In search of that elusive sports arena

In search of that elusive sports arena

Sneha Nayak is an eighth standard student who likes to play games such as kho-kho, football and badminton. She would love to be able to play every evening, but homework keeps her indoors. The few times she does step out for a game of badminton, she has to play on the streets. “We try to play on the road but the vehicles disturb us. We have no choice because there are no playgrounds near my house” is her lament.

Schools give too much importance to academics and hardly ever encourage sports, notes Sadhish Kumar, a class 10 student in the city. “We don’t have a playground on the school premises so we go to a public ground nearby. There are no basketball courts or nets for playing throwball or badminton.”

These public grounds are often crowded. “There is a goalpost for football, but even that is taken over by people playing cricket,” Kumar points out.

Aadya Sharma, a sports writer, attributes his interest in cricket and football to the facilities and encouragement he received in school. “It is important for children to get that kind of support at an early stage,” he says.

In his hometown in Delhi, playgrounds are easy to find but not so in Bengaluru. Explains Sharma, “Here I go to sports arenas but they are quite expensive and therefore, inaccessible to many.”

Expensive play areas
If the group is large enough, the hourly rate for booking these spaces is moderate although the play area is often inadequate. Divya Mary Abraham travels from Indiranagar to Whitefield to play football. “The field is not of standard size. It’s about as big as a basketball court but it has grass so we go there.” she says. Finding a suitable court to play basketball is more challenging. “There are few courts in the city. So they are crowded in the evenings on weekdays and on weekends too.”

Lathish Pillai and his colleagues go to a public ground near their office for a game of cricket during lunch break. Pointing at the practice nets for cricket on one side of the ground, he says, “This is the only sport for which training is easily available.”

In Pillai’s opinion, middleclass families in India do not encourage sports because of the lack of financial security in the profession. “Unless there is some provision from the government, even I would not encourage my child to go into the field.”

Olympic dreams are far away for Shashikala, who cannot find a place for her six-year-old son to play. “Where we live in Ulsoor, there are no playgrounds nearby. There are nothing but apartment complexes around.”

Sachin Sanjaykumar, a marketing professional, was once a district-level cricket player. Talking about the shrinking open spaces in the city, he observes: “Though Bengaluru is slightly better than other cities, increasing population is turning it into a concrete jungle.” Most playgrounds eventually turn into garbage dumps. “They are not maintained well with weeds growing all over the place,” he points out.

Rays of hope
All hope is not lost though. A playground beside Shivajinagar bus stand, popularly known as Chota Maidan, is being developed by the local corporator, R Vasanth Kumar. Over the past two-and-a-half months, the ground was flattened with road-rollers, weeds were removed and the place cleaned up.

Soon a basketball court will be part of the ground. “Children from all the four wards nearby come here to play. Most families in this area are from low-income groups, so it is very beneficial for them,” says M S Sufiyan, secretary of the local Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA).

They recently conducted a cricket tournament and a 400-metre race at the upgraded ground.



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