The curse of a big city!!!!!
One of the best ways to spend a weekend is to play some game and keep yourself fit. Otherwise your could also watch a game on the idiot box. Last Sunday was another sports filled weekend, with the Pro Kabbadi matches, a gripping test between the pomps and the proteas, some gritty table tennis with the UTT League. You had to constantly change channels to get a glimpse of the best of the three sports.
But as I peeped out of my window, I found a stark discrepancy. We all talk about the lack of sports culture in India and how we do not encourage our kids to take up sports seriously. But as I swung my gaze around, I saw a bunch of kids standing with the football, another with the bat and the ball, a few girls on their cycles and a few elderly couples walking around in my complex. All the kids were looking out for an option, where can they play? In the midst of high rises, overflowing parking lots, a playground mopped up with slush due to the monsoon, where could the kids play something atleast for recreation.
Most of the youngsters in the building found solace in their cell phones as there was no space for them to play. The toddlers and teenagers have been forced to chalk out play areas in square feet among themselves so that they accommodate everyone.
This is the reality of a big city like Mumbai. Forget the sports culture, can we find some place to play? Even though the famous khadoos Mumbai cricketers curated their art in the bylanes and alleys of the city. We all grew up to neighboring aunties returning the ball cut into half as it landed in their balconies by mistake or the uncles who would start yelling as if its doomsday if our football hit their window panes. It’s not about a single sport, but with the city growing to multiple sports, most of the time you may actually not find a place to play.
In an obsessive real estate market, we being part of that obsession, we are going on building aesthetically ugly structures in the name of buildings without any planning for a play area. All that we focus is on how many square feet can be sell.
Add to this a new breed of flat owners who value their cars more than the aspirations of the people who want to play. Most of us are discouraged and even forced to give up playing as the cricket ball or football hits their cars, dents their precious mortgaged possessions.
Lack of planning also makes it impossible to construct a multi sport arena where all can survive and blossom playing various sports. Add to that the insecurity of coaches. It’s a classical case where one sport kills the other in our country. With individual biases towards various sports, we fail to understand that each sport is important and each sport is beautiful. I have rarely come across anyone who would tell me to hold on for 15mins before they could wrap up and allow us to play. It would be blasphemous of me to expect them to join!!!!
Enchroachments are not new to the city, political grabbing of playgrounds is normal and the idea that a playground is to be used for everything except playing has sunk into us.
A society obsessed with using play grounds for marriages and functions other than sports will brew nothing but a less sportive public. Is this the reason why, Mumbai is not producing world class sports persons? Barring a few, most of them struggle to find a playing arena. As the city grows, space comes at a premium, but lack of planning in terms of open spaces has left most of the sports persons high and dry.
Can this be reversed? It’s like scaling Mount Everest amidst an avalanche!!! Can there be an audit by the public about the unused commercial, residential space or land locked in legal battles? Till their problems are resolved, can these areas be used for playing? Ofcourse considering these areas are safe to play.
Mumbai desperately needs its citizen to allow everyone to play. They need to go out of their way to allow everyone to play. Else Mumbai may stop producing healthy citizens, forget professionals and world champions.
The writer is a Sports Broadcaster and Radio Jockey.