By Shatabdi Chakrabarti
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Videographer / director: Shams Qari
Producer: Shatabdi Chakrabarti, Ruby Coote
Editor: Thom Johnson
Growing up in the slums of Mumbai, India, 26-year-old Annul Pale had a passion for cycling from his early days and developed an interest in BMX after watching the stunts on a sports channel.
After experimenting with skateboarding and b-boying, Anul got into BMX stunt riding in 2005 and has since won numerous championships and even appeared in a movie.
He told Barcroft TV: “In the beginning I didn’t have a BMX. My father had thrown my mother, brother and me out of the house and we were living in the streets.
"I started working from 9am to 5pm for just £0.55 a day out of which I had to give £0.49 at home. I used to save it. Likewise, I would save my tips from delivering pizzas."
But his hardships did not deter him and he saved enough money to finally buy a cycle from a scrapyard.
He said: “The yard keeper was selling it for £10, but I had managed to save only £3.27. I kept requesting him to agree on my price but he wouldn’t reduce the price. I kept requesting for a month and then another scrap dealer gave me the cycle for £3.27.”
The cycle that Annul finally got was in a bad shape and needed a lot of repairs for which he kept collecting money to slowly fix it.
He said: “I started practicing two to three hours a day. And then I met another rider who told me that what I was doing is called BMX or Bicycle Moto Cross. I didn’t even know that. I slowly started meeting others who do BMX stunts, but then I had to leave it due to family issues."
To help his family, Annul left BMX-ing to concentrate full time on a job and his studies. But his love for riding got him back into the sport.
He said: “I used to go the shop of a friend and watch BMX stunt videos online in the evening and then go and practice from 6pm-11pm.”
A completely self taught rider, Annul didn’t find any support in the beginning. His brother broke his cycle many times to discourage him from spending his time doing stunts.
But with regular practice and his growing acceptance in the BMX circuit in Mumbai, Annul participated in a Red Bull sponsored workshop, where his recognition began.
After his performance, Red Bull became his sponsor. Since then, he regularly takes parts in various BMX tournaments held in and around Mumbai and is well known for his tricks on the bike.
He has also won numerous championships, most famously winning the BMX Freestyle Battle in 2015 in the video category, held in Meghalaya, India. Annul has also recently made a guest appearance in a film called Nonsense.
His mother, Sayaka Pale said: "I didn’t know what BMX was and I don’t know how Annul learnt.
He just wants to do this. Many people call him for events today and I can’t believe it.” Without any infrastructure or financial support, the BMX underground circuit in Mumbai relies completely on itself.
There are no proper parks and tracks to practice and local police often question these youngsters about their motives behind doing stunts on the streets. It is also not seen as a mode to earn a livelihood.
Annul said: “I never did BMX for money. I always did BMX for fun, and I always did it because I wanted to do it.
"People here think whoever does these tricks belongs in the circus. They don’t understand it as a form of sport.
"But today I have won gold in this category. I am teaching others. Through them I want to grow the BMX culture in India."