The Streets Are Alive.

My childhood and boyhood was spent in two gated communities and two homes in cul de sacs where my siblings and I along with other neighbourhood friends could play all kinds of games particularly cricket.  My cousins in Chennai and Mumbai living in flats would be sent off either to the terraces to fly kites or to the streets below to play.  I simply cannot think any day other than when we were ill that we did not play on the streets outside our homes.

Today’s living is somewhat different with more high rise apartments in cities and towns and streets with high traffic density that allows little space for children to play in.  Newer gated community complexes with high rise buildings in them but with their own play areas, clubs etc are coming up, but where I live the older stand alone buildings predominate.

When I sit in the garden after my evening walks, many young parents and or grand parents who live in apartments in the locality come to the park with their  children.  From where I sit, I can view the main quadrangle which is a vast expanse of grass that abuts the children’s play area with swings, see saws, jungle gyms etc.  No sooner the children come into the park, they start laughing and screaming and  running on the grass in the quadrangle with the older parents and grand parents struggling to keep pace with them.  This is always a very endearing sight to see as I can understand the children’s desire to run the minute they see such a vast open expanse having spent time in small flats.

kids-running-in-parkWhen I was in Chennai last month, I was staying with my brother Arvind who lives in a gated community with its own playground facilities for the children plus a few attractions for the oldies too.

Mantri FountainOne of such attractions is this fountain, one of three in their complex, around which benches have been installed for residents to sit and watch the fountains play.  I can assure you that it is one of the most soothing things that one can experience and almost every evening I would go there with Arvind and Shanta and sit around making friends with other residents.  Arvind’s two grand sons Kedar and Sarang 6 and 4 would not sit with us but would be running around the fountain playing their own games along with other children from the complex, and I would expect them to slip and fall but they never did.  But the joy in their faces just running and yelling, being free was worth bringing them down from the flat.

All these memories were brought up to me by a post that Nick put up on Facebook about roads being closed to traffic in the UK to enable children to play.  Among all the miserable news that I get to read now a days, this was one that gladdened my heart as I am sure it must have a lot of others.  I hope that this post will gladden the heart of those who have not read it so far.

I hope that the movement will catch on and come over to our country as well.


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38 Responses to The Streets Are Alive.

  1. Delirious says:

    We were blessed to live on a street without much traffic when my kids were young. Also there is a huge park nearby where they could go to play. They had an idyllic childhood
    Delirious recently posted..A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, But Unfortunately I Don’t Have a Picture

    • Ranjan had some parts of his childhood where he could play but where he could not, we made it a point to take him to some park or the other just like the parents in my locality do with their children.

  2. Nandu Pillai says:

    I grew up near the band stand & Oval maidan in South Bombay so we had space to run around and play , but cricket was invariably in the apartment block compound car park and many a ground floor window pane bore the brunt of the lofted cover drive ! One disgruntled old guy on the first floor once slyly emptied a bucket of water on us kids , but all it meant for us was that Holi had arrived earlier and we carried on regardless !

  3. Alan G says:

    I’m sorry but I just had to laugh at Nandu’s comment regarding the old man who emptied the bucket of water on the kids. Reminds me a lot of the guy I live with. Oh wait, I live alone… never mind! 🙂

    The kids I live around are so destructive and ill-mannered I grit my teeth when they are loosed on the neighborhood. They always have to be tearing up something – I just don’t understand that. And it seems the parents could really care less.

    If you come by my house and see kids out and about don’t be surprised if you hear some really old guy shouting, “You kids get the hell out a here and stay off my grass!” That’ll be me…. 😀
    Alan G recently posted..Nice to meet you Governor Rockefeller…. Oops!

  4. wisewebwoman says:

    I’m catching you with you Ramana, many interesting posts. I’ve often thought that town planners in the last while must despise children, no spaces to run free or cramped little playgrounds that are often taken down for fear of helicoptering parents suing for injuries sustained by their kids. Many times we have created a pitiful concreted mean cityscape which hurts the eyes and soul.
    wisewebwoman recently posted..Blog Jam

  5. We could do with a lot more of that here. I read an article the other day about a mother who spent a night in jail because she let her children ride their scooters in a cul-de-sac. She had been watching them but it didn’t make any difference — she was endangering their lives. No wonder so many kids are suffering poor health because of obesity.
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Advertising vs Reality

  6. Ursula says:

    It’s scandalous how children’s needs are ignored.

    I was lucky in my own childhood. Very. And I believe my son to have been too. When he was little we had a huge garden, and even so I would take him (and his friends) out to the countryside, to the forest, for long anxiety inducing (when we got lost) walks, anything that gives freedom to roam, to explore.

    Children need freedom of movement. You know when I could weep with all my heart? When I see a parent having a child’s hand ‘securely’ tied to what amounts to a dog leash. For heaven’s sake: Yes, you do need to keep your child safe in the city. Why not just take his/her hand into yours. How did my son used to say when we crossed the road: “Mama, don’t squeeze so hard.” Yeah, well. Know the feeling. But it least it was a hand. Needs must. Look left, look right. Other than that he had all the freedom in the world. And it shows in the utter confidence he has in himself and how he conducts himself.

    Got to stop here, and myself, before I get onto my pet hate subject how people are out and about with their children and instead of engaging with them jabbering into their phones, texting, whilst that little mite at knee height is looking up to them. For reaction. Interaction. Feedback. Anything.

    I shan’t sink so low as to say it, yet it’s true: The English appear to prefer animals to children.

