Vanishing grounds: A lament by children

Vanishing grounds: A lament by children

Playgrounds in the City are disappearing fast, depriving children of their only chance for a direct experience with nature. At stake is their motivation to explore, discover new friends and to engage in health-promoting physical activity. Offering an escape from the tight strictures of daily life, the playgrounds once gave them plenty of space to run around, to team up for games aplenty. That is getting increasing tough in Bangalore.

Located in urban neighbourhoods, these sporting places have been convenient because they were linked by networks of child-friendly, safe, and accessible pathways to homes. The grounds have also nurtured an impressive repertoire of rough-and-tumble games transmitted across generations regardless of social class, ethnic background, or geography. The growing trend of such grounds transforming as parks for senior citizens threatens to kill that tradition.

The threat is real for siblings, 10-year-old Adam and Adele Santamaria, 13, both residents of Gospel Street, St. Thomas Town. They now have trouble even finding a suitable place to play about freely.“There’s an old man who is always shouting at me when I play in the park. If I step on the grass, he shouts at me more. Where am I going to play?”  Adam exclaims.

Richards Park, at the centre of Richard’s Town, is a frequently used park in the area. The place has a small play area with limited facilties which is so packed with children and their parents that one has to wait their turn to have some fun. Children are not allowed to cycle inside the park and the area around Richard’s Park is in no way safe for them to pedal as it serves as a one-way junction for vehicles. Adele says he has to travel to Milton Park in D’Costa Layout, a little distant away, to cycle around. “I play football inside my house with my dad. If I play outside, my neighbour shouts at me.” Milton’s park was recently converted into a senior citizens’ park in D’Costa Layout. The children are restricted to playing in front of their house, on the streets, facing the wrath of cranky neighbours.

Khune Luruo, mother of Kristin, Jojo and Yoyo who reside in Kamanahalli, also laments the lack of a playground nearby. There are small patches of land that are only for recreation. Her children and her neighbours’ Immanueal and Bandra Jayakumar are happy playing on their street together. “Rajkumar Park is deserted, I do not think that my children are safe there.” Komal Akula who lives in an apartment opposite Rajkumar Park says, “The security personnel of the park do not allow children to play inside. Even if it was, I would not allow my child to play because just beside the park, there is a garbage dump that threatens the health of my son.” 

Shivani Dimri and her son Dhruv find peace at Defence Colony park, Indiranagar. This park has separate areas for children and senior citizens, something which Shivani Dimri is happy about. “The facilities available here are good. My boy enjoys the space to run about, there is enough privacy. I used to stay near Marathahalli, where there was no such provision.”

Silvy Peter, a mother of two grownups, recalls how playgrounds played a vital role in her kids’ childhood. Playgrounds, she says, gave her children the opportunity to run around and socialise while giving her a break from policing them. “I can sympathise with young mothers as keeping kids amused indoors is tiring. It is very frustrating that these playgrounds are soon disappearing. Besides, children need to run and stretch for healthier growth,” she explains.

Sachin, Ronak and Sneha Sharma, aged nine, six and eight respectively, feel that a playground would be the ideal place for them to play. As there isn’t a playground at their locality, they play on the street and are constantly on the lookout for vehicles.
“When we play cricket, sometimes the ball gets into other people’s houses and they will not return it to us. They also reprimand us saying that we might break their windows,” complains Rakesh, a teenager from the area.

Allen Joe, a student of St. John’s Medical College and an athlete, stresses the role of playgrounds in providing him a place to run and practise. “It’s not just children who play there, a couple of my athlete-friends also practise at those playgrounds. A few more of them wouldn’t hurt, maybe even bigger ones. I know I would like that,” says Allen.

Senior citizens, Balaram and Durga Chandran, agree that conversion of playgrounds into parks for senior citizens is a superfluous move by the government. They feel that children get more use out of the playgrounds than they do. “We do not know if we will be here tomorrow but these children will be playing in the playgrounds for years. Besides, it’s nice to see them run and play,” notes Durga.

Khune Luruo, mother of Kristin, Jojo and Yoyo (in pix) who reside in Kamanahalli, also laments the lack of a playground nearby. There are small patches of land that are only for recreation. Her children and her neighbours, Immanueal and Bandra Jayakumar, are happy playing on their street together. “Rajkumar Park is deserted, I do not think my children are safe there.”

Residents, St. Thomas Town
“There is an old man who
always shouts at us when we play in the park. If we step on the grass, he shouts at us more. Where should we go to play?”

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