I stay in a nice residential area of Bangalore. It is a small layout with narrow tree-lined roads, bungalows..big and small, and a few apartment complexes. If you look down from your balcony, you can see the daily vegetable seller pushing his cart on the road, calling out his stock of the day. Then there is this guy who makes at least two rounds in a day to buy old newspapers and bottles. Diagonally opposite the small road, sits a guy who irons clothes for most of the houses in the area. The neighborhood still has the charm of a small sleepy town while still being fairly close to the shopping malls, supermarkets and offices of big IT companies.
In the two years that I have stayed here, I have relished the peace and quiet of this place, the luxury of being able to sleep till noon without being woken up by the noise of traffic and the sheer enjoyment of being able to enjoy the rain from my balcony while looking out on the greenery below.
Right opposite my apartment was a large piece of empty land, overgrown with wild bushes. The entrance to this area was closed by a gate. There was a small brick tenement near the gate which housed a watchman. Sometimes while having tea in my balcony, I would catch a glimpse of the watchman taking a bored walk near the compound wall. Clearly, he did not have much to guard. I always wondered who was the owner of this wasteland and what plans he had for this piece of property.
A few days back, I saw some activity in the enclosed area, the ground was being cleared with a sense of urgency. The first sinking thought which came to my mind was that a new big apartment complex is going to come up opposite. There goes the breeze and the view !!! I can no longer enjoy a cup of coffee standing in my balcony and will need to keep the curtains of my rooms drawn all the time. I can also forget the unobstructed sunlight which lights up my house during daytime. Such were the thoughts racing through my mind.
Things did not quite go that way though. Yes, the ground was cleared and nicely. To my surprise, the gate and the watchman's hut was removed. The empty wasteland has now become a playground !!!
Now there is a lot of activity in the ground during the entire day, right from sunrise till darkness sets in. I wake up with the sound of people playing cricket, as early as 6 am !!! Till date, I can never understand the love the male population of India has for this game. I cannot imagine how more than 20 people, teenagers and adults, wake up at 6 am on weekdays, that too daily, to play cricket !!! Some addiction !! Then there are some people who play badminton, earlier they used to play on the road in the evenings, and had to stop every time a vehicle needed to pass. Now they have place to play uninterrupted. There is a goalpost for hockey which has been put, but am yet to see anyone play hockey there. Also there are two poles which have been put up in one section of the ground, I think in preparedness for a volleyball court. The younger kids who had only the building parking to play in and were not allowed to go on the road for fear of vehicles, have now found a safe place to freely run around and chase each other. The lack of restraint makes them look happier. In the evenings, when the field becomes empty after dark, I have even seen someone learn driving in the ground.
Isn't it surprising how much change a playground can bring? True, the peace and quiet of my neighborhood is gone. But now there is action...sweaty, tired but happy faces...screams of joy and despair....life in its most expressive form. Maybe one of these fanatics who wakes up at 6 am to play cricket will turn out to be a Tendulkar tomorrow. Someone who never went for walks on the pretext of not having a park will finally run out of excuses and take up walking. And for someone like me who drives all the way to Cubbon Park to run on weekends because she hates running on the road, I can save a lot of time and fuel :)
Never truly realized earlier how important a playground can be. A playground is more than just a piece of land..its a way for life. So let's try and preserve them and keep the child in us alive :)