    Ursula recently posted..Down the alley, up the creek

    • Why the English? I find that many people in my life too prefer animals to children and in a way, I can even sympathise with them. That way is the very simple one of economics. No expenditure involved in education, medicines etc. In India, those are nightmarish now.

  7. Anita says:

    Lovely post, and it conjured up some vivid memories. Thanks!

  8. Grannymar says:

    We lived on a busy avenue, so we never played at the front of the house. No Need. We had a long back garden and an enclosed field behind that which was leased by the fourteen householders for the children to play in.

    Near Elly there are three schools in a row and I notice one of them used by parents and children for playing in the evenings and at weekends. There are parks about, but I have only ever seen dog walkers there and no children.
    Grannymar recently posted..Sunday one liners ~ 19

  9. Maxi says:

    Your words have made a delightful start to my day, Rummy. I can see and hear the precious children at play.

    And those marvelous fountains! How I wish we had squares to come together and visit … and sooth our soul with the flowing waters.
    blessings ~ maxi
    Maxi recently posted..Maxi Malone Reveals Truth About Brain Problems

  10. nick says:

    As Grannymar says, even when there are local parks they don’t seem to be used by children very much, partly because of the current paranoia about child molesters and drug pushers. Like you, I spent a lot of my childhood playing in the streets on my own, when cars were rare and no big hazard. The introduction of play streets that are closed three hours a week for children to play is brilliant.

  11. shackman says:

    For a close look at my young life and summers there is this….

  12. tammyj says:

    you would find me sitting close enough to the fountain to feel the spray!
    i dearly love fountains! and watching little ones play around it would be just fine.
    then i would have to come back and have some quiet time!
    the spirit of this post is beautiful rummy.
    and i had to laugh at alan g! LOLOL. mr wilson.
    tammyj recently posted..clearness of knowing

  13. I grew up roaming the hills around our home. It was such a gift. Many of the fields where my children played are now filled with homes, offices and apartment buildings, but the lucky children still get to play in the streets and parking lots. Thank God for many parks and open places in my area.
    Talk to Me…I’m Your Mother recently posted..Travel Connections

    • There is a sea change between our times and now Mother including, in my case, an inability to take the latest generation to our villages for summer vacations.

      • Ah, yes…the differences. Come to that, I see the most changes in time… My grandchildren have been so scheduled that they couldn’t visit us (where we lived at the time on 7 acres with a creek by the back yard) because they were scheduled; sports, music lessons, play dates. The difference would, perhaps, have been if they lived in the same town and could have squeezed in the visits between scheduling. Not complaining, tho. We spent a lot of time in their homes. It just wasn’t the dream I had of grandchildren spending weeks in the summer at Grammy and Grampy’s house.
        Talk to Me…I’m Your Mother recently posted..Travel Connections

  14. Max Coutinho says:

    Hi Rummy,

    When I was a kid, I used to have so much space to run around and play with my friends. A few years ago, I visited some of the places where I lived and the children living there today don’t have half the space I was blessed with (in one of the places, they even removed the forest to build…so sad).
    It would be great if all cities would think of the children more and allow them space to play.

    You put a smile on my face.

    Max Coutinho recently posted..Analysis: The Arab League’s Revolutionary Strategy

  15. Cathy in NZ says:

    I couldn’t run about like other children when I was a child. I had to make my own fun at home but we had an extremely big yard, a corner section and I don’t think I ever tired of finding some game within the bounds of my disability.

    However, in the summer I went to Twilight sports in the local domain and even though I couldn’t ever “win a race, from the start line” I still managed to have fun. I would try almost anything just for the heck of it and no one made fun of my problems…I was one of the members.

    If I was doing the long jump – I would often say to a another good jumper “see I’m only this far from your mark” never mind the fact I had not been on the “start line” 🙂

    At the school swimming days I would be on the benches, cheering on everyone, as I couldn’t swim much at all, dog paddling was about my lot!

    I have ended up a loner but to me I do not have a problem with that at all…I can work with a team occasionally but not well 🙂
    Cathy in NZ recently posted..Mount Maunganui 2 Tauranga

    • I am more or less a loner now Cathy. I am not lonely but enjoy my solitude. But when I socialise for those short spells, I thoroughly enjoy the experiences particularly if there are young people and / or children around.

  16. renu says:

    How liberated some of us were, growing up without borders. Sharing space with cats, dogs, plants, frogs and even snakes was always exciting. We even played host to a 6 foot iguana and kids had a field day at school describing the “crocodile” which came to have a feast. On hindsight it seems funny, but was really scary when we had to hurl 3 young ones on to the top of a cupboard.

    • Yes, that is the word liberated. I think that the kids in the park feel exactly that when they see the vast expanse of open space with comfortable grass below their feet. Iguana? Where are you from?

  17. Vignesh says:

    You may be happy to know that a section of Palm Beach Marg (the highway that runs just outside my house) that abuts the Lake – a 2.5 km stretch – will be closed to traffic between 6-9am on all Sundays. Our group of runners (Navi Mumbai Runners) – worked with the police to get this done, so the space can be used by runners for speed training, walkers not fearing getting run over every step, as well as little kids wanting to roller blade etc. We intend to promote the opportunity aggressively so it comes to be seen as a Sunday morning family outing where the kids can run around safely while the rest sit on benches by the lake and watch the sun come up. Best is that periphery is manned by traffic cops to make sure no one jumps the barricades. We got the Dpty. Comm. Police to inaugurate the “space” yesterday and Kamini bakes a cake for the event.

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