With no lights, Bondel Maidan seems to be going to dogs

With no lights, Bondel Maidan seems to be going to dogs

Dogs seem to be literally ruling the roost at Bondel maidan this winter. Spread over 10 acres in the middle of Government Housing Colony, the maidan has become home for over 30 stray dogs. The long nights and short days of the winter season have further contributed to the dogs lazing around in the maidan leaving morning walkers a tad scared to take a stroll in the ill-lit ground.

Till about 6.45 am every morning, there seem to be a steady stream of 'fireflies' guiding people on the walking track in the ground but on close scrutiny the 'fireflies' turn out to be torchlights and smartphones being used as torches by walkers.

The maidan, lit by two mast lights on the north and south ends, would once be a   favourite with women walkers who would finish their rounds at dawn and rush home to prepare breakfast for their school-going children. Now the number of walkers has waned as ladies are afraid of risking molestation in the dark as the mast lights are not turned on.

Incidentally, the maidan, with an estimated market value of Rs 200 crores is a hot property being eyed by many including cricket afficionados who plan to build a stadium and keep locals away.

The maidan derives its identity from Bondel Laughter Club which functions at the south-end of the maidan under the mast light but the lights are switched off before 6 am when it is actually pitch dark. It is 6 am by the time the Bondel Laughter Club commences its 20-minute daily session attended by a dozen-odd enthusiasts or 'laughter cracks' as dubbed by non-participants.

The members of the laughter club cannot function in darkness because many of their movements need light such as exercises for the eyes, which need to follow moving fingers without turning the head, says John Monteiro, the founder and lead anchor of Bondel Laughter Club.

"Laughter is not induced by tickling or by use of laughing gas. It calls for close facial interaction within the group. What eye-contact or facial interaction can one have in pitch darkness?" quips Monteiro. "The request is simple, please keep the mast lights on till 6.30 am by which time sunlight creeps in," he says.

As a number of pleas to authorities concerned including the Mayor have fallen on deaf ears, Monteiro parks his car on the maidan and turns on its headlights on highbeam to illuminate the circle formed by the 'laughter cracks'.

Winnie Hart, a retired physical training teacher, who has now settled down in the heart of London and spends some months in Bondel to be with her ailing mother, is a regular participant in Bondel Laughter Club sessions while in Mangaluru. Winnie says: "Such a beautiful ground is provided for people to use. But, people without proper lighting on the maidan are scared to walk with stray dogs tenanting the ground. One morning it was dark and a dog nearly mauled me. Then I stopped going for pre-dawn walks."

Khalid Ansari, a retired professor from Karnataka Polytechnic, who has been with the Laughter Club since its inception in 2002, is an agitated man hoping for relief from the "dark actions" of a grounds man who apparently, ignores the instructions of his superiors with impunity. He says that mast lights are switched on at 5 pm when there is bright sunlight.

Where should the laughter club, or morning walkers, including women, go now for relief? Is the Mayor listening? How long should pre-dawn walkers and laughter club function with torch/mobile lighting and by using car headlights, ask residents.




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