Growing up, I had 3 homes. There was home-home, there was school, and then there was Japanese Garden. If you're someone who grew up in the 80s, there has to have been a place where you ran to, to avoid a thrashing from your parents, wasn't there? It wasn't a novelty, it was the norm. Childhood and parks used to be a package deal.
A trip down memory lane...
I learnt many important life lessons at Japanese Garden. It's where I made lifelong friends while falling on my nose in the skating rink; where I learnt how to stand up to bullies when I got shoved to the back of the line for the elephant ride; where I learnt how to share while a friend rode pillion on my cycle; where I learnt the value of money while trying to suck all the juice out of the 1-rupee gola; where I'd spend time with my mum at playtime. Think about it, I'm sure you have a similar treasure chest of memories...
Why it's important
Which is why, doesn't it make you sad to see that the concept of public spaces is disappearing from our consciousness? That the Japanese Gardens of our childhood will soon become just stories that we tell our kids? For the past couple of years, the place has been barricaded and locked up. The plan is to have it razed and a 7-star hotel to come up in its place. No wonder that the mothers of my generation are plonking their kids in front of the TV when they need to get them out of their hair. No wonder then, that the Indian video games market has grown from Rs 210 crore in 2006 to Rs 1,900 crore in 2010. And no wonder that 20% of India's school-going children are overweight.
Choose the change
The next time you attend a PTA meeting in school, make sure you ask what happened to the basketball court that they'd promised while asking for donations. Ask why a new computer lab is considered more important than a swim team. In 2010, Mumbai was given its green norms. We're supposed to have at least one 15-foot-high tree per 50 metres of open space around buildings. Wide roads ought to have a tree every 10 metres, on both sides. Narrow roads must have a tree every 20 metres. Public gardens must have a tree every 20 square metres. That's what we're entitled to. What do we actually have?
The choice is yours. It always is. If you have an idea, or want to do something about this issue, write to email@example.com. Or simply comment below and start a conversation. As cliché as it sounds, there IS strength in numbers.