BANGALORE : Despite the city being home to many public parks, people can't spend a lazy afternoon there as the spaces are locked up.
Parks are kept open during the morning and evening hours for those who want to walk or exercise, but are closed the rest of the day. This is often due to 'public' pressure, Mayor Shanthakumari says.
This public consists mainly of senior citizens and the middle-aged citizens who walk or exercise in these parks. "Security had become an issue," says Shobha, a housewife and resident of Jayanagar for several years now.
She also said that her brothers noticed a man sitting near the entrances, waiting for girls and younger women whom he would then follow. "And since Jayanagar is dotted with parks, as soon as the regulars of one park became suspicious, this person would move to another," she said. So the residents complained and asked for additional security.
But over the past couple of days, since it has been raining in the morning, she too has had to go in search of parks that are open during the day, which are mostly the ones that have not been developed by the BBMP and are used as dump yards.
"I'm used to my routine, and feel better after I walk for an hour, but otherwise I have no complaints," she adds. She feels that discipline is important. "Girls and boys (couples) are often sitting here, making it awkward for senior citizens to occupy other benches or take a stroll," she says.
Aruna S, a media professional, recalls that she and her then unmarried husband had gone to Lalbagh to talk in 1987. "I was chased out by the security guard, and I really don't think that the situation has changed," she says.
To her, couples sometimes fight and the arguments turn violent. "It has happened near my house once," says the Uttarahalli resident. "This is then used by others to keep couples out."
But several Bangaloreans ask, so what if the couples sit together in parks? "What they do concerns them; it's their life," says Adeeba Ahamed, a lecturer at a degree college in Jayanagar.
Youngsters like her, she says, are left with no option but to go to a restaurant or cafe if they want to have a chat. "And you have to spend for that," she laments. Keeping the park open throughout the day might also help reduce crowding during some hours of the day, she feels.
Prabhavathi, an employee of a real estate firm in Koramangala, says it is difficult even for a group of male and female co-workers to go to the park. "We have a beautiful park, but they don't let us sit," she says.
Swaroopa, who also works in the real estate sector, says by the time she goes home after work, it's 7.30 in the evening.
"Work gets over only by 7 pm. The park closes at 8, and we're not allowed to stay after that," she rues.
Titash Roy Choudhury, a 27-year-old IT professional, feels city parks are friendly spaces overall.
"But they could be open till later for those who prefer late evening walks or strolls," he adds.
Now, copywriter Asawari Ghatage (24) meets friends at Koshy's, Chaipatty, The Humming Tree or Arbor. "I'd like the option of not having to buy an obligatory cup of coffee just to be able to get a view of MG Road as I sit comfortably waiting for a friend," she says.
But closing parks early might not be too bad an idea, she feels, since they could become unsafe for women. However, so far, she hasn't had any trouble during the day.
"I've had friends tell me that they were harassed by cops in some of the interior areas. There is a general conception though that many parks are shady and should be avoided. With places like Cubbon Park and Lalbagh, that isn't an issue," she adds. Mayor N Shanthakumari says that the Palike has had to give in to pressure from citizens who are uncomfortable with couples sharing the space with them. "We (the Palike) don't have a problem with this, but people keep bothering us with calls. And couples should have discipline and time sense," she says, adding that vandalism is a serious concern.
According to her, each park should have two security guards, but the BBMP isn't even able to pay one. "What do we do with all these financial problems?" she asks.
She also claims that there aren't enough people who frequent the park during the day. But Nagaraj, one of the security persons who mans the M N Krishna Rao Park in Basavanagudi, says that whenever the park is open, there's a continuous stream of people. "On Sundays, we keep the park open all through the day, and there are always people here," he says. But he has to go along with the authorities' decisions, he adds.
Closing down the parks during the morning hours has its roots in class divides, writer and columnist C K Meena believes. "Middle class walkers don't like it when someone else comes to nap on the benches. These are public spaces and closing them down in the name of security during the day is ridiculous," she says, adding that subways too are locked up citing the same reason.