsibility. Once I studied & practiced design with all I had and still decided that it was not what I wanted to pursue, we had healthy conversations, the last decisions from which were left to me.
Today, my dad is the third partner in Vanarshala, so, that explains how much support I have from my family. My brother is an equestrian – a horse rider, teacher & consultant. While both sports have their own challenges of being off-beat, with guidance in entrepreneurship and public relations from our father, we are both doing rather well.
For Kriti ADD/Vanargiri defines her core values as a person and her belief in life.
“My practice is the direct manifestation of my own spirit and the wholesome philosophy of this art form makes fertile ground for my spirit to grow in. Our practice is in pursuit of a Strong Body, Strong Mind, Strong Spirit.”
Strong Body to ensure self-sufficiency, be of positive help for others, be more capable to enjoy all the elements of life, the challenges of nature and to express oneself with efficiency and grace because grace, I believe, is strength with rhythm.
Strong Mind to take personal responsibility, that too, with poise. To have high self-esteem, the strength of character to take independent decisions, to be well-informed through observation, perception and most importantly, to be capable of reflection – of self and of society. It also means to be calculative, while being creative.
Strong Spirit because with a healthy balance of Strong Body and Strong Mind, the Spirit soars. We smile to sleep knowing who we are, not confused about our existence, our identity, feeling more alive in every moment and knowing better how to enjoy this wonderful experience that life is. The practice makes one feel connected with the ‘whole’ as thoughts begin to align automatically through the meditative aspects of movement and as the mind continuously humbles through difficulty, repetition, and achievement.
Kriti says historically, Parkour/ADD/Vanargiri were street arts – in the sense that they exist best in the natural environment, whose inherent challenges make the practitioner resilient and more creative. Out on the streets, in the forests, on the rocks or the roofs, one has unexpected physical difficulties, puzzles to solve with the mind and conversations/negotiations with the society. The more exposure one has to these situations, the more unique and adaptive it makes the practitioner, which is always the larger motive of this practice itself. While Vanarshala acknowledges and respects this aspect very much, as serious practitioners and coaches, it was very important to have a space of our own, where a practitioner has the freedom of time, peace of mind, space to explore without being questioned and certain basic progressions built out for smooth growth.
“The Shala is also that place where movement practitioners and coaches from different disciplines belong together and not only grow as individuals but collectively help grow these professions to that strength where everyone involved gets paid well enough to live good quality life and earns them the respect from the society which every practitioner is due for, as this discipline demands a lot from the heart, mind, and soul.”