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.


38 thoughts on “The Streets Are Alive.”

    1. 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.

  1. 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 !

  2. 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!

  3. 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.
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  4. 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.
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  5. 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.

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    1. 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.

  6. 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.
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