Parks in today’s context provide much needed lung spaces in our cities apart from being a social hub where people catch up. But during a recent visit to a park, I was astonished to find that it transformed into a training ground, a rehab space, a place where fears were overcome and much more. While the cool environs of the park and its benches are a good resting place for the odd homeless person, there was a motley group from young children to elderly couples who frequent it.
Whoever said that girls needed a level playing field only needs to visit a park. Thanks to years of suppression, the girls in the park were clearly more adventurous than the boys and did everything from scaling tall ladders effortlessly to going down winding slides to swinging high up in the air to negotiating rope bridges.
It was fascinating to see how fears were conquered and mental barriers were shattered in the park. A nervous little boy, who initially pulled back from stepping onto the slide after climbing up the ladder leading to it, mustered enough courage within the next hour to go down the tunnel slide and the taller curly slide, coaxed and pushed by his mother.
There were others who took longer—like a three-year-old who kept peering into the tunnel slide to see how much headroom there was but never ventured to have a go at it as it seemed claustrophobic (it reminded me of an MRI machine). And kids conquered this claustrophobia in their own way by coming down on their stomachs or lying flat on their backs. Older children were admirably supportive of the younger ones. Some even placed them in their laps and came hurtling down the slides in twos.
The park is also the ideal venue for women to swap notes or take a walk. Every park is bound to have pregnant mothers going for a walk and this one too was no exception, as is sadly the presence of elders suffering from Alzheimer’s. What touched my heart was the sight of an elderly couple who came there unfailingly every day. Feeble and frail, they supported and cared for each other. The man clad in a khadi kurta aided by a walking stick usually guided his wife to one of the benches. They would sit there for a while, not speaking much, and wend their way home after a while. One day when I was walking around the park, I was glad to find them actually talking. I managed to catch snatches of their conversation as I went around. The gentleman was chanting “Om Namo Bhagavathe Vasudevaya” and the wife was dutifully repeating after him. Although age and illness had set them back a bit, the park facilitated the kindling of old memories with hope in his heart.