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RIP Mumbai's playgrounds, who needs you anyway?

Last updated on: August 21, 2013 14:39 IST

RIP Mumbai's playgrounds, who needs you anyway?

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Playgrounds merely encourage scams like IPL spot-fixing and betting. Instead, make sure everyone plays video games inside their own homes, suggests Neeta Kolhatkar tongue firmly in cheek

Dear Mumbaikar,

If you believe that playgrounds are actually meant for playing sports, for games like catch-catch, gilli-danda, malkhamb, or even for cricket -- the game of this city's once most-adulated hero Sachin Tendulkar -- then you are sadly mistaken.

Our playgrounds are earmarked for big dreams and for making money. Don't begrudge those who want to take them over. Instead, be generous.

So what if a few lakh trees are cut down, the breeze dries up and open green plots are gone forever? Think big. Think international. Think of bigger games like the Olympics.

What's so great about playgrounds anyway?

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Photographs: Reuters

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RIP Mumbai's playgrounds, who needs you anyway?

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Mumbai city was planned by the rich and the elite. The city was once so pretty, right?

Look at the black and white photographs of yore. They make the city look like London.

Many parts of the city decided to retain this lordly ambiance. We got some plush British-style gymkhanas and clubs which were awarded large open spaces and playgrounds for peanuts. Don’t grudge them their rules which, sometimes, resemble the list of dos and don’ts in Irani cafes.

It is not nice to accuse them of a British hangover. They take care of our green spaces. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is so sympathetic to these gymkhanas and clubs that it charges them cheap rents.

Poor things have to be taken care of, no?

You shouldn't accuse them of making a profit. Can't you see how they are struggling to keep afloat?

Since charging exorbitant membership fees is not enough, they have to lease out the playgrounds they have taken over for weddings, naming ceremonies and other sundry events to raise money.

When they are doing so much public service by holding these events, how can the public complain about not being allowed access to the playgrounds? Please understand, It is indeed tough to get bookings for auditoriums and halls while organising such events.

Have you seen the gymkhana on Marine Drive, the one for the keepers of law and order, our police? They lead such a difficult life. They deserve to have fun, play games and relax. So they were given a small ground with simple lights that allow night cricket matches.

This cricket, I tell you, is corrupting everyone. It is not fair to accuse only the police!

Stop asking why the general public is not allowed access to this public ground. Go take a walk on Marine Drive. It is still free. 

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Image: The Bombay Gymkhana
Photographs: Courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bombay-Gymkhana

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RIP Mumbai's playgrounds, who needs you anyway?

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Meanwhile, the public should not always be so suspicious. They should not keep on pointing fingers at the poor builders, or their political friends and their coterie, and accuse them of slyly putting up tin sheds on public lands. These elements are always accused of encroaching upon unused land and open spaces.

The builders wonder where the citizens, who accuse them of misdeeds along with evidence of their encroachment, get their information from. The poor souls always think they have covered their tracks so well!

This Right To Information Act, I tell you, should be banned.

It has allowed citizens to get direct information about clandestine deals, the rates at which the plots have been allotted to the builders, their original plans and the encroachments that are taking place. The citizens are filing too many PILs in courts based on this RTI.

Citizens have been misguided with ideas about preserving important playgrounds like the Oval Maidan, Mahalaxmi Race Course and Shivaji Park.

Even the so-called modern Gandhi -- activist Anna Hazare -- has said the Race Course is NOT doing any good to the environment. Better believe him or else he will sit on another fast-unto-death.

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Image: Boys play cricket along the tracks as a local train passes by in Mumbai


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RIP Mumbai's playgrounds, who needs you anyway?

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Hazare believes in the Shiv Sena’s fantastic plan to make the race course a theme park and allow the public to use it.

Please give up any notions about getting free entry to this theme park and think of paying up as it is NOT corruption for a party that fights for the Marathi Manoos to take over a race course, make it into a park and make the Manoos pay for the entry ticket.

Silly Churchgate residents! They rejected the brilliant dreams of a former mayor that included the grand plan to turn the Oval Maidan into an underground parking lot.

Where should we park our cars, dinosaurs of South Mumbai?

Already, the IPL scam has made the public angry. There is no need to allow children, office-goers and teenagers to play cricket.

This sport is corrupting people. We should ban cricket at the Oval Maidan and  Azad Maidan. Such large expanses of land turn green during the rains and they are wasted on only one sport, cricket.

Open playgrounds merely encourage scams like IPL spot fixing and betting.

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Image: Children watch a cricket match on a big screen in Mumbai
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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RIP Mumbai's playgrounds, who needs you anyway?

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Instead, make sure these children, office-goers and teenagers all play video games inside their own homes.

And what is this fascination Mumbai has with Sachin Tendulkar and with the playground where he learnt his first lessons in cricket -- Shivaji Park? His game should be retired and Shivaji Park should be used for religious and political purposes ONLY.

These Shivaji Park residents have been brainwashed by vested interests. They went to the Bombay high court and stopped political parties from holding their rallies there.

No political sense these citizens have, I tell you.

Great politicians are being created on these so-called playgrounds. These rallies were important, you could get to ‘see’ the Thackerays, the Gandhis, the Modis. Now you can only see them on your TV sets.

Watching these great people give eloquent speeches is more important than playing sports.

You should also understand that pujas and other religious functions help cleanse corrupt minds.

Indians should make an effort to go back to their roots, to their sanskruti (culture).

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Image: Oval Maidan
Photographs: Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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RIP Mumbai's playgrounds, who needs you anyway?

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Remember how wonderful it was when Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s funeral was held on the ground? For some time at least, children were scared to go near the pitch for fear of running into his ghost. Good!

This cricket is of no use to anyone.

All the television news channels covered the funeral live and the rest of the world learnt about Shivaji Park. People can forget all about Ramakant Achrekar -- Sachin Tendulkar’s coach -- and the duo’s connection to Shivaji Park.

Instead, they should allow the memorial to be built in late Thackeray’s name. Memorials are always useful structures in Indian history. That one stone structure tells you more about the person than Wikipedia can ever dream of doing.

People should understand that history is being created with these memorials. Only a fraction of a huge ground will be taken away, permanently. But the stone structure will help the people remember a political leader, forever.

Yours truly.

PS: Please don’t bother the BMC with complaints about statues and memorials, they would prefer that you shop at the city's many splendid malls instead.

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Image: The cremation of Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com

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