What's childhood sans playgrounds?

Children and play are synonymous with each other. I remember that even through the tough life I have seen as a farm labourer’s daughter, play was never far away from all the work and struggle we went through.

Whether it was frolicking in the fields as we helped our parents or just jumping around chasing each other across the land, my siblings and I never faced a dearth of space to release all our energies.

Thankfully as I bring up my twins, Rengpa and Nainai in the still open and untouched land as Manipur, I can be happy that they will grow into healthy, strapping, sturdy lads with all the physical activity they will go through.

Sadly, that is not what lakhs of children across our country have access to... Ironically, what should be a natural part of growing up -- open spaces, play and playgrounds, seems to be becoming a luxury in most Indian cities.

Whenever I visit Mumbai, Hyderabad or Bangalore, and I have been visiting these places so often ever since my return from the Olympics for various felicitations, I am overwhelmed with the imposing structures that stare down at me... certain parts of these cities confuse me whether I am in India or abroad.

Non-existent footpath

But a few metres away, I often see children trying to walk on non-existent footpaths, dodging traffic as they walk to their destinations.

It is also not a rare sight to see children playing on the street dangerously close to zipping vehicles. It prompts me to ask: of what use is such growth if it has to come at the cost of giving our children a free and open childhood?

Lack of open spaces and playgrounds is becoming an issue with the over-population of our cities. It is an issue that must not be ignored as it has the potential to become a hazard for our children with time.

Children are meant to play, to run, to scrape their knees and roll in the grass... all of which a city can afford if it makes spaces for playgrounds.

It is fashionable for mothers to talk of how busy their children are with studies and tuitions. The only entertainment these children seem to have is TV! It makes me wonder, if the child is doing all this, when is he or she is getting to be a real child -- which is about playing.

Colonies are built with promise of fancy gadgets for security and automation that speak of luxury. But what about attention to basics... which is as simple as gardens, parks and playgrounds? The only gardens that seem to find preference are the traffic islands beautified and the only parks seem to be a cluster of trees and grass.

Even schools are now becoming spaces without playgrounds. And was it not in school that we learnt that all work and no play makes Jack (or Jill) a dull child?

So why are we not practicing what we are teaching? School sports day in cities like Mumbai are held on rented lands or in a public ground. How can we even call these as schools where sports and play is not in the daily curriculum?

In all of this when I heard of P&G’s initiative of building playgrounds across the country in schools and in public spaces, it instantly touched a chord as it is a cause that I closely believe in.

If ever I need to move to a larger city, I would not want my children to be bereft of having access to open spaces....the pleasure of looking up and seeing the sky or rolling in the grass...

 I am sure there are enough mothers like me who would want their kids living the same free flowing childhood that they themselves have experienced.

Trust me the best gift we can give our children are open green playgrounds that foster the habit of play and physical activity. For this is the sure shot way to ensuring they grow up with an active and healthy lifestyle, that is sure to get them to say “Thank You Mom.”

